You know when you simply know it’s time to give up? Time to stop following a hard path, to admit defeat, to stop flogging the dead horse of a one sided relationship, to stop yearning for something you can’t have, to stop trying to haul yourself out of the mud and climb to dry land, to close your eyes, cover your head, to lay down the whole damn mess of your life and say “I’m done.”?
You know when the pain is so bad that you dream of shutting yourself off from everyone in hateful defiance because then, then, hah-hah, the bastards can’t get at you any more? You conjure up an island in the North of Scotland or a small anonymous flat in the centre of some crowded noisy city, anywhere but here would be good. Anything but this. You imagine packing a bag, grabbing the dogs (kids, cat, rabbit whatever), getting into the car and heading off. Who cares about the mess you leave behind – you’ve left it behind. Blinkers on, chocks away, and off we jolly well go.
You know those times? I think most of us have fleeting thoughts like that at some time in our lives.
Listen, my friends. They’re the times I need to float to the top of the room (I’m fortunate, I have very high ceilings so I get a good wide view up here) and regard myself clinically. Look down at the me who’s weeping or raging or terrified or coldly indifferent. Why does that other me feel like giving up? Is it because she’s exhausted, and the world is unfair, and no one understands her…. or is it simply because my world is all about me?
Oh, damn. It’s because my world is all about me. Even when it doesn’t seem to be about me, it really is. That makes me think of that Bible verse that says even our righteousness is like filthy rags.
Today we were talking, a friend and me, about grief, doubt and why some people have tragedy-filled lives while others sail through untroubled. Some of us are lashed to the mast in 50ft high seas and icy hurricanes, year after year, and others, well, the worst they ever seem to deal with is a mild sea-sickness of the soul every now and again…. life not going absolutely as they wish it too. Hah! Lucky sods.
See? See how self-pitying my subtext is? Have I fooled you? I haven’t fooled me. It’s all about me.
Anyway, this pal and me discussed the hardest parts of heart-ache and agreed that these are when we see someone we love suffering, gripped by pain or addiction or broken by life. That’s when submission to the will of God is really tested. I may be able to accept what He sends me, but can I accept what He sends my child, my grandchild, or the love of my life? And who am I kidding? Do I have any right to balk at what He does in the lives of others? Am I more just and more compassionate than God? Is my selflessness true? Or is my selflessness just another filthy rag?
Come on, Luce. Float up to the top of the room and look down and see who you are, who you really are. And while you’re up there (I imagine bumping gently against the ceiling, like an astronaut in a weightless spaceship) think about God. Who He really is.
“Listen to me, you who pursue righteousness and who seek the Lord: Look to the rock from which you were cut and to the quarry from which you were hewn;” Isaiah 51:1
And then I remembered something our pastor said a few months ago, and I spent ages raking through my notes trying to find when he said it and what the context was, but I can’t find it. Maybe it was said in a prayer… anyway, the thought was that the greatest love the world has ever known was the love of the Father. Because He sent His beloved Son to die for us. That’s the worst pain – knowingly, willingly, agonisingly sacrificing a Son, knowing the shame and agony that will come to Him. To Him. And the greatest pain the world has ever known was the cry of anguish from the cross “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” How that must have torn the Father’s heart.
If that doesn’t move you to tears as you think about it, really think about it, you haven’t understood.
Today as I remember that sermon or prayer I get it. I think. God gave up His beloved son, His own divinity for me which means the agony of the crucifixion was twofold; Christ on the cross and God the Father, in eternity. I understood today that the tearing of the temple curtain mirrored the tearing of that divine relationship, that it was a billion times greater seismic explosion than the splitting of any physical atom. It was the splitting, the renting, of time and history, the fulfilment of creation, the end of the world, all there in that moment. It was all the grief and pain and sorrow of the world for all eternity embraced by the Father and the Son. For me. To bring into this shaken broken world the Spirit of God, to extend the hand of God to me.
So, when I feel like giving up, driving up, retreating to a corner, slashing and burning, shouting and weeping….. when I see no sense in the suffering of the people I love, or the suffering I hear about, 39 people frozen to death looking for a better life, or when peace seems out of reach, when I’m lost in the past in fear, or simply confused, and I just long to have someone to turn to, saying “Help me”, I think of the God who knew the greatest pain and emotional torment the world has ever known , and I turn to Him and say “Help me.”
When you pass through the waters,
I will be with you;
and when you pass through the rivers,
they will not sweep over you.
When you walk through the fire,
you will not be burned;
the flames will not set you ablaze. (Isaiah 43:2)
Don’t think I’m having a hard time, I’m having a great, confusing , wonderful, bewildering, learning time. All things work to the good for those who love the Lord.
Don’t think I need rescuing. I’m being rescued.
All things work to the good … even floating on the ceiling, bumping along gently, looking for God. Finding Him.
Value the tough times, because they confirm the certainty of our hope.