The writers in the book of Psalms are searingly honest; they don’t hold back, whether it’s with praise, petition or lament. So, with a disgruntled nod towards (and great liberty taken with) Psalm 77, here’s what I’ve been thinking over the last few weeks … maybe even months!
“So, this is how it’s going to be then?
Everything goes the shape of a pear and I’m just supposed to take it am I?
Massive asthma attacks – no healing there
Insomnia – no change there; obviously a good night’s sleep is out of the question!
I crash the car – write it off; great!
Dad goes for another operation; fifth one is it? Brilliant!
Made redundant – 14 years of looking after other people’s kids and bingo! Gone! Just fantastic!
My son collapses in front of me – out of nowhere! Wonderful, that’s a particularly fun one!
I know I prayed that you’d get me out of my ‘rut’ – but … seriously? This is your answer? Out of the ‘rut’ and into a chasm, is it?
Sometimes, I think you enjoy watching me lose it! Or, do you think that it’s only when things get out of shape that I think to talk to you? And it looks like it’s the same all over; my friends don’t seem to be doing that much better … it just doesn’t add up!
What exactly is the point?
Look, I know you’re the Lord and all that, I do, it’s just that it’s hard to remember that when everything seems out of synch, out of step, out of hope!
It seems that you’re mostly in the past, you know? Like all the ‘good stuff’ happened way before my time, and that it’s all been used up … or it’s not for the likes of me …
But then, I remember the things you’ve done in my life, the things I’ve seen (and done). I remember feeling so close to you that it was like I was speaking out your thoughts and hopes for me and for those around me; I remember seeing choices made, lives changed, people restored and inspired.
Right then. I have to make the choice, again, to remember rather than moan, to hope rather than despair, to walk forward rather than dwell on the past. To follow.
Perspective’s a wonderful thing, isn’t it? But, I think it’s hard earned; I wish we had a store of it ‘up front’ that we could call on at the beginning of troubles rather than in twenty-twenty hindsight! And yes, I know that I should remember things all the time and understand my situation in the light of my salvation and blah, blah, blah … but, you know, genuinely things just haven’t been great fun recently – all the things in my ‘grumpy psalm’ are mostly still current – and sadly, my attitude has been more or less as grumpy as I’ve written! (Instead of like this, perhaps – Lemonade and Paper Roses)
The thing is … along with the sense of being rather annoyed with God at the moment (chiefly because He doesn’t seem to have rubber-stamped my plans!) there’s also the sense of, “This is the place to be … here, now, in this place and space.” Not that I’m pleased by that, but at least I’m moving towards the idea of wanting to give it some consideration.
I suppose that losing a job (thankfully, not one that I ‘loved’ anymore; I’d fallen out of love with it thanks to the hassles of working in education a couple of years back – thank you so much, Michael Gove!) kind of focuses your mind somewhat. You find, as a middle-aged (yikes) guy asking questions like, “What am I going to do? How will I pay the mortgage? What am I going to do?!!!” repeatedly. I compounded them by including such worthwhile and personally affirming questions as, “What kind of idiot are you anyway? Who’s going to employ you now? Why are you such a jerk?” You know the type of thing …
But in the spirit of ‘focus’ I find myself asking what I should be focussing on
The answer, infuriatingly, is that I should be doing the thing that the psalmist says in good old 77, I should “remember the deeds of the LORD; yes I will remember your miracles of long ago. I will meditate on all your works and consider all your mighty deeds.” Or even what Paul says much later on, I should focus more on “… Whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable,” instead of wallowing in my own sense of outrage and upset.
At the moment my inclination is to not focus on the true, the noble, the pure et al – but it’s still the place to be. Not because I’m trying to ‘rejoice in the Lord always,’ or ‘be content in all circumstances’ but because it’s in precisely these ways and precisely in these moments that I’ve found my faith forged into something a little more real than an airy-fairy, isn’t the baby Jesus cute and heaven’s full of fat little cherubs playing harps kind of thing. As I moan and mumble my way through it all, as I shake a metaphorical fist at Him, as I spit my dummy and throw my toys well clear of my theological cot, I remember this
God’s God in the crap as well as the good.
If I think Jesus lived, died and rose again so that I could ‘name and claim’ a life of wealth and health, then I’ve missed the point.
If I think that God is just there to provide the answers to my prayers, without accepting that He’s going to ask the questions that my prayers reveal too, then I’m out of luck.
If I expect God to just line up with my wishes, do as I tell Him and give the things that I demand, well then I’d be better off with Father Christmas, because that’s who I’d be looking for … not a God who is sovereign, not a God who shows that brokenness, pain, death and resurrection are powerful answers to questions like, “So, this is how it’s going to be then?”
Yes, things aren’t as good and as easy as I’d wish them to be – but they’re real, and they’re here and they’re now. Just like the God I believe in.
Now, I’m off to argue with Him some more … see if I can’t bring Him round to my point of view!