The Answer to Why: When We Cannot See Clearly

One of my absolute favorite moments in the entire Chronicles of Narnia series is found in the book “The Horse and His Boy.” The voice of Aslan is having a conversation with Shasta about who He is and some circumstances that had transpired:

“I do not call you unfortunate,” said the Large Voice.
“Don’t you think it was bad luck to meet so many lions?” said Shasta.
“There was only one lion,” said the Voice.
“What on earth do you mean? I’ve just told you there were at least two the first night, and-“
“There was only one: but he was swift of foot.”
“How do you know?”
“I was the lion.”
And as Shasta gaped with open mouth and said nothing, the Voice continued. “I was the lion who forced you to join with Aravis. I was the cat who comforted you among the houses of the dead. I was the lion who drove the jackals from you while you slept. I was the lion who gave the Horses the new strength of fear for the last mile so that you should reach King Lune in time. And I was the lion you do not remember who pushed the boat in which you lay, a child near death, so that it came to shore where a man sat, wakeful at midnight, to receive you.”

“Then it was you who wounded Aravis?”
“It was I”
“But what for?”
“Child,” said the Voice, “I am telling you your story, not hers. I tell no one any story but his own.”

It may seem strange that this is one of my favorite moments in the series, but it so beautifully captures the multi-faceted nature of God and how little our understanding is of the bigger picture of our lives. God is the God who binds and heals and we love that side of God. Yet, on the other side of the coin, God is the God who wounds and “tears to pieces” so that He may heal us. Not just the God who “allows bad things” but a fierce and passionate God who actually wounds us in order than He may heal us to become more like Him.

Oh, how I am learning this right now!

I don’t know about you, but when you’re going through the very middle of a hard time all you can think about is your pain and start grasping at ways to make it stop. Did I do something to bring this on myself? Is this a punishment? Why is this happening to me? What sequential steps should I take to make it stop? How long will this pain last? 

It is easy to lose hope when the circumstances of your life seem to become a perfect storm that threatens to drown you forever. I am convinced that the absolute hardest thing to do is to face your difficult circumstances head on with a heart that is aching from exhaustion and tears streaming down your face and remember that God is good.

We don’t know why life can get so painful for us sometimes and not ever seem that way for others, but this is your story – not someone else’s. Whether you’ve always struggled with things people seem to manage so easily, or whether you have always struggled financially no matter how hard you’ve tried, or whether you’ve been single for so long and feel so lonely when you’re a great catch who just wants someone to share life with, or whether you suffer from a physical sickness and don’t feel like you did anything to deserve it, or whether you’ve unexpectedly lost a loved one and losing them seemed and felt so utterly pointless, or whether – like me – you long for a child of your own when it seems like every drunken teenager and drug addict you encounter is getting pregnant these days. But there is a bigger picture. You don’t know someone else’s story and neither do I.

“We don’t yet see things clearly. We’re squinting in a fog, peering through a mist. But it won’t be long before the weather clears and the sun shines bright! We’ll see it all then, see it all as God sees us, knowing him directly just as He knows us!” – 1 Corinthians 13:12, The Message

Isn’t that the ultimate prize? More than the financially stability we wish for, more than the spouse we long for, more than the baby we ache for – to know God and have a deeper, more committed personal relationship with Him is the answer to everything we’re searching for and the ultimate goal of this life. This life and all it’s blessings are temporary and just a shadow of the One who made us and calls us to know Him.

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I spoke recently in Florida with a friend who said that looking back she was grateful for their struggle with infertility. She said she never would have even pictured herself saying such a thing when she was going through it. She always just wished it away and yearned for a pregnancy/baby to take away her sorrow and struggle. Yet, during that time, she explained that she grew closer to God than she ever was before. Her struggle with infertility deepened her faith and has become part of her testimony. Now that she has come through it and is out on the other side, she said she wouldn’t go back and change anything because knowing God and trusting Him more was worth every tear, every dark night of the soul, and every disappointed hope.

I’ve never heard something more beautiful and more encouraging.

In contrast, the countless people who have told me to just “Stay positive,” “Don’t stress,” or “Believe you’re healed and you will be” – that advice, although laced with good intentions, fell short of doing anything more than isolating me further. How can you paste on a smile while you’re choking down tears? Is that even normal? How do you not stress when every single deviation from normal in your body makes you wonder if you’re pregnant? And despite my unwavering and solid faith that God is The Healer, it doesn’t mean that 24 cycles of wishing and hoping with no resulting pregnancy have simply been a result of me just. not. believing. enough. That’s ridiculous.

How much more beautiful is it to simply respond to God from the reality of exactly where we are…. our anger, our pain, our bitterness, our weeping, and my poly-cystic ridden, hormonally-jacked-up body that betrays my greatest longing every single month. The invitation to cry out to God in our pain and confusion, confess our despair and faltering faith, and beg for peace and a greater faith despite circumstances is what drives us closer to Him and brings Him the most glory.

We only have our story to live and we won’t always understand it or know the answers to our biggest question: “WHY?!” – but God is still good. He sees the bigger picture and invites us to wait, to hope, and to trust.

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The Human Condition and Les Miserables

I went with a friend last night to see Les Miserables the movie.

It was riveting!

The entire movie was very theatrical from the constant singing to the way the sets were arranged, but what made this movie stand out from a regular play were the camera angles and close up shots focusing right on the character’s faces as the height of their emotions were portrayed. It was breathtaking. Seeing the literal pain etched into Fantine’s face as she sings about her agony and then trying to remind myself over and over that that wasn’t really the embodiment of the character Fantine, but an actress (Anne Hathaway) playing her character. It was hard to convince myself at times. She was so believable. So 100% immersed in the character. If she doesn’t win an award it will be an outrage. It wasn’t just Anne Hathaway/Fantine either…. the actors who played Marius, Javert, and Jean Valjean were equally mesmerizing. I seriously felt emotional as the beautifully penned words of Victor Hugo came to life in those 3 hours.

This isn’t meant, however, to be a movie review.

This book, the play, the movie – it all speaks to a place deep inside each of us. It calls us with a whisper and a cry and reminds us of something we all share and yet try so desperately to hide: our raw emotion. The human condition.

We all feel things – some more deeply than others, but the feelings are there nonetheless. They’re real and vivid and sometimes so thick and heavy that they become tangible. Not all of us have lived through the agony Fantine experienced – some of us have. Not all of us have lost family/friends to death like Marius – some of us have. Not all of us have known the outright injustice of life and its cruelties like Jean Valjean – some of us have.

So why do we try so hard to pretend like we are so strong, so impenetrable, and so emotionless?
Why do we express a fraction of the love or affection we feel for someone, and then make a joke or laugh nervously afterward? Why do we pretend like words or the absence of communication doesn’t hurt us deeply? Why do we act like other people’s responses to us don’t matter even slightly?

Maybe I am just overly idealistic, but how would our relationships be if we allowed ourselves the freedom to express our hearts, and allow others the grace afforded to express their hearts? Even if that emotion is raw, or strong, or scary… it is still being felt and, therefore, is still valid and worth acknowledging.

I will be the first to confess… I have cared about people deeply and been afraid to express the depth of my care for fear of “scaring someone off” or expressing my care prematurely. I have been blown off, ignored, taken for granted, etc and I have been afraid to tell someone when they’ve hurt me, for fear that I will be seen as a high maintenance friend and then discarded. I have been perpetually trapped between how I feel and the fear of those feelings not being understood or received well.

Our society/culture prolongs this dance we play with each other, but wouldn’t it be refreshing if we could just talk openly about how we feel about each other? If we could simply have a conversation about a hurt, have our feelings acknowledged, and then move on better and closer to those people instead of distanced by our wounds? If we could just look at someone we care about and say “I love you” or some other sentiment and not be worried about any negative repercussions to such positive and life-giving words?

One of the last lines to one of the last songs in Les Mis says, “To love another person is to see the face of God.”
God is love itself.
God is not holding back His love. He is not holding back Himself.
When we allow ourselves to open up our hearts despite our fears and trepidation to really and truly love someone and express that love to them, we will find God in those beautiful moments. God in the flesh in this world is us choosing to love each other deeply and unreservedly and it is just about the only way to make this fallen world a little more beautiful…

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