Monday, December 8, 2008

C Sheep: If We're All Blind, What Good is the Flock? (Answer: Plenty!)

I am probably going to take it on the chin for this post from M and S because of the countless times they have urged me to heed just what I am saying here, but it's truth, so here goes:

Coming up in the church, I have often heard the admonition against turning to God only in time of need. I must be weird. As counterintuitive as it seems, in the time of my deepest hurt, I actually seem to forget to do the simple things, like praying for guidance and help. Finally, after struggling by myself for a while, it does hit me: "Oh, yeah! I could ask God about that!"

Pain and depression also cause me to leave the flock. I don't know why I do this, just that I end up holing up. "Going into my cave," we have come to call it. I can pretty much function fine on my job through most anything, but when I am really down or upset, it is my friends, family and church that I eschew. I have heard over and over testimonies of how the church family had been support and comfort for those in distress. I like to think I have been part of that comfort at times for others. But when it came to me, church was the first place I fled from when times got dark. My inclination is just toward isolation; I think that is natural. When we are injured, we have an innate desire to go off alone and lick our wounds. We see this all across nature. The intellectual part of me knows this is not healthy, and I believe that the Scriptures, too, tell us to hang together and not be Lone Rangers.

Throughout my ordeal, God has been with me. He was palpably present at the moment I learned of my betrayal, steadying me, guiding me while I was on the auto-pilot of shock. Through numbness I was patently aware of His presence.

In the months that followed, God continued to be there for me; even when I ignored Him in my self-absorption (recall that failure to remember Him, I mention above?) He would push into my life at intervals, making His presence and compassion unexpectedly known; knowing that I was only just getting through the days and would not turn to Him without His intrusion. But really “hearing God,” is not something I have done much of lately. During my “dark days,” while I have been alone, my hearing of God has been limited. We were in survival communication mode, He and I. He understood fully that coping was all I could really manage and, in His wisdom and Love, He limited His speech to me. He comforted, encouraged, gave me signs, but He did not “speak.” He kept to the practical--no lofty theological insights. I did not care; I was just surviving.

I was gone for a good while, and it was hard to return to church, even though M and S and so many other loved ones were there and urging me to return. So much of my former life was entwined in church, and coming back alone was a dread. I knew that I had never really left and my fellow church members struck exactly the right chord of leaving me to my healing and letting me continually know I should not think of myself as “separate” in the permanent sense. I, too, knew that I was still a part of that flock, although temporarily apart.

But the day came for me to return. And what I found was a body so ready to have me back that I did not feel strange at all.

But, back to the value of the flock and the “hearing God” thing: Not only did my church welcome me back, God put on a big welcome for me, too! It was a surprise to me. When I returned to church, God began to “speak” to me in a way He has not done (or I have not heard, at least) in almost two years. It was like He was saying, “Now that you’re here, focus on Me and listen to what I say! Let’s get on with it!” The subsequent Sundays brought God’s voice to me again, and although He has started speaking to me elsewhere (while I dry my hair, for example), His voice is loudest, clearest when I am at church. Being in church is like I am on a hill with my antenna trained to God. Like the blind sheep of the congregation are a collective radar dish, amplifying the voice of God for me.

And, so, I have learned some things during my dark days and in coming out of them, both spiritual and practical. Those lessons will forever impact my professional and my personal life. I am working now on exercises to make those impacts positive, rather than negative. But among the most important lessons I have learned are that: God is always with us, even when we ignore Him; and there's no place like the home flock. Yes, they may be blind, but they are God's conduit to reach down to us, comfort us, and teach us even if it is just by trusting us to watch their own dramas unfold.

And, isn't that just like God? He makes the first last and he lets the blind lead! -C 12/08/08

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