Monday, November 12, 2007
SQUEEZED DRY THEN CAST ASIDE
My tears have been my food day and night, while others say to me continually, 'Where is your God?'
My thoughts today are resentful, for God's hand is heavy on me in my trouble. If only I knew how to find him, how to enter his court, I would state my case before him and set out my arguments in full; he rubbed my face in the ground and broke my teeth on the gravel. I have forgotten what health and peace and happiness are.
I tell you the truth, unless an ear of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains only a single seed. But if it dies, it produces many seeds... every branch that does bear fruit he trims clean so that it will be even more fruitful.
We were under great pressure, far beyond our ability to endure, so that we despaired even of life. Indeed, in our hearts we felt the sentence of death. But this happened that we might not rely on ourselves but on God, who raises the dead.
(Psalm 42:3, NIV; Job 23:1-4, NEB; Lamentations 3:16-17, GNB; John 12:24, 15:2 NIV; 2 Corinthians 1:8-9, NIV)
When misfortune strikes us -- illness, unemployment, deep depression, failure in personal relationships -- God can seem to be very distant and uncaring and our inner lives begin to wither and die. The ancient Hebrews expressed their feelings in a particular form -- that of the lament -- often directed to the God whom they no longer experienced!
Today, our tendency, when something goes wrong, is to try to locate the cause of the problem and treat or rectify it. We feel more comfortable looking back over our shoulders than engaging in another common biblical practice, looking in anticipation to the creative work God is going to do up ahead as in John 9:2-3.
Two of the most severe forms of physical pain are giving birth and having kidney stones. Women will willingly become pregnant; but only a masochist would want kidney stones. It makes all the difference when suffering has a desirable, constructive purpose.
Suffering, particularly where it is the result of injustice or where it occurs through no fault of the victim, can lead to anger and bitterness. It can easily block off the flow of practical trust in God. Such pain needs to be expressed if it is to become a resource rather than a liability and achieve its purpose in the fruitful growth of the person or community concerned.
The work of God is built upon the ruins of a man's life.
F. Fenelon, spiritual adviser to Louis XIV of France, source unknown
When building a skyscraper you have to go down before you can go up.
It seems to me that the priest or layman who is not constantly harassed by thorns is underprivileged. His thorns may be in the form of little Hitlers, cynics, critics and professional opposers; or they may be in the form of illness, impediments, scars and disfigurations; or they may be in the form of lost love, betrayal and disillusionment; or they may be in the form of wounded pride, humiliation and ignominy; or they may be in the form of poverty, hunger and destitution; or all of them put together... A thorn usually leads to the cross, and the cross to the confession of sin, and thence to freedom and incomparable strength. But before we can feel the strength of Christ we must know that there is no health in us insofar as our own personal power goes -- that of ourselves we can but eventually fail, but in Christ we can know nothing other than final victory.
Austin Pardue, Why Learn to Pray
God wounds deeply when he wills to heal.
And my lament
Is cries countless, cries like dead letters sent
to dearest him that lives alas! away.
I am gall, I am heartburn.
God's most deep decree
Bitter would have me taste: my taste was me.
Gerard Manley Hopkins, Untitled sonnet
As good go anywhere, they say,
As to benumme
Both knees and heart in crying night and day,
Come, come, my God, O come,
But no hearing.
O that thou shouldst give dust a tongue
To crie to thee
And then not hear it crying! all day long
My heart was in my knee
But no hearing.
George Herbert, Deniall
It is not easy, Lord, to follow after you.
While you take the hard road
with joyous leaps and bounds,
I stumble over every stone
and slip into every rut.
You calmly weather each storm
and walk fearlessly through the night.
I am burfeted by the winds,
and I falter in the darkness.
And you always have answers, Lord,
for those who confront you.
My tongue is thick and clumsy.
I cannot articulate what I feel
or what they need to hear.
You have the wisdom and the power
to meet the needs of those about you.
But I am foolish and ineffective,
and my brothers turn away from me in disgust.
I have really tried to relate to people about me,
to reach out in love and concern.
I have shared their sorrows and their joys.
I have shelved my ambitions
to respond to their needs.
But when I fail to produce what they want,
or when l am limited by my humanity
and incapacitated by my personal problems
they will have nothing to do with me.
I feel as if I have been used only to be abused.
I am squeezed dry and then cast aside
as if I were of no further value.
Yet I must continue to follow you, O Lord.
It is a hard path to walk,
and I will falter at times.
I long intensely for an occasional oasis
along this journey through wind and sand.
I need desperately your touch of joy and enrichment
as I labour amidst the blood and tears
of this distorted world.
I am empty, Lord.
Enable me to sense your fullness a
and grant me the grace and the courage
to be faithful as your child and servant.
Psalm 35 from Psalms Now by Leslie Brandt
O God, who knowest us to be set in the midst of so many and great dangers, that by reason of the frailty of our nature we cannot always stand upright; grant to us such strength and protection, as may support us in all dangers, and carry us through all temptations; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
Book of Common Prayer
Rowland Croucher, ed., Still Waters, Deep Waters, (Albatross/Lion) chapter 19