I just couldn’t do it.
Some of my girlfriends were getting together for dinner and to hear a godly woman speak to them about something important. But that day, I just couldn’t do it. These wonderful women would ask how I was. And I’d answer, “Good!” because the truth was complicated and would evoke more conversation. We’d sit and listen to a woman talk about how she prayed her way out of a bad chapter. And I just couldn’t hear that one more time. Not that night. I just didn’t have it in me. So, instead, I sat in my car in a parking lot, trying to pull myself together before I went home to two hungry teenage boys.
My heart was indeed in pieces. My 20 year marriage to my high school sweetheart had ended two years ago. Then he committed suicide, leaving me to raise two kids alone. I’d broken it off with a man I was starting to love. One grieving kid was getting into trouble and the other kid had not yet shed one tear since his dad died. I had bills to pay, homework to motivate, and a fridge to keep stocked. It was all just too much. That night was the apex of my grief.
Where was God?
Yes, I saw the title of the book God Is In The Small Stuff.
But…what about the big stuff…like this?
I needed Him. And I could not find Him.
I remembered I had read in the Bible, that David felt the same way. And I felt less guilty for feeling so abandoned.
I also read about joy coming from within. And I wanted that so badly.
But it felt like God was refusing to fix the ache.
What can I pray that hasn’t already been prayed?
From my journal that night:
“This life – there’s nothing good about it. That’s not suicidal. It’s just that it’s worthless, hopeless. Other than the responsibility to raise these boys, what’s the point?”
I had to ask the question, “Do I really believe He exists?”
Yes, I was sure of this.
Next question: “Should I feel bad about asking this question?”
I can’t believe I even think to ask that!
But still…I’m so lost. And I can’t seem to find Him anywhere or in anything.
Where are you?
Yet, I knew He was there, sort of. Babies were being born everyday, wind was blowing through the trees. The sun came up. woo hoo…
I was confused and disillusioned.
What was worse is that I could see people around me who had done some pretty immoral things in their life. I saw and heard what appeared to be God still working. Wait. Not just working in their life, He was blessing their lives. And it was hard to watch him sprinkle fairy dust on other lives as I sat in the dirty rubble of mine. “I’m so happy for you,” I’d choke out.
THIS…this struggle to find Him was a whole new layer to the story. And in some respects, worse than the events that led me here. In my car. That night…at the apex of my grief.
In desperation, I began a sort of “analytical dig.” I stopped asking, “Where was God?” and I started asking…
“Why can’t I find Him?”
I saw him so clearly before. I could feel him working, I could see Him in the tiny things and in the big things. But now…now, it’s so grey. It’s so foggy. What is blocking me from seeing Him? It’s so…noisy!
Then I had my answer: The noise of my broken heart.
That was it. That was what was blocking me from seeing and feeling God. And it didn’t seem like there was anything I could do to turn despair’s volume down. Life had come down hard and blocked out the beauty of God in my life. My noisy broken heart was passing before the shine of God and formed a perfect eclipse. Satan was using my noisy broken heart to make me think that God wasn’t there. That He’d abandoned me for some reason. And that God’s love was there for everyone else. Just not for me.
But at least now I knew why I couldn’t find Him. It was the noise. I don’t mean cell phones, emails, tv, texts, bills, deadlines. This noise was coming from the overwhelming sadness, confusion, loneliness, anger, worry, despair. That stuff was black. It was vacuumous. Like an eclipse.
So there, in the parking lot, I determined that it wasn’t God. It was my noisy broken heart. And boy, was it loud. But, I knew He was there. Probably looking for me as much as I was looking for Him. I was very determined to hold on to that, no matter how bad I felt. Not because my faith muscles were so strong. In fact, the exact opposite. I was a mess. Weak and wobbly. I looked down on the roulette wheel of things to believe in and I didn’t see another viable option. So, I put all my money down on it. I was banking on it being truth. But the way I felt was… well, it was crappy. But it wasn’t truth.
Still I had to figure out a way to get around the eclipse of the noise. I really needed to see Him again. I wasn’t going to make it if I didn’t. And if I didn’t make it, my kids wouldn’t make it.
So, I decided every day I would make a list of stuff I could see God’s hand in. No matter how small or how trivial. And for many months, that list was pitiful. But these were the only things I could see and feel at the time. Funny thing is, I can see now in my journal, that I had stopped writing out my prayers. All I can see, day after day, are these lists.
I was grateful for going to bed early, or a phone call from my parents. One day, I wrote on my list, “able to buy kids Burger King tonight.” Here’s some other gems:
“I didn’t get lost driving to a new place.”
“I’m not in this accident that I hear the sirens racing to.”
“No tears today.”
“The Dollar Store.”
“I got paid today.”
“Stayed alert at my desk today.”
Pretty pathetic. And sweet. But that crazy list each night was just enough. Barely enough. But enough. Yes, He was there. I could see Him. He was in obscure treasures of my mundane, day to day stuff. And suddenly the mundane became the extraordinary.
Slowly, the eclipse of my noisy broken heart passed from the sun of my God. And I do mean the sun. His brightness, his warmth, his power to bring life. Slowly the eclipse passed by.
The thing is this: The sun – the ordinary sun – we see it almost every day. But when the moon passes in front of it, all of a sudden we all want to stare at it. We want to see the light peep through the darkness. It’s so much more fascinating than just the ordinary un-blocked sun. It’s so cool.
I guess that’s the way my life was. Mostly vanilla. Very “venti”. Medium. God, in my life, was very ordinary. But when He got eclipsed by my noisy broken heart, suddenly, I was desperate to see Him. Desperate to find him and frantic to catch even a glimpse of him out from beneath the darkness of my sad and messy soul. And the little peek-a-boo’s of God were enough to make me write it down on a list at the end of the day. I started to look forward to the next night when I could write down more. I started taking mental notes throughout the day to add to the list at night. Because even though they were small things – sorta dumb things – they were drops of ice cold water on a cracked and parched life. And I wanted more.
My lists became longer. I started using a lot of !!!! And even a few happy faces.
Nothing had changed. Everything that had caused the despair was still there. In fact, I had another 4-5 more years of really hard stuff.
But, eventually, I felt loved enough from all those random, little things on the lists each night, that the noise got quieter and the brightness got brighter.
And there He was, emerging through the darkness.
He’d been there all along. Unchanged. Unmoved. Solid. Warm.
I found Him. Yes, I did.
And He’ll never, ever look the same.