Wrestling with God

So, I have been wrestling with God. The past year has been a bit of a doozer. Or should I say bulldozer. The ground that is my life just got plowed through, huge piles of soul just dug up, tossed elsewhere, leaving huge gaping holes in my landscape. Since this landscaping idea was not my idea at all, I have been a bit put out.

Why did God let this happen? The landscape was fine the way it was.Why couldn’t He leave well enough alone?

The shifting soil was so unsettling to me, I did the only thing I thought I could. I withdrew into myself, wrapped myself in a cocoon, and went into hibernation. I slipped out to eat, to go to work, and, admittedly less than I needed to, to go to church. So much of the rest of me just went to sleep. I was so tired I didn’t even know how weary I was until I started to wake up again.

I have been known to argue with God. In fact, it is a somewhat regular occurrence in our relationship. But I wasn’t arguing. In fact, for the most part we weren’t talking. I was mad. But I couldn’t feel it. I was anesthetized. Being mad at God isn’t the worse thing. Not feeling His presence and being so paralyzed you don’t even know you don’t feel it is.

And then God jolted me awake. Which felt pretty much like being dropped into ice cold water at 4 in the morning when it is 20 below. You know the date, it’s been the subject of my last two blog posts.

So, perhaps I should explain a little more about my relationship with God. And about what work He asks me to do (besides my service to students with disabilities). And I am going to borrow the wording from something I wrote to explain this to someone earlier this evening. It goes something like this.

Throughout my life I have found myself called on, sometimes with extreme urgency, to pray. It has taken me awhile to get used to this.  In this process, I have had to learn that sometimes the information I am given in order to intercede isn’t common knowledge. Sometimes it’s things I would have no earthly way of knowing, short of God. And, because I have a tendency to be just flat out open and honest,  what I tell others about what I know freaks them out a little. Or a lot. So I mostly leave my yapper shut these days and just pray. We will put the emphasis on the mostly.

It has been a large burden on my heart, and a driving force in my nights and days to pray for all of those affected by the tornado. Sometimes this has been very specific, and for specific people. Sometimes it has been more general. More often everything in between. It has been part of me as I shift from awake to asleep and back awake again. And although it is mostly for others (I pray for myself and my own experiences through this as well), it has been the most profound gift God has given me in a long time. Because I can feel again. And God is near again.

But, being open and honest, I have tried to tell God in no uncertain terms that I’m not cut out for this. Who am I that I should be tasked with the awesome responsibility of interceding for others? I am just a still small voice with a broken body and very little to offer.

Why me God?

This question has been asked of Him many times in the past 3 1/2 months.

Why me?

And, because jolted awake I now hear clearly, He tells me.

Because you said yes. I asked. And you said yes.

We are still wrestling God and I. But I said yes, and I honor my commitments.

A voice of one calling:
“In the wilderness prepare
    the way for the Lord;
make straight in the desert
    a highway for our God.
Every valley shall be raised up,
    every mountain and hill made low;
the rough ground shall become level,
    the rugged places a plain.
And the glory of the Lord will be revealed,
    and all people will see it together.
For the mouth of the Lord has spoke”

Isaiah 40: 3-5



2 responses to “Wrestling with God

  1. Dear Cheryl: I have been following your blog closely. Tonight, I know not exactly why, I decided to catch up on my reading in “Christian Century.” It came upon the following article and pondered it and the passage in John 21: 1-19 which has long & often called to me. It struck me how it spoke to me tonight especially strongly, and how I wanted to share it with you. remember that there is some dispute on the inclusion of John 21 (question of author), I did further investigation, praying and thinking. I decided to send this on tonight. I pray it will be of assistence in some way:
    “Jesus feeds a broken Peter and then Commissions him”
    [John 21:1–19 (Mar 22, 2016) by Austin Crenshaw Shelley]

    In a china cabinet in the corner of our dining room sits a coffee mug with a picture of a cardinal on it. The mug is not especially beautiful. Unlike other favorite mugs that nest just so into my cupped hands, this one’s shape is odd and its handle worn thin. If Antiques Roadshow were to stop by for coffee, on a good day they might value the cardinal mug at ten cents, give or take a nickel for the sizable chip along the rim.
    Yet this unappealing vessel graces our china cabinet, rather than helping to fill our garbage bin. That’s because the mug holds more than coffee or tea. What steeps in the cardinal mug is story.
    It once belonged to my mother-in-law, who treasured it before I did. Before that, it belonged in a set of six cardinal mugs, an incentive for selling wrapping paper or cookie dough or some similarly frivolous school fund-raising product. My husband Mark, then 12 years old, apparently had a knack for sales—or perhaps his big brown eyes and adorable dimples won over potential buyers. In any case, he bested his classmates’ efforts and won the coveted prize.
    The way his mother tells the story, she pulled up to the school just in time to see Mark sprinting toward her, arms clasped around the cardboard box of half a dozen cardinal mugs that he had already planned to give to her. And then she watched helplessly as he and the box and every one of those mugs crashed to the pavement. One mug survived with just a chip. As I unwrapped this gift from her before Mark and I married, she told its story. “He isn’t perfect,” she concluded. “Love him anyway.”
    As we encounter the post-resurrection Jesus in this week’s Gospel reading, the cardinal mug lends a fitting image. Brokenness and disappointment permeate this narrative—brokenness as thick as the early morning mist off the Sea of Galilee, disappointment as pungent as the smell of fish on the fire. Shattered dreams linger of a triumphant messiah who would liberate his people from Roman occupation. Nothing has gone the way the disciples intended. Judas’s enthusiasm erupted into betrayal; Peter’s devotion disintegrated into denial. Jesus’ body, first broken on the cross, goes missing from the tomb and then reappears—resurrected but wounded still.
    Scholars typically find fault with Peter’s exasperated decision to go fishing. But one can hardly blame the impetuous disciple for responding to confusing circumstances by grasping for solid ground. What if Peter’s instinct to go fishing is not an abandonment of Jesus’ call but rather a desperate attempt to retrace his steps, to reenact the scene in which Jesus first called him to follow? In an effort to remedy his disoriented state, Peter reverts to an activity with a tangible, reliable outcome.
    Except that fishing turns out to be less reliable than Peter remembers. And against the rhythm of empty nets cast into the sea, Jesus appears on the shoreline. Divine déjà vu ensues, as Jesus begins the miracle of gathering all the broken pieces to himself: a fishing net filled to overflowing, a drenched disciple, grilled fish, and broken bread. These echoes of Jesus’ earlier miracles are not lost on the disciples. Being face to face with the risen Lord silences them.
    The other disciples fade into the background as the focus of the narrative narrows to the conversation between the risen Jesus and Peter, whom Jesus addresses as “Simon son of John.” It’s hard to tell whether Jesus calls Peter by his original name—rather than calling him Peter, “the rock”—in order to highlight Peter’s failure to claim Jesus rather than deny him. In any case, Peter’s hurt is evident. His heartbreak is emphasized further by Jesus’ three repetitions of the question, “Do you love me?” and Peter’s increasingly emphatic replies.
    But Jesus doesn’t seem interested in erasing or fixing Peter’s brokenness. Instead, a broken Jesus feeds a broken Peter and commissions him to respond by extending Jesus’ sustenance to others: “Feed my sheep.”
    None of us escapes this life unbroken. Yet God sustains us and calls us to be about God’s work. We are not perfect. God loves us anyway—not just in spite of our brokenness, but because of it.
    It may seem sophomoric or sentimental to affirm that God treasures us, brokenness and all. But consider how hard this promise is to believe. We run to God with a net full of fish, with half a dozen cardinal mugs—our extended arms filled with hope that God will be pleased. We end up with scraped knees and skinned elbows, our sidewalks and shorelines covered in disappointment, our clothes dripping wet with the weight of sins and griefs long past.
    The breakfast on the beach in John’s Gospel compels us to believe that our compassionate God knows a thing or two about brokenness. It invites us to warm our aching muscles by the fire, to taste a morsel of fresh fish, and to imagine that the risen Jesus gathers up the remnant—the imperfect but salvageable offerings of our broken lives—and cherishes them. It reminds us that we are filled to the brim with the story of God.

    From ‘LIVING BY THE WORD’ (April 10, Third Sunday of Easter) “Christian Century”

    Love Dad

  2. I am catching up on computer items, and Dad mentioned that you have new posts…Your feelings about the tornado, including your anger at God and your role in praying and helping, loudly echo my feelings about the damage Sandy did to the Jersey Shore.These feelings included many manifestations, from deep sorrow for the people who had lost their homes. to anger at some people who built their houses “on sand.” (Grandma used to be very upset about. the way some people built homes on the beachfront and then denied the public access to the public beach.) But mostly it was a very sad thing, and the storm destroyed parts of my childhood beaches. I still get upset when we ride along Long Beach Island and see the houses just now being reconstructed on piles or just left abandoned. The light in any of these tragic events is the way so many people rally to help in the aftermath, with prayer, financial help, and manual assistance. I was glad to be part of a church that helped in many ways.

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