Nobody tells you when you get born here
How much you'll come to love it
And how you'll never belong here
I’m still recovering from and processing one of the most painful seasons of my life, seeing how it’s changed me and looking for where God is. And the thing that most stands out to me is the idea of sojourning, that I don’t really belong here. I feel so much less attached to the world and the things that are here than I used to.
This is not exactly a dark-night-of-the-soul experience, but I think it’s analogous. I think God is weaning me off my love of the world - not just the material goods but even, and more importantly and deeply, the contingent goods that we can become too attached to and hold on to. And when those are ripped away it hurts a lot, and it changes you. The world is a horrible place! It’s full of pain and hurt and betrayal, even inside the church, and I don’t want to be here!
It’s been a long road. Last spring I was on a silent retreat trying to process the hurt that I was carrying over the way way we and friends of ours had been treated by some of the clergy the year before, and an accompanying deep unhappiness at church. Romans 5:3 stood out to me: “... we know that suffering produces endurance”. I wrote “Endurance I want! Suffering, not so much… although it’s kinda embarrassing to call this suffering”. And indeed, in the grand scheme of things this was hardly up there very high on the scale of sufferings.
But it was big to me. There was good that came out of that: I spent a lot of time with Jesus’ commands to “do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who abuse you”, and I understand a lot better that I used to what that means and how to do it, even when I don’t always succeed - and that was legitimately a gift. But, it still sucks when church is not a safe place.
I jotted down in the margin of a piece of scratch paper, “Could this be preparation for something bigger?” I mentioned this thought to Emily when I came home from the retreat - I wondered if this in-the-grand-scheme-of-things-not-that-bad hurt, even though it felt pervasive and overwhelming, was a kind of training wheels for something else that God was trying to prepare us for. And we both said “I sure hope not!”
The very next week Emily, who had stayed late at church busy with some choir responsibilities, came home in tears and distraught, and a chain of events was set in motion which culminating in her firing a few weeks later, and a relational meltdown the size of which I had thought could never happen to me.
But, it did happen. And I, who have this need to be vindicated and understood, had to come to terms with the fact that I couldn’t fix it. God is the judge, not me. It’s his job to make everything right, and one day it will be. But until then we carry on, not holding on too tightly to anything but Him, and crying out “Come quickly, Lord Jesus!”