I had goals. I promised to send you on a weekly journey through the 52 stories many weeks ago. It was time to start fresh with Genesis 1 and 2 and 3 and the ultimate questions of God and man and knowledge and eternity and never ending this side of life struggles that can become triumphs. And then life threw me a curve ball.
A new spiritual dilemma hit me hard, like a baseball to left field that caught me unaware in the outfield as I blinked into the blinding ray of sun, my gloved hand not even reaching up. This thing smacked me in the forehead and I fell flat on the turf, watching stars scramble in blurred succession, questions racing in my mind, the first being “what was that?”
I’ve experienced these knock outs before.
They’ll send you out of the game for awhile.
When I was in junior high school, one of my friends started dating a guy of a different race. Well, as much as you can “date” when you’re fourteen and don’t have transportation. And so I did the white church girl thing to do. I asked for prayer for her during Sunday School and the white haired teacher just stared at me. I thought she was taking in the horror of it all. Instead she asked if I wanted to rephrase that request because she was not sure that it said anything in the Bible about biracial couples. And I was ashamed. And I wondered what else I might have wrongly presumed. And I did not go up to bat for awhile. I sat out, keeping quiet on the prayer request bench the rest of that school year.
There was this time in college when I started attending a Sunday night service where the reformed Baptist preacher was teaching Romans verse by verse and every week I couldn’t keep up. It was as if I was at bat and balls of information were coming at me so fast and I struck out over and over, every time asking as I returned to the dugout of my twin bed at Furman University, “Is God fair?” And my new friend living down the hall in my dorm building came from such a different background than me and once I must have offended her when she was talking about her childhood and I felt pity on her and she saw it and she threw this at me – “Don’t look at me like that. God loves me just as much as he loves you.”
And I was ashamed. I don’t know which ashamed. I don’t know if I was ashamed that I couldn’t believe that was true or if I was ashamed that she thought that it was.
Later during my time at college, this friend told me that she’d gotten married over spring break at the court house and no one knew and so she still lived in the girls’ dorm and her husband still lived in the boys’ dorm and sometimes they did get to secretly meet up and have sex and of course that broke the school’s residence hall rules, but it didn’t seem like that it broke God’s rules and I did not know what to say. I did not know what to say and I was at that point paid by the university as a “resident assistant.” I did not report the school infraction, but I wondered if it was right – any and all of it. And I wondered why my gut Godly reaction was to keep my mouth shut. It was like I was an imposter umpire. And I wondered for the first time if God even needed referees.
But not much of that compared to the time post college graduation that my probably favorite person from high school told me that he was gay. And he basically said that he thought that he was still on my God team. And my mom wondered if I was afraid that he would get AIDS and I was just afraid that he would get HELL.
And HELL about described my confusion about that whole thing. That whole thing. And all I knew was that I loved him. I loved this friend. I was sure of it. I felt that love. And I decided to still love God, even though God did not stir up much feeling in me then and I know now that what I was experiencing was the agonizing groans of prayers that only the Spirit can cry out for us. The ones that have no real words.
When we had been in high school – maybe eleventh grade? – we had to memorize a piece of literature and recite it to the class and I think that I chose something from whatever Shakespeare play we’d read, but my sweet friend did an excerpt of a sermon – Jonathon Edwards’ Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God.
I did not believe my friend was in the hands of an angry God when he sat across the dinner table from me and confessed that he was homosexual. But God, God was the victim of my anger. And God withstood it. I kept trying to hit God hard with that ball he pitched me, but God caught it every time. He caught my hard fly balls and sent me others.
It is a similar em-passe of confusion that I find myself in this summer as another friend’s secrets have been exposed. Criminal secrets. Hurtful secrets. Bizarre secrets. Victim-filled secrets. And I have wrestled with God. I have questioned my judgment. I have asked if good and evil can coexist.
And I have failed to keep my blogging promise to you, my sweet little audience of teachers to young folks.
But you understand. I know that you do. Because you are on this team and you’ve had similar seasons.
And if you’re in one of those can’t “outwardly produce” seasons right now because you’re inwardly wrestling, then I want to encourage you. YOU ARE ACTUALLY STILL IN THE GAME.
Consider it Spring Training.
And it is good.
It refines us.
Hardly anyone considers that such tough questions are suitable for children’s teachers. But they are. I want to train so that I am true and honest. I’ve been tested, I’m being tested, I’ll be tested. He holds me in His hand. And He is not angry. And our children need leaders who have sweated this stuff because they will sweat it, too.
And so it was that on the final day of VBS this June when I was to finish my small group rotation teaching Philippians 4:4-7, I went in for prayer so that I might be living these statements. And, somehow – I did and was.
Rejoice in the Lord always; again, I will say, rejoice.
Let your reasonableness be known to all, The Lord is near.
Do not be anxious for anything,
But in everything, by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving,
let your requests be made know to God.
And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding,
will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.
What are you anxious about, dear friend?
Where do you need peace?
Let your request be made known to Him. Or allow the Spirit to interpret your groanings.