Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Losing my religion

 Just the other day, I found myself enjoying a rare delight--especially during the fast-encroaching holiday frenzy: I had an unexpected opportunity for an extended period of silence. 

I was driving, making an hour-long mama-taxi run to retrieve a child from one event before delivering this child to the next.  I spent a few minutes in quiet, then turned on the radio to find a prayerful song we’ve learned recently at church . . . one of those songs that speaks to a place deep within me.

It didn’t take long until I was having a moment.  A time when God was shining a little beam of light through a crack in the boundary between earth and heaven, allowing me to catch an unexpected but much-needed glimpse of peace.  Maybe even a little joy.  

I heard a funny noise over the music and realized my phone was ringing.  I answered to the sound of my child’s angry exclamations about our previously-agreed-upon plan.

And just like that, the moment ended.  The beam of light retracted back to heaven.  The crack through which it had shone, sealed shut.   Gone also was the sense of God’s nearness.  The peace.  The joy.   Instead, I was flooded with frustration--partly at my child, partly at my inability to “hold on” to the glimpse, and (truthfully) partly at a God who would so quickly snatch away a much-needed experience.  (He could have delayed that phone call, right?)

Prematurely endings like that aren’t uncommon for me.  Yet they cause me immense amounts of anxiety.  Somewhere along the way, I’ve gotten the idea that my inability to “hold on” to such experiences mean something bad about my faith, and I start asking questions:   What happened to the peace that passes all understanding?  Why can’t I sustain the sense of His presence?   Where did God go, anyway?  Moments like that have the potential to make me feel like I’m losing my religion.  Or (worse), they cause me to wonder whether I had any in the first place.

A few days later, I re-visited the story of someone else—Jacob--who was also jolted back to reality after a sleeping vision of the famous ladder.  Upon opening his eyes, he said,  “Surely the Lord is in this place, and I was not aware of it.” 

Jacob’s dream gave him a glimmering glimpse of heaven.  But he had to awaken, to return to a world that held difficult relationships and challenging realities.   And I have to wonder whether the peace and excitement he felt while looking at that ladder dissipated when his eyes returned to the earthly visions around him.

But Jacob's awakening didn’t cause him to doubt himself.  He didn’t anxiously wonder whether God had left him.  And he wasn’t resentful about leaving the dream.  Instead, He celebrated what God had done by building a memorial.  A tangible reminder, for all to see.  Including himself.

Most striking to me, though, is Jacob’s trust in God’s abiding presence.  Instead of wondering why He couldn’t perceive God all the time, he acknowledged a certainty that God was present, even in those moments when he was unable perceive him. 

During this season, I want to reflect on the meaning of our honoree's name, Emmanuel, God with us.  Instead, though, and ironically, I can get so caught up with the preparations that I forget to live that truth.  

My hope, though, is that I might be more like Jacob.  May I trust and rest in the knowledge that God is in this place.  Even when I’m not aware of it.  
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Now it's your turn.  What sorts of things cause you to momentarily "lose your religion" or to shift from a place of wonder to a place of shadow?  And how do you respond to those experiences?  
Or, how do you retain the awareness of Emmanuel?
I'd love to know your thoughts and experiences, and I bet others would too.

3 comments:

  1. cool- that you are seeing what is happening! Extra cool - moments of vision - faith builders like steps in Jacob's ladder that take us toward a memorable place that keeps us reaching. Do we ever really go all the way back down that ladder?

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  2. Thanks, Anne, for the reminder that God IS so very near and desires for us to be fully abandoned to HIm both heading up the ladder and sitting on the ground at the bottom of it. I know God is calling me to not just look for,but to pursue moments this December that cause me to focus on Him and leave the preparations behind. I appreciate you providing me with one of those moments - an unexpected blessing in my morning! ~Katie C.

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