(This is a series that was adapted from my life-story, Child of Mine, which is at sweetlybrokengirl.blogspot.com. It starts at the bottom of the June posts with “Like a Child.”)
A few years back, I went to a family reunion at my grandparents’ farm, a great big barn dance. Good food, campfires, lots of people, my wonderful grandparents! Always a fun time. My biological father, Bill, (who I barely ever saw) was there with my two half-brothers and half-sister. He’s a musician and, during the barn dances, he plays his guitar for the crowd, singing old country songs.
During one song, he invited my half-brothers to come up with him and sing in the background. I sat there around the campfire holding one of my children and swaying to the music, listening to my half-brothers accompany my dad with “whaa-ooo-whaa-ooo-whaa-ooo.” It was peaceful. It was enjoyable. It was . . . disturbing.
In the middle of rocking my son and toe-tapping to the music, I was hit by an unpleasant thought: I really missed out on a lot in this family. I would never know my dad the way that my half-siblings did. And I was basically just an acquaintance with them. Sure, we share half-blood, but I didn’t grow up with them or even meet them until I was teenager. I was never a part of the childhood memories, the family holidays, the birthday parties, or the sing-alongs. I bet my dad doesn’t even know that I have a pretty good voice myself. (At least, I did until some tone-deafness in one ear. So don’t ask me to sing out loud now.)
I sat there watching them share this bond that I would never have, and suddenly, I felt so distant. I was on the outside, looking in. I was thrilled to be part of that family, yet I wasn’t really part of the family. After my mother and my father divorced, I didn’t see him again (that I could remember) until I was fifteen. Then after that, I would hear from him or see him only once every year or two at my grandparents’ house. And then there was step-dad #1, step-dad #2, and (now) step-dad #3.
In so many ways - with family, with all my dads and their families, with classmates in high school and college, with church friends - I have had that same feeling of being on the outside, looking in. I was accustomed to loss and distance in my life. It seemed like the theme of my life.
And yet during the years of trials that I went through, it seemed that the more I reached out for God and the more I sought His guidance, the more He pulled away from me. He became silent. He left me alone. And this distance from God - those years of prolonged silence - just didn’t seem fair. I had it enough with everyone else. Not You, too, Lord? Please, not You, too!
The trials included my parents’ MESSY divorce, my son’s baby bottle tooth decay, an adoption that didn’t happen (of a relative’s baby that we thought they were going to give up), the economic recession, the birth of my fourth child, and a desperate search for more adequate housing. And out of them all, that one broke me the most.
There were six of us living in a two-bedroom rental, which became a one-bedroom rental because of mold. The mold was making me sick (I could smell it, but the owners couldn’t so they didn’t really believe me). And we had to get out soon. And I believed that God would lead us to the place He wanted for us, a place we could afford (which wasn’t much because of the economic recession, having our fourth child, and having only one modest income). We were desperate for His guidance and providence. But for years, He remained silent. And this threw my faith into a tail-spin.
As we struggled to find a place we could afford, I realized that it wasn’t waiting for the house that was the most painful part. It was the deafening silence from the Lord that hurt the most. Why did He seem so far off? Why was He silent for so long? What was I not doing good enough that He wouldn’t listen to me? How many years would I have to come to Him with the same request? I had really believed that He would show us the way, but why was He pulling back when I was reaching out for Him more and more? Why did I have to struggle with silence when I was pleading for direction, confusion when I begged for wisdom, and waiting when all I wanted was to know His Will? No matter how much we asked and waited, we weren’t getting any answer or even any sense that He was listening. I felt so tiny. So alone. So . . . invisible.
How long do you hang in there, clinging to whatever tiny scraps of hope you can dig out of the dried-up, rocky soil of faith? I really needed a glimpse of Him, even just a tiny little breeze filled with His presence, to nurture my shriveled-up hope and faith. I could actually feel them dying as time went on. And I could see no end to it. “Lord, please, if You’re there, just send a dragonfly or something across my path right now! Please, I need to know You are there!” But there was never a dragonfly. And I felt hopeless. And I felt helpless, driven to rely on Someone who just wasn’t coming through for me. What more could I do?
At times, I wondered if it was wrong to tell God that I didn’t like some of the things that He allowed into my life, that I was disappointed in how things were going. Was it okay to cry over a difficult circumstance or a long wait? Because those times are from His hand , too, as much as the good times are. Did that show lack of faith in Him, unwillingness, bitterness, or a stubborn heart?
I mean, of course, whatever He wants is best. But we are made with feelings and emotions and preferences. How do we reconcile the two? How do you mesh deep longings with accepting whatever the Lord wants for you, especially if they are not the same thing? Is it okay to want something or is it better to be a blank slate and never have any real preferences or desires?
For the longest time, I felt like I was doing pretty good with the Lord. I felt mature, wise, and spiritual. I believed that I was about as close as you could get to Him. I mean, I loved the Lord and trusted Him for things. I prayed and read my Bible. I grew in faith and knowledge. I had a deep desire for Him and tried my best to live a good, Christian life. These things were genuine, and my relationship with Him was real and growing.
So I couldn’t really understand why things were turning out this way, why He felt so far away, and why He wouldn’t listen. And I was doing everything I could think of to get Him to engage: serving, praying, Bible reading, confessing sins, seeing if there was any offensive way in me, seeking His Will and watching for it. Anything I could think of to make sure that I pleased Him and that the lines of communication were open between us. And now, I was calling out to Him all the time, and I was hurting. But where was He?
But you know what? I was strong. I could handle it. After all, I was used to doing things on my own. Didn’t need anything from anybody! I’d just suck it up, stick out my chin and say, “Fine, Lord, I’m used to it. You don’t need to do anything for me. I can handle the silence. I’ve been here before, left out and standing alone. If this is the way it’s going to be, then that’s alright with me. Whatever You want, Lord. I’m fine.”
But it wasn’t really alright with me and I wasn’t fine. I didn’t like feeling so out of control and so helpless. My whole life, I had put so much time and effort into making sure that I didn’t lose control and that I wasn’t helpless. I was used to standing on my own two feet, and I liked the security of only having to rely on myself. I was a leader.
And now, here I was after years of trials, floundering and in pain. And even though I was trying so hard to “roll with it” and act like I was fine, I wasn’t. I was just so hurt that God left me dangling out there all alone. And there was nothing I could do about it.
Oh, I could run out ahead of God’s Will if I wanted to, but that wasn’t what I wanted. What I wanted was to have God show the way. I wanted to go where He wanted us to go. I wanted to see His hand leading us. So why was He being so stubborn? Why couldn’t He give me some inkling that He was there and listening and working on it? Just a dragonfly, really. Was that too much to ask for?
But instead, I got silence that was so loud that it echoed through my entire being. I got complete blackness. No tiny little light, not even a candlelight, to light the way. I wanted something, anything. But I got nothing!
And this is when I was forced to admit to a painful truth: I couldn’t do it! I couldn’t make God answer me. I couldn’t handle things on my own. I couldn’t lead. I could barely even hang in there anymore. I wasn’t in control at all. (And, ooooh, I didn’t like that.) In fact, I could only be in control if I fought Him for it. And standing on my own two feet only left me feeling like I was standing alone. And I just wasn’t strong enough to keep going. Through all the years of trials, I had lost all confidence in myself. And now I was losing confidence in the Lord. So, where do I go from here?
Honestly, I think that there are only two options at a time like that: turn your back on God in anger and harden your heart, or cry out to Him again in your despair. Either give up waiting for Him to show up and walk ahead on your own. Or decide to dig in your heels and let Him know that you are not going anywhere until He shows Himself to you - seeking Scripture for comfort and guidance, and pouring out your pain in prayer. And I knew Him too well to turn my back on Him. And the pain and fear of facing life without Him was more terrifying than the pain and fear of waiting during His silence.