Sunday, January 13, 2008

I Have Trusted in Your Steadfast Love

Psalms 13
How long, O Lord? Will you forget me forever?
How long will you hide your face from me?

2 How long must I take counsel in my soul
and have sorrow in my heart all the day?
How long shall my enemy be exalted over me?

3 Consider and answer me, O Lord my God;
light up my eyes, lest I sleep the sleep of death,
4 lest my enemy say, “I have prevailed over him,”
lest my foes rejoice because I am shaken.

5 But I have trusted in your steadfast love;
my heart shall rejoice in your salvation.

6 I will sing to the Lord,
because he has dealt bountifully with me.

I have been dreading this day since I started putting my quiet time on here. I knew I would get to Psalms 13 soon, and I didn't know if I would be able to talk about it. I'm not sure I'm going to be able to do the story justice, but I can't let this passage go by and not tell you how its affected me.

My father died in May of 2002. When dad was sick I really prayed for the first time in my life. I was 21 and had been a Christian since I was like six, but prayer had never seemed all that important until then. I knew my dad was going to be ok. I had decided that God had chosen my dad to use as an example of His grace and healing
power. I knew that we would spend the rest of our lives telling the world how God had rescued my family in our darkest hour. I was never afraid my dad would die, I never
doubted. At least not until the end. The day they had to send an ambulance to take dad to the hospital my faith failed me, or I it. Dad never recovered and neither did I. I'm not sure who I was angrier at- God for letting dad die or myself for ceasing to believe he would stop it (I didn't just stop believing he would, I stopped believing he could).

Its a difficult thing when life shows you something you believed to be impossible, when what you believe seems counter to what you know. I believed God was good, I knew he didn't stop dad from dying. I had a hard time reconciling those things. The year following dad's passing was the most difficult of my life. My wife still refers to it as "the dark days." I never stopped believing in God, I just stopped trusting him. Its impossible to serve a God you don't trust. Your always second guessing, wondering, floundering. At first God continued to speak to me and I ignored him, after a while I discovered I could no longer hear him. About a 6 months after dad died I hit rock bottom. I knew that I had to restore my relationship with God. A funny thing happened the first time I sat down to have time with God, nothing. He was a no-show, and he continued to be a no-show for the next 6 months. I felt alone, abandoned, lost in the dark.

Some years earlier a friend spent the night at the house (I think it was prom). Anyway, my
room was in the basement and had no windows. I woke up in the middle of the night and apparently made some sort of noise to indicate to my buddy that I was, in fact, awake. He asked if I could turn the lamp on. I made fun of him for being scared of the dark. He assured me that he wasn't scared of the dark, he was just a little disoriented and wanted to know where everything was. I tried to explain it to him, but in the pitch dark there was nothing to use as a marker. When I finally turned the lamp on he looked around, said ok, and went back to sleep.

Four years later, in that very same room, I asked God to do the same for me. Well, I didn't
really ask. I told him that I had had enough, that I was going to try one last time to hear from him, and that if I didn't get an answer I was going to assume he was done with me and never try again. When I opened my Bible it was to Psalms 13.

I almost couldn't believe what I was reading. David, a man after God's own heart, had been where I was. God had hidden from David. That night I decided that at the end of my journey - no matter what - I wanted to be able to stand before God and repeat the words of David in verse 5, "I have trusted in your steadfast love; my heart shall rejoice in your salvation."

God didn't turn the light on for me that night, but he cracked the door. I'm afraid I'm still in my valley. The passage is difficult, but the direction is clear. I stumble often, but I have a light to guide me. I am on the path to healing - somewhere, off in the distance, I know God is leading.

A side note: Several months after that I began to loose my way again. During that time I took my wife to an Andrew Peterson concert for Valentine's day and he sang a song called The Silence of God.

It's enough to drive a man crazy; it'll break a man's faith
It's enough to make him wonder if he's ever been sane
When he's bleating for comfort from Thy staff and Thy rod
And the heaven's only answer is the silence of God

It'll shake a man's timbers when he loses his heart
When he has to remember what broke him apart
This yoke may be easy, but this burden is not
When the crying fields are frozen by the silence of God

And if a man has got to listen to the voices of the mob
Who are reeling in the throes of all the happiness they've got
When they tell you all their troubles have been nailed up to that cross
Then what about the times when even followers get lost?
'Cause we all get lost sometimes...

There's a statue of Jesus on a monastery knoll
In the hills of Kentucky, all quiet and cold
And He's kneeling in the garden, as silent as a Stone
All His friends are sleeping and He's weeping all alone

And the man of all sorrows, he never forgot
What sorrow is carried by the hearts that he bought
So when the questions dissolve into the silence of God
The aching may remain, but the breaking does not
The aching may remain, but the breaking does not
In the holy, lonesome echo of the silence of God

God is faithful, and the valley has been filled with markers. Gentle reminders that I am not alone.


Scripture: Genesis 22-24, Psalms 11-12, Matthew 13-14. I missed yesterday so I had some catching up to do.

I had a pretty good day today. A good friend turned 24 today, and I got to hang out with him some. He got a Wii for Christmas and I went over this afternoon to play some golf on it. It is the most realistic video game I've ever played. You actually have to swing like you would if you were playing golf. The thing that amazed me the most was how accurate it is. I have a slight fade (or a nasty slice) on my shot and the game picked it up. It was neat, of course it meant I sucked at the game almost as much as I suck at real golf. The game did a great job getting it as close to accurate as possible. We played nine holes and at times I think we forgot we were in his living room and not out on the course. There were the same high fives on good shots and shouting at puts that lipped out. It was a great time. The weather was beautiful today and since you don't get many days in the high 50s in January we decided to go to the driving range for a while. (I still can't hit my driver, but I was encouraged by how well I hit my irons). We were at the range for about an hour and on the way home I couldn't help but think about how being at the range beat the pants off playing that video game. Try as they might, there are some things you just can't simulate: the smell of the grass, the feel of the club in your hands, and the sound and feel of a well struck shot.

I have great friends, and tonight I got to hang out with them (birthday party). We don't party quite like we used to, there were three babies and two pregnant women there tonight, but I enjoy the fellowship as much as ever. If I wrote all night I wouldn't be able to tell you how much I love my friends. We have had the opportunity to really do life together. (One of the guys there tonight has been my best friend since the 5th grade. He was the person I told after my first kiss with the girl who is now my wife, he was there the day my dad died, the day I got married, and the day my daughter was born. We've played ball together, stood by each other at weddings, sat in hospital waiting rooms; there has been literally nothing of significance happen in my life that he hasn't been there for. Actually one of the other guys there tonight did all those things to, except we met in the 9th grade and I didn't tell him about the kiss until after school the next day. I'm not sure why I included this except that I think its pretty special and I love those guys). God has blessed me with friendship and fellowship that few people ever experience. Tonight, during my quiet time, I couldn't help but think about how its just a simulation of the real thing.

I wasn't created to fellowship with them, I was created (among other things) for fellowship with God. I am a member of God's community, his family. I think the things we enjoy most in this life are just echoes of eternity. In the same way I enjoy the video game because it simulates real golf, I enjoy relationships because they feel like and remind me of the community I have in Christ. Just like no video game can re-create the feel of a great golf shot, no amount of laughter and friendship can replace being accepted and loved by the One who created you. I believe God gives us the beautiful things of this life so our heats survive until eternity. I hope we don't get so caught up in the game that we miss what we were really created for.