Walking through Rough Roads

Darkness has been a theme on the blog of late, partly because darkness is something that I fight daily. It isn't inner demons from my past or present, but often, my struggle comes from pursuing a path without seeming support.

Irish Sea, Holyhead, Wales
This past Saturday, I had a book signing - a wonderful opportunity for the Lord to provide money I needed for upcoming bills, and ones I need to pay. My previous two signings had yielded no sales. In fact, the first one this year yielded no people.

It was frustrating to say the least.

All my life, I've been taught that God would provide for my every need. When he doesn't, I struggle with the reasons. For me it is simple: God provides an opportunity therefore he will provide the means to pay for it.

Right?

Mission trip? Check - God provided the money.
Bill to pay? Check - God provided the money.
Food on the table? Job? Whatever it happened to be? Check - God provided the money.

Until now.

It isn't as though I expect God to shower me with blessings without working for any of it. I write; I put my name out there; I do what I'm supposed to do. I apply for jobs, and receive rejection. I apply for fairs, but when I'm accepted ... the money disappears.

I'm a rules person. I need boundaries for peace of mind. I can and do break rules, usually for a specific purpose, but all in all, rules are my friends. I follow the rules, and I expect to receive what I need at day's end.

God is supposed to provide for us. He isn't supposed to actively thwart us, right?

I don't like not having answers. If I have a question, I usually research and question until I can find the information I need to provide an answer, or at the very least provide some sort of guidance. When I have none, my brain works in overtime to discover the answer.

My experience with conservative Christianity has been one that hides from the rough patches of life. When darkness comes into our lives, few stand beside, but many offer trite words of no encouragement. Now, let me say that this is true across the board: humans tend to flee conflict and uncertainty. I have nothing against anyone that does otherwise, neither do I expect everyone to understand.

I don't.

What I am saying, however, is often times what we say and what we do don't mesh. We say that God will provide all our needs, but when he doesn't, we either spiritualize it or we ignore it. We tell people that those walking in darkness must be in sin or ignorance therefore if they (a) repented or (b) learned of God then they would not be in darkness.

I stand in the middle of a dark road. I am not ignorant, and I am not in sin.

We tell those who stand in darkness that this "time of testing will bring God glory."

How is it supposed to bring God glory when I have opportunities that he doesn't provide for? When we gives me opportunities then refuses to pay the bill?

"It's in your patience and in your perseverance that God is glorified, of course," people answer.

Pursuing something that consistently doesn't provide; hoping for something to be better is madness. When do we make the choice to stop following? When must we choose to keep following a path that we believe is right, when all sanity tells us otherwise?

I don't know. It's where I stand right now. In the midst of darkness, on a rough road with no money to pay for a proverbial inn beside the road. I'm a traveler who is quite fearful she's lost her way.

Honestly, I feel like I'm living out my play, Yet Hope Remains. With twenty-twenty hindsight, we know that Tikva, the character who hopes in God, is correct: Christ did rise from the grave; but when we're in the midst of the night, we wonder if Tikva is crazy for her hope.

One of my former pastors tells us that there are three types of people in the world: those who are in a trial, those who have come out of a trial, and those who will be facing a trial. It's a true statement, but we often wipe it off glibly. Trials might be some rough times in the family or at work. Those trials, I find are easier to help - or at least easier for the church to help. It's the dark times of the soul where I find the biggest struggle.

We as the church must realize that not everyone's trials are going to be cotton candy trials:

Scene opens in a kitchen. Mom and Dad talk are talking. Mom says to Dad: "Oh, honey, Jonny doesn't have enough money for basketball camp."

Dad says to Mom. "Let us pray for the money, and God will provide."

Both bow heads to pray. Doorbell rings. Both look astonished and go to answer the door. Mr. Mann from down the road says, "Geez, Mr. and Mrs. House, I just received a two hundred dollar check, and the Lord told me to give it to you. I don't know why, but have a nice day."

Door closes on Mr. Mann. Mom and Dad smile, and Dad says, "Praise God. He works in such mysterious ways."

Above is also an example of a really bad ending though it sounds nice, I might add. More often it's Mom and Dad in the same kitchen trying to figure out how they're going to pay for Jonny's summer camp, because it is the best opportunity he has to develop his gifts and earn a scholarship which would help pay for college. The door opens, Mr. Mann is there, without a check, but says that fuel bill is two hundred dollars.

When Mom and Dad go to church on Sunday and ask for prayer, some might tell them the platitudes which most of us just brush off, but as they sit in the service, their pastor talks about how we all have rough roads in our lives. Times of darkness that come. Mom and Dad nod their heads in understanding - they're there right now hoping for a morsel of hope.

The pastor says that we must push aside the doubts and focus on God. Put away the sins that beset us, and repent.

It hurts Mom and Dad because they have doubts. They struggle with what they are to do. They have no sin in their lives, and try to lead holy lives. What else is there for them to do?

As a writer, I can have Mom and Dad continue down their path with their bumps and bruises because I know the end of their story. Through their story they learn that it isn't always easy to follow Christ, and sometimes doubts and questions are needed since they help us grow.

As a human living the story, I struggle with the doubts and questions. I don't know the end; honestly, I don't even know if I'm going in the right direction. I don't need platitudes or pithy verses flung at me. I need a place where I can go with my brokenness and doubts and find a morsel of hope. I need a place where I can bind my wounds and find a salve for my soul.

Some of the healing comes from opening up oneself to those nearby. For many of us, it isn't an easy process. I allow my doubts to churn around in my head because it's the only place I know where my salvation will not be questioned. It's the only space beyond my immediate family where I know I won't be given strange looks.

As an artist, I have to dive into the darkness. It's a scary place to visit, let alone to live. If there is one thing I wish the conservative Christianity could realize it's this: questions, doubts and fears are a part of life. We will all face moments in which we wonder if God exists. We will all face times in which we wonder if we're fools for following Christ. We will all face days of doubt. There will be times in which God doesn't provide for us, not for something simple like a basketball camp, but for something big like a fuel bill. 

And it's all right. It's all right to doubt, to struggle to face the rough road in the darkest nights. It isn't easy, and it isn't wrong. It's all right to sit down and cry ourselves ragged trying to find the answers that only God can provide. He may never give us answers. He may never provide the check in the mail, but we can know that he understands and cares for us.

At the end of the day, sometimes that is all that matters: knowing that God cares for us.

Comments

  1. That's a great post, Bridgette.

    I can relate all the way. I get tired of the platitudes. If it happens, it was God's will. If it doesn't happen, it was God's will. You didn't have strong enough faith. You had sin. There's a million platitudes that just don't answer things effectively when the bank is empty and the bills are piled high.

    All I can say is that I *do* believe God and Jesus do care and love us. I also DON'T believe that as Christians, everything will be peachy.

    For me, even if it comes down to being broke and destitute (which I'm pretty close to being), I'd still rather trust in my faith that God is with me, even in hard times. I find comfort in prayer and talking to Jesus, even at times expressing my frustrations at my needs not being met. (notice I didn't say WANTS).

    If I could, I'd more than wish to help you in your career as an artist, writer, and weaver. But I don't have those means.

    All I can do is offer you some encouragement and solace. Life is a roller coaster. It's not all ups, it's not all downs. It's very fluid. For those of us deep in a trough, we have to keep the faith and keep looking and WORKING for a better tomorrow.

    I do believe God is for us, but there is the enemy against us. Don't let the enemy steal your hope, your dreams, your passions to serve God with your talents. I know that is very hard to do.

    Warmest regards,

    A brother in Christ.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks for the support. I know you face many of the same issues with your painting. We just keep muddling through life, bringing beauty to those around us; enjoying the surprises as they come.

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    2. I think that is so fundamental, Bridgette. Keep bringing beauty to those around us through our talents!

      But also, ask yourself: What can I do today to plant seeds that might earn some income? Send out some resumes. Apply for some jobs. Make some contacts by email or FB to people who previously expressed interest in your art or books. Keep planting those seeds and something is bound to bear fruit. Focus on the seed planting.

      And use the gift of your talents to uplift somebody today. That will help uplift YOU for 'loving thy neighbor'.

      Both together, practical seed planting for income, and 'loving thy neighbor' for filling your heart will leave you going to bed feeling much better because you took actions today to make a difference.

      God bless, Bridgette. (I said a little prayer for you. Every little bit helps!)

      :)

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