Wednesday, October 26, 2016

My Desert Season: It's okay to not be okay

I live for Fall in Southern Oregon.
I enjoy winter, tolerate spring and wish summer away just so I can get to Fall. I know we are incredibly blessed to actually experience each season in their truest forms, from the occasional snow and ice, beautiful lush green, hot summer days and all the autumnal colors of the leaves you could imagine.

Sometimes it's hard to find the good in the seasons. Maybe it's an endless season of bitter cold winter that leaves you feeling dry, the early darkness settles over you like a winter coat and you never take it off. A numbness creates a callous layer over your heart and instead of feeling everything, it just slides over you. It's too much. You long for a spring breeze to melt away the ice, to see new life spring up from the frozen ground and maybe catch glimpse of a rainbow promise in the sky.

I've been there. In fact, earlier this year, one disappointment after another amounted to a whole lot of lost hope and doubt in God.

I was done with the whole thing. I was done pouring my life out only to feel like all I was getting in return was neglect and that I'd been forgotten. I felt like God probably loved me, but He didn't actually care about me. It wasn't anything massive, it was just a lot of little things that piled up. 

In fact I was most angry about this part. I'd never doubted when a close family friend died quickly of cancer, when my own Mom was diagnosed with cancer, when we faced a time where we thought we might be leaving our church, when my family broke apart. I clung to God and took great leaps and bounds in my faith during those times. I was angry that this season, this series of little events was derailing my faith.  

I was angry. Our family was nearing the end of our first ever foster placement which put incredible strain and exhaustion on our family, albeit moments of great joy. We literally had our lives put upside down and I felt like God just kind of forgot about it all, didn't care, couldn't be bothered. 

I stopped talking to God. I made a conscious decision to not pray. I'd never been in a place like this before. It was scary, it was very real and I was determined to not show up unless God did.

I did let my husband and my close friend know what I was walking through. I decided to read Henri Nouwen's book about when he walked through a similar time. I needed to know others were praying for me when I wasn't, and I needed to know it was okay to be in this "spiritual crisis". 

Everyday I said, "I'm not praying, but if you're there you need to pursue me- because I'm not going to do it". 

I read up on Mother Teresa's own season of spiritual doubt, and incredibly she went through a very long season toward the end of her life, and some say she died still feeling that way. We don't often hear that talked about, but it made me feel better. If Mother Teresa was doing all she was going and giving her life away while living in a desert of sorts, I guessed she wasn't the only spiritual leader that had walked through this thing. 

I did more reading, and more searching all the while avoiding my Bible because I was still angry. I cussed at God. I told Him how I felt, often. I continued to tell Him that he had to make the first move. I was tired of the one-way relationship and I wasn't having it anymore.

When seasons change it's not very sudden. There's a gradual shift in the daylight, the grass slowly turns brown, the leaves turn one by one, each day looking a little different than the one before.

That's how it was for me. Nothing changed overnight for me. God didn't show up in some mighty way, cementing that He was in fact there and that He did in fact care for me.
It's just that my heart slowly softened, I remember the day I actually prayed instead of telling Him off. I picked up my Bible and asked for Him to show up. 
I didn't rocketship out of the desert I'd found myself in, it was a slow army crawl. One day I just realized I wasn't mad anymore.

I knew deeper in my soul than I ever had before, that while God cared for me, it was not in the way I'd been looking for. My carnal eyes saw the finite things and longed for God to show up in the areas I expected outright demanded Him to. God cares in the infinite ways, in the eternal ways and those are beyond my comprehension. His timeline is endless, unlike mine- His is forever. It's the soul he longs to win and capture. 

It's okay to not be okay. It's okay to wrestle and question and probe- God's mercy allows us that, His Grace covers it and His sovereignty redeems it.

It's October now but life feels like summer- a season of abundance and joy, and while it feels so good to be here, I am thankful that I can look back and see how God gently guided me.

He carried me here, into this season and as the seasons change, because they undoubtedly will, I can say with absolute certainty I will be okay. Even if I'm not okay. 

"I know the LORD is always with me. I will not be shaken, for he is right beside me."
Psalm 16:8