“As the deer longs for streams of water, so I long for you, O God.” Psalm 42:1
Soooooo…how’s it going? What to say, what to say? It seems like it’s been forever since we’ve spoken and I don’t know how to get “us” back in the groove. It really wasn’t that long ago it seemed like we were inseparable, speaking each others’ language, finishing each others’ sentences…we were clearly reading from the same playbook! But now things have changed and we can’t seem to connect…are you even trying? I know I am…trying, longing, aching for that connection, pining for that spark, that energy that you and I once shared.
Was it something I said? Something I did? Did I disappoint you or embarrass you in front of your people? I know, I know…I got busy and I didn’t put in the time like before. I had things that had to get done, things you asked me to do, you know. I didn’t ask for all of this, but I got it and I was just trying to do the best I could with what I was given. Did I take it too far and get too wrapped up in the “work” for your liking? Is that what this is all about? You know my heart never left you; you know it has always been and always will be for you and you alone. So why are you treating me this way? Why are you so…absent?
You know, I really could have used your help back there. I cried out for you over and over again, but got nothing in return. It was like I was under water, gasping for air and you were up above with your hand on my head, holding me down to see how long I could go before I gave up the fight. My older brother used to do that to me and I came to expect that sort of thing from him, but now you too? Never would have guessed it…but I guess I guessed wrong. You had it within you to end my pain, to take away the struggle and the fight and yet you did nothing…why? Were you trying to teach me a lesson…to earn my respect (or was it fear?)…were you trying to push me away?
I don’t get sometimes why you have to make it so hard, you know? Don’t you think that you’ve given me enough to deal with? Would it kill you to throw me a lifeline every once in awhile, to give me some relief? You say you love me, you say you’d die for me, you say you hurt when I hurt, but do you really? I’ve never even seen you cry. You say the hard times make us stronger and bring us closer together…you say the beauty of our relationship can only be seen on the other side of the storm. But are those just words, just a simple mind trick to keep me happy even when I have every reason in the world not to be?
Why would you treat me this way and let me hurt this way if you really loved me? You say I only have time for you when I need something from you, but isn’t it the other way around? Seems like all you want from me is praise and time and attention…it’s always all about you, isn’t it? And the moment (the moment!) I take my eyes off of you, you punish me like some kind of petulant school boy would do. Would a father get away with treating his daughter this way and expect her to love him unconditionally in the end? Would a wife treat her husband this way and hope to have a loving relationship with him?
Where is this thing going? Where are we headed? Is there a point to all of this or are we just killing time, waiting for our number to be called? You’ve made lots of promises, you’ve set the expectations higher than I could imagine…are you really going to come through? Or is this just another one of your mind games, another hit of medication to keep me happily sedated as I wander through this fog you call life? What does it all mean? Why are you so maddeningly cryptic all of the time?? Are you even listening to me?? God? Are you there?
“‘O God my rock,’ I cry, ‘Why have you forgotten me? Why must I wander around in grief, oppressed by my enemies?’” Psalm 42:9
Have you ever felt this way in one of your relationships? Maybe you’ve said many of these same things to your parents, maybe you’ve said them to your husband or your sister or the person you thought was your best friend, your girlfriend, or your mentor. Have you ever said them as I just did…to God?
If you have, you’re not alone. I can remember a time when I thought my mom was intentionally hurting me (don’t worry, Mom, I was as wrong as wrong gets!). There have been times when I knew without a doubt that others who should never wish me harm did exactly that and acted on their desires to see me suffer. Have you been there? And then there are those times when the person you think should be doing so much more to help you face your giants is the very person who is doing almost…wait, change almost to exactly…that’s better – they’re doing exactly nothing. You know how that one feels, right? The frustration, the confusion, the hurt, the hurt, the hurt. If you are like me, it isn’t easy to shrug those things off, to move on, leaving the hurt behind (or more likely covering it up). When hurt happens within my relationships, the knife cuts to the bone and the wounds don’t easily heal.
So what am I supposed to do when the relationship that is supposed to stand above all feels like it has vanished in a blink? How am I supposed to respond when the One who calls himself Father fails me, or at least seemingly so? You know the feeling – the prayers fall flat or ring hollow between your ears, the Bible verses that once gave you great comfort/joy/inspiration/insight/peace (choose as many as you like) now bring you none of those things, the praise songs become tired, and the luster in your world seems to have lost its glow.
“For you are my God, my only safe haven. Why have you tossed me aside?” Psalm 43:2
Where did it go – the glow, the easy praise, the comfort/joy/inspiration/insight/peace? Better yet, where did He go? And eventually I get around to the real question – where did I go? I’ll be honest, I’ve been spoiled…rotten to the core. I have no right to complain…none whatsoever. The good Lord has been exceedingly good to me. He has walked with me, talked with me, carried me, pushed me, challenged me…He has led me, very closely, up and over some dangerously steep climbs. I have asked; He has answered. I have poured my heart out; He has filled it right back up. I have screwed up big time; He has allowed me the grace to give it another go.
But now all of that is gone and my soul aches for its return. I know, I know…it’s all part of His plan, there are many different seasons to this life, the Lord giveth and the Lord taketh away (is that really in the Bible somewhere??), it’s all part of growing up, He is testing my faith…blah, blah, blah, yeah, yeah, yeah…tell that to somebody who is ready to accept it. Me? Not so much…not yet, not now. Has He forgotten that I’m still in the thick of battle? Doesn’t He know that we’re not out of the woods yet, that this life transformation he dropped on us isn’t complete and we aren’t yet ready to do this on our own? He may have pushed me out of the nest, but this little bird isn’t ready to fly!!! My training wheels have been removed, but this biker isn’t ready for the race……………..
Wait a minute. The bike, the training wheels…that reminds me of something…a memory from my childhood that suddenly seems much more important than it once was.
I’m the conservative type, always have been. I like to be prepared for whatever life may throw my way (my fraternity pledge brothers used to call me the Boy Scout, if that tells you anything). I don’t like to gamble, I stick as much money into savings accounts as I possibly can, and if I don’t recognize your number on my caller ID there’s a good chance I’m not answering. And what goes better with a be prepared, conservative attitude than a healthy fear of change, huh?? I can only blame God for any negative outcomes from this aspect of my personality as it appears I was born this way (right mom and dad?). Ok, on with the story…the training wheels and the bike. Given what I’ve just explained about my personality you can probably guess how thrilled I was when my parents decided I had held onto my training wheels long enough. I still say that just because I was going into junior high doesn’t mean I was too old for training wheels!!! Kidding, of course…I think I was…oh, let’s just forget how old I was, ok?!
So the wheels came off and my parents took me down to a deserted street in our neighborhood and stood something like five miles apart from each other and told me to start pedaling. Well, that was just plain mean if you ask me…mean, twisted, torturous behavior from two malevolent, ill-mannered, child-haters I called mom and dad. And given what you now know about my parents you know they didn’t take no for an answer. Nor did they take crying, wailing, kicking, begging, screaming, head-spinning objections from their youngest victim. So with the fear of the devil in me (which fit in nicely with that healthy fear of change that I just mentioned), I pedaled. And I cried. But I kept pedaling. And I kept crying. And the bike wobbled. And I cried. But I kept pedaling. And I got to my dad and I was too busy pedaling and crying to hit the brakes so I turned that bike around at a minimum of 60 or 70 mph and I headed back towards my mom who was standing at least six miles away at the other end of the street. And my dad cheered me on as I kept crying…and pedaling. And I got to my mom and I pulled the same u-turn I had pulled when I got to my dad as my mom cheered me on and I kept crying…and pedaling. And I trekked back and forth, u-turning at eye-dizzying speeds, crying and pedaling every moment, every mile (I think there were 80 laps or so for a total distance of about 400+ miles…probably more).
And my mom and dad cheered me on at every turn. And I kept pedaling. And I wasn’t even aware of it at the time, but I stopped crying. I stopped wobbling. I stopped fearing the road ahead of me and the ugly things it would do to my face when I smacked into it after flying over the handlebars. As a matter of fact, I stopped looking at the road and I started looking ahead. I stopped thinking about the change I was fearing and I stopped fearing the change I was at that moment experiencing. I started to hear my mom and my dad as they cheered me on and this time I could actually hear the words they were saying to me…you can do it, son!…I believe in you, son!…I am here for you, son…I’ll catch you if you fall…I’ll heal you if you hurt…keep your eyes on me, son, I’ll show you how this is done…I’ll always be here, son, to experience your joys with you when you succeed and suffer your hurts with you when you fail…to challenge you, to push you, to teach you, to love you no matter how far away from me you ever go…………..
“But each day the Lord pours his unfailing love upon me, and through each night I sing his songs, praying to God who gives me life.” Psalm 42:8
Why couldn’t I hear all of that before? Why didn’t I trust Him to protect me like He said He would? Why did I fear the change He was leading me through? Why didn’t I hear that before…why wasn’t I listening?
Aw, man…I really screwed this one up, didn’t I? I was too busy crying and wailing and kicking and begging and screaming…and doubting…I was too busy with all of that to listen, to hear, and to trust. The moment (the moment!) God didn’t answer, the instant he removed my training wheels, is the instant I began to doubt. And when He didn’t immediately put my training wheels back on is when I began to cry. And you know what came next – the wailing, kicking, begging, and screaming. I was so busy doubting and my eyes were blurry from the tears and my body and mind were so tired from the wailing, kicking, begging, and screaming that I couldn’t see Him standing there all along. I couldn’t hear Him cheering me on. I wasn’t listening. I was so focused on the wrong He had done to me that I didn’t hear him say those words, those same words my mom and dad were saying to me as I pedaled and cried and feared…you can do it, son!…I believe in you, son!…I am here for you, son…I’ll catch you if you fall…I’ll heal you if you hurt…keep your eyes on me, son, I’ll show you how this is done…I’ll always be here, son, to experience your joys with you when you succeed and suffer your hurts with you when you fail…to challenge you, to push you, to teach you, to love you no matter how far away from me you ever go…………..
“Why am I discouraged? Why is my heart so sad? I will put my hope in God! I will praise him again – my Savior and my God!” Psalm 43:5
I kept pedaling. I don’t know exactly why I did that, but I pedaled for all I was worth. I didn’t throw down my bike and walk away; I didn’t lay down in passive resistance. In spite of the tears, in spite of my doubts, in spite of my certainty of excruciating death by asphalt, I kept pedaling. And before I knew it, I was riding that bike like I had been born with it attached to my backside. I was riding and smiling and pedaling and u-turning and eventually I learned how to use those brakes, but for the time being I was as happy as any boy on the planet at that very moment…no fear, no doubts, no tears…I pedaled it all away.
Hmm…interesting. I seem to detect a parallel or two here. Seems to me there might be something God is trying to tell me, but I can’t quite make it out. It is possible that my little biking story could offer some insight into what I am currently experiencing in my spiritual walk with Christ. What is it that he is saying?? And what is that noise I keep hearing that’s drowning out what He’s saying? Oh, wait, I know what it is. I can hear him now…
Always keep pedaling…you can do it, son!…I believe in you, son!…I am here for you, son…I’ll catch you if you fall…I’ll heal you if you hurt………………………….always keep pedaling…………………………I’m outta here!!
Pedal on, my friends!! :)