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Tuesday, November 07, 2017

When everything seems to fall apart

A few years ago I went through a really difficult illness which lead to a lot of health problems. During that time I had to stop homeschooling my four of my five children. We had, at that point, been homeschooling for seven years. It was a huge adjustment.

For a long time I felt abandoned by God. I felt that I had followed his direction in  my life and surrendered myself to the things He had planned for me and I wondered why I was made incapable of doing the very things I had felt so strongly lead to?

In truth, my prayer life had dwindled for a couple of years before the crisis.
After many years of renting and feeling like we would never be able to save enough for a deposit for a home of our own, some friends said that they had been lead in prayer to sell us their house for a price we could afford.
It was the kind of house I had always dreamed to raise a family in but never imagined I would ever have. I felt so incredibly overwhelmed by it all.

We settled into the new house but over time I began to feel guilty. I felt guilty for suddenly having so much. It seemed so undeserved. I thought about other families who hadn't been given such an amazing opportunity and it seemed unfair, wrong.
Yet while feeling I shouldn't have it I also felt terrified of losing it.
For years, I had contented myself with knowing that we  would probably never buy our own home and here we were not only in our own home but in our "dream" home.

Then something happened which turned the dream upside down. A few months after we moved in my husband was made redundant.
As a child, my family nearly lost our home. I had also experienced homelessness as a teen and young adult which made having my own home a huge thing for me.

Tani and I got really close during this time. He had kept the upcoming redundancy from me for months hoping a new job would materialize or that he could re-negotiate his old one. When it became clear that the company was in real trouble and redundancy was the only option he sat me down one evening and finally told me everything. He had tried to protect me for so long because that's what he does. He always stands in front of the storm for us. I will never know how much he must have worried during those months. He has had to provide for himself since immigrating as a refugee at the age of 16. Making sure we are all okay are what he does every day. He takes care of things. When he can't take care of things it devastates him.

I have always had a delayed reaction when processing things.
I know that I felt an intense fear that we would lose our new home during that time but it stayed very much under the surface. I kept busy (my coping strategy) with our normal homeschooling days as Tani stayed up late into the night searching for a new job, asking contacts about new positions,  updating his linked in profile and sending out his CV. After an intense two weeks  he was offered a new job. It would be a longer commute but it was in his field and it would cover the bills at a pinch. He subsequently, moved jobs twice again and focused 100% on progressing his career, in part driven by the fear of what had happened. Security suddenly became a priority for both of us. Whereas we had lived very much in trust of God's providence before, we now felt like the burden was entirely on our shoulders.

Tani is now in a great job with a comfortable salary but those years changed us. We became more materially driven. I'd never really understood materialism before this time. I had actually thought myself very un-materialistic. I guess I was quite proud of the fact and I probably judged people who I thought were less "unattached.". I often wondered how someone could be so caught up in their own little world and blind to the problems of those outside of that narrow field of vision.
 God has managed to put me in so many varied positions in my life that at this point, I find it almost impossible to judge anyone. It is very humbling, very truth revealing. I now realize how materialistic I really was underneath it all because as soon as I had something I really valued I was terrified of losing it and found it almost impossible to simply "leave it in God's hands."

God works in the soil of the heart. You can't always see the progress or the fruit of what you go through, sometimes all you can see is dry, cold, barren looking earth.  It's only at some later date when the tender new spring shoots emerge that you realize how much has been going on during winter. The spiritual path is strange and winding and beyond my comprehension. I don't claim to be a guide. I can barely keep one foot in front of another without stumbling myself. I just know that if you follow your love you will find yourself in positions you never thought you would be in, you will go through many things both hard and beautiful, you will learn much about your limitations and you will come into the light again and again and what was confounding will illumine and clarify again and again. It is a continual renewing, a becoming, and a transforming process.
I often think of what Blessed Mother Teresa said about taking care with your promises to God because he will take you on your word. When we begin our spiritual path we are so full of zest and enthusiasm!
I also smile at the Persian poet Hafez's words:

"To the great Journey of Love?
First there is wonderful laughter

And probably precious tears
And a hundred sweet promises

And those heroic vows

No one can ever keep.
But still God is delighted and amused

You once tried to be a saint."


Perhaps we only ever come to the fullness of truth through failure as well as success.
What would have happened if the prodigal son had never squandered the last of his father's money? What if he had sensibly invested it? Would he have ever returned to his Father's house? Would he have ever known the depth of his Father's mercy and love?

So I am trying to make my way again. Find pockets of stillness throughout my day and instead of filling them with the noise of social media turning inward just as the trees and plants are doing this time of year. I am prying the prayers of the church. The old ones that clarify and comfort in a way nothing else can. I am going to quietly write my journey here as a way of documenting my thoughts and as a way of  letting anyone else who might have experienced similar things that they are not alone in their walk.

During those years I did feel abandoned and forsaken. I had always felt like God was my protector and my loving Father but during that time I felt rejected and even wondered if God was making me suffer for something I had done wrong. There were so many changes to our family dynamic during that time too. It felt, for a while, that everything beautiful that I had worked so hard to create was being undone. Maybe one day I'll write more about that time but now I feel this is all I can share.

Some things I have learned from this experience:
  • There will be times during our faith walk that we will feel exiled, abandoned, confounded and forsaken. Jesus himself felt forsaken on the cross. "Eli, Eli, lama sabachthani?" He is our pattern. 
  • God is always there for you even when it feels that He isn't
  • I know, deep within me that God isn't the author of our suffering. There are many forces present in this world.
"For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms." Ephesians 6:12
  • Whatever we do go through can grow us, strengthen and deepen our walk. It can also help us to have compassion for others, be humble and know that loving others is the only way to really help them.
  • God is always looking for our good.

"You intended it to harm me but God intended it for good." Genesis 50:20
 
    These words powerfully encapsulate this whole experience. They are from the story of Joseph in Genesis who was forsaken and left for dead by his brothers but survived against all odds. 
    Truly, whatever the enemy intends for our harm, God can reclaim for our good.




    Saturday, November 04, 2017

    An Autumn Prayer

    Hear I am.
    Alone.
    Stripped down.
    Bare as the Winter trees, with no covering leaves.

    I want to follow you.  You have always protected me, been my friend, guided my feet.
    My feet itch to detour, explore, follow the stirrings of the crowd. Father, help me take your hand and follow your lead each day.

    I want to turn over the hardened clay soil of my heart. I want it to be softened and life bearing.

    I am afraid. I am afraid of what you ask of me. I know that your path is the only path of real life, yet it asks so much, it is so narrow. It asks that I let go and leave behind all but the barest essentials. It asks that I stop looking outward but start turning inward. It tells me that I will be misunderstood and sometimes feel isolated on my journey through this world.

    "This world is a bridge, pass over it, but build no house upon it."

    When I had less to lose it wasn't so hard to follow. It wasn't so hard to open my hands and let my grasp of the world go. Now I worry about so many things. The weeds of the world entangle me. I feel like I have to manage so much. We have this beautiful house now. I sometimes feel so afraid that I will lose these gifts that it hardens me. It makes me think about money and scarcity and it makes me want to hoard and turn a blind eye to those more needy than I. It was easy not to be materialistic when we had little. I can now see why it is so hard for the rich to enter into the kingdom. When you have a lot of things, distractions and material wealth it is hard to turn to God. God asks us to leave all our good gifts in His hands, just as Hannah left Samuel, the son she so longed for.

    Help me to seek you every day. Help me to be brave and follow you regardless of what others think or say. Help me to be brave and leave all gifts in your hands. Help my heart to stay soft and my eyes open.

    Help me Father, to walk the path you have prepared for me. Jesus, I trust in you.