Though the Pain is an Ocean

With the exception of being excited about All Saints Day, I’ve been dreading November. I’ve been wishing I could just skip November and go right to December. December holds Advent, vacation, Christmas, our wedding anniversary, and of course, New Years Eve. December offers a lot to be excited about….but not November. November I can do without this year.

You see, the coming of November marks the anniversary of a traumatic pain in my life. Last November something happened that changed me, that changed my family, that disrupted life as I knew it, that shattered some of my basic assumptions.  Something that I’ve tried and tried to forget about, but continues to consume my thoughts. I don’t feel the need to share all the details with you, but suffice it to say that I was deeply hurt by some people that I was extremely close to.

In almost a year of dealing with this pain, I’ve run the full gamut of emotions. I’ve been shocked, angry, depressed, indifferent….you name it I’ve been there. I’ve even had it turned around on me by others. I’ve been told that since I’m a Pastor I should be able to let this go, I’ve had nasty-gram Facebook statuses written about my “judgmentalism”, so on and so forth. What those people seem to be missing is that I am a human just as they are. Finite and futile…..And I hurt. I’ve sat up nights with my heart hurting to the point that I’ve prayed that this whole thing could just be a bad dream (I believe in cycle of grief we call that bargaining) and I could go back to last November before this happened. I guess that wounded is an understatement.

Why am I putting all this out in there in blogland? Why am I risking my privacy to be transparent on the world-wide-web? Because my guess is I’m not the only one who has been deeply hurt by someone they loved. I’m positive I’m not the only one who is feeling this way about something. And if my pain can bring some level of help to someone else, then I guess that’s a silver lining. And even though the pain is strong, the hurt is deep, the wound still so fresh; I still hold on to hope. I know, in my heart of hearts, that God will make it okay one day.

I was up around 2am today thinking about this whole situation. Anguishing in my pain again. Praying for God to take the hurt away. Why do I keep praying when it has taken this long? I’m reminded of  John Wesley’s conversation with Peter Böhler in 1738. Wesley was a burned-out preacher who was anguishing to understand how he could preach faith when he had so little. He asked Böhler about it and his reply was curious. He said, “Preach faith till you have it; and then, because you have it, you will preach faith.” Some have taken this as “fake it ’til you make it” theology. I don’t see it that way. I see it as Peter reminding Wesley what he already knew in his mind but wasn’t experiencing in his soul. So keep preaching it until it goes from your head in to your heart and soul.

While I was sitting in a dark living room in the wee hours of this morning, I was listening to my iTunes, praying that music would take me to a better place. “The Valley Song” by Jars of Clay was on my playlist and it hit me in a way I’ve never felt before. Part of it says:

When death like a Gypsy
Comes to steal what I love
I will still look to the heavens
I will still seek your face

But I fear you aren’t listening
Because there are no words
Just the stillness and the hunger
For a faith that assures

I will sing of your mercy
That leads me through valleys of sorrow
to rivers of joy. 

And it hit me in a brand new way. The song doesn’t say that the painful situation just magically became butterflies and rainbows. He’s preaching faith until he gets it. In the midst of the pain he is still proclaiming that God’s mercy will take him through his valley of sorrow and lead him straight to a river of joy. The song goes on:

While we wait for rescue
With our eyes tightly shut
Face to the ground using our hands
To cover the fatal cut

And though the pain is an ocean
Tossing us around, around, around
You have calmed greater waters
Higher mountains have come down

That’s where I’m at. I barely have the strength to look to the heavens. I feel like I’m doing everything I can to cover my fatal cut. It’s true, my pain is an ocean…..it’s long, it’s deep, and it tosses me back and forth. Maybe yours is, too. Maybe you don’t feel like you have the strength to deal with this anymore, and the cut is still so fresh and deep.

What I’m remembering today…what I want you to remember is that even though our situations seem so strong…..God has calmed greater waters! Higher mountains have come down.

So I guess I go in to today with an ounce of hope. Even though I’ve been walking through hell, walking through my valley of sorrow for almost a year. I’m gonna keep on singing about God’s mercy that leads me through it all. You sing about it, too! Go ahead!

I’m hurting, I’m not over this….but I’m waiting for my river of joy!

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