Monday, October 19, 2009

Learning to Trust

Robbie here.

I honestly have a really hard time writing on this "Jacob's Journey" blog when I have nothing directly to say about Jacob and his journey. I simply hope that I can communicate some of my experiences, and that it hits a chord of resonance with someone out there.

Here at Biola, the topics of discussion in our mandatory chapels has been "suffering." As an RA, I was required to attend a workshop on how to minister to people who are suffering. And, this week classes stop for a three-day conference, the topic of which is (you guessed it) suffering. At first this hit way too close to home. I only went to one day of the workshop, and skipped the second day. I have also been avoiding chapels in general. I normally find myself just getting mad at the speakers, feeling like they don't actually know what they are talking about. But on Sunday night, I realized something - I had been sugarcoating my emotions. I wasn't being real with anybody, not even myself, let alone God.

I attended a Sunday night music chapel, pretty much to just start knocking out my chapel credits that I still need to fulfill. The night of worship music started off in the typical schmoltzy Christian way - with soft music playing in the background as someone starts out in prayer, then the band coming up quitely and serenely, creating an emotive experience. I found myself being extremely critical of the whole thing (as usually happens in most institutional practices for me nowadays). I was thinking about how 1) the music was creating a false experience in which we worship our emotions and our own good thoughts about God, not God himself - we feel ourselves surge with the music, so we contort our faces and lift our hands... to what? After all isn't worship not some solitary act, but how we conduct our lives in each moment? 2) That worship services are a type of spiritual Christian consumerism - we come to get our emotional fill, we focus on ourselves, we shoot ourselves up with meaningful worship experiences as an addictive drug.

As the music kept playing, I found myself choking back tears. Ashamed of myself for being so critical. In deep sorrow regarding Jacob. Not knowing what I thought of God. In all of my "personal times" with God through journaling and reading books, and in all of my relationships, I had been acting like everything was fine, but I was deceiving myself and those around me. As the music played, I sat with my back against the wall, trying my hardest not to cry, and all I could think of to say to God was (I'm being brutally honest, please don't be offended) "F*** you, God!" This scared me. I didn't know why I felt this way. Why my brother? Why the brokeness in my family? Why the shame that I felt? Why would I have been raised in a Christian home for 20 years, only to feel like I never even knew anything, only to start back at basics? Do we not have enough faith? Are we not praying hard enough? "Heal my brother, God! Make it so that this all never even happened! Take away all the pain! It hurts so bad!"

As all these thoughts spun through my head, I experienced God in the mundane, in the ordinary, in the simple. The friend I was with gently laid his hand on my shoulder. For the rest of the service, I cried and prayed with him, spilling it all out before God. Since I was 12, I have held on to the passage 2 Corinthians 12:10-12. It truly is in our weakness that we are strong (not that we become strong after being weak, mind you!). Weakness is in fact the source of strength in Christ.

And so, I realized that I had nothing to offer - except the very anger, the bitterness, the confusion, the sorrow, and the shame that I felt. I didn't ask God to take these away, because I know that living in this life means living with pain. But I asked God to take it as an offering. It blows my mind that God would accept this worse than evil offering, but he does. He takes it as a love offering, and transforms what we give him into something of his Kingdom. I told God that I had nothing for him - except these things that I felt like he doesn't want. But in his mercy, he accepts these as our desperate cry for love and restoration. It is this ultimate surrender that we must undergo daily if we really claim to trust. What a paradox, that God accepts these feeble gifts of horrible things as love offerings to him.

The thing that sucks is it is painful. I hated having to weep through the whole worship service. But it confirmed in my mind two things: 1) Worship is meant to be done in community, in fellowship 2) We need to be real with God. We need to tell him how we feel. Often it is all that we can do, but he accepts it. We cannot deny ourselves the necessity of working through grief, crying out to God for restoration, telling him that we want things to be different! We should not sit idly and content ourselves by saying that "God wanted it to happen, and it will become good." As Christians, we must label pain as evil, is not what we were intended for. But we should also trust that God is doing what he must with it, and that some good will come. We can hope for future restoration, but that does not mean the pain never happened... it is more like a fulfillment of the pain, a deep dive into our worst fears and most horrific nightmares to find that Christ is waiting there for us, for the time that we would truly, desperately need him.

Just look at Jesus in the garden of Gethsemane. He told the disciples: "My soul is very sorrowful, even to death." He cried out to God, "Abba! Father! All things are possible for you. Remove this cup from me." He did not want to die. He recognized the cross as evil. He even questioned why an all-powerful God would allow this to happen. But in his next breath, he said "Yet not what I will, but what you will." He acknowledged that great good would come from it. But this acknowledgment does not change the fact that it is evil.

And so we trust by actively/daily submitting/setting our requests before God, and trusting that he will do with them what is necessary, what must be done for his Kingdom to be enacted on earth. What an invigorated, resolute, purposeful, and contented life the person who trusts can live. I don't think that any one of us has got it quite right yet. But even this fact, that I suck at trusting, I can lay before God as an offering. And he takes it in the Love that he is. And how do we trust? I try praying. Henri Nouwen gives this definition of prayer, not as vague word-speaking to an out-there God but as an essential practice for the follower of Christ as they fulfill Christ's call for healing of the world:

"...the Christian leader must be in the future what he has always had to be in the past: a man of prayer, a man who has to pray, and who has to pray always. That I bring up this simple fact at this point may be surprising, but I hope I have succeeded in taking away all the sweet, pietistic, and churchy aura attached to this often misused word.
For a man of prayer is, in the final analysis, the man who is able to recognize in others the face of the Messiah and make visible what was hidden, make touchable what was unreachable, the man of prayer is a leader precisely because through his articulation of God's work within himself he can lead others out of confusion to clarification; through his compassion he can guide them out of the closed circuits of their in-groups to the wide world of humanity; and through his critical contemplation he can convert their convulsive destructiveness into creative work for the new world to come."

-Robbie (Jake's bro)


kirky said...

i love you so much, thank you for speaking to me.....i cried again as I read this, robs, for I feel what you do soooo much, you are not alone for I relate to EVERYTHING that you have said. I love you and am so glad that you wrote this...

Anonymous said...

Thank you for posting your heart - it is real, it is messy and it's so often where God works. Praying for you and your familly

Anonymous said...

Your words say what I and many other's have felt and still do feel. You are asking the right questions and searching your heart. I think we all want to hold on to that mushy "feel good" Christian experience, but that is not real. Living only in "christian bubble world" is not real. Life is hard and painful. It is through acceptance and courage do I find strength. It is through trusting in God's Will even if it makes absolutely no sense to me what it is, do I find peace. Somedays I have to coutinuely turn it over. Jacob's pain has transformed many people's lives including my own. Your words have changed my opinion of "Christians" You have brought me closer to Christ, because you are real. Your Mom's words and guidance probably saved my life years ago. She loved me when I felt unlovable. The true meaning of what it is to be a follower of Christ. Please keep keeping it real. It means so much to me and many others.

Anonymous said...

While I don't share your particular religion, I admire the depth of your inquiry. I believe this is what faith looks like. You've probably read Thomas Merton--The Seven Storey Mountain--if not, I can recommend it.)

Anonymous said...

Rob, always refreshing to read your heart and soul - when I hear the words "be authentic" I can't help but think of the different posts I have read on this blog. Thanks for speaking once again to me. We continue praying daily for you and yours!

God bless,
Karen Munshi

Anonymous said...

Wow, You should know that you are not alone. You are brave enough to speak what so many many times I have felt but could not find the words or courage to say. I have been reading and following your family's journey since the start. Thank you for your honesty. Prayes and blessings to you and your family.

Anonymous said...

Dios te bendiga e ilumine tu camino para que guies a los que te queremos y necesitamos.

Lois Stinogel said...

Honesty is the best way to be-with people and especially with God as He knows how we feel anyway. I have stood in the cemetery many times beside my husband's tombstone and told God I was mad at Him for allowing Randy to die-actually yelled at God and i still get a bit upset about it now-4 years later. thanks for being honest for all the world to see.

Lois Stinogel