I wrote the following piece at the beginning of February shortly before I deleted my "Laughing Always Helps" blog. I decided to re-print it after reading Trisha's response to my post on Sunday.
I’m not one of those Christians that regularly uses the traditional “Christian speak.” I understand it but choose not to use it much. I was not raised in a “Christian” home. My parents weren’t anti-Christian but God was not spoken of. They did allow me to go to church with others if I wanted to and they even went to an occasional Easter service or Christmas program. For whatever reason, from a young age I was drawn to it.
God doesn’t speak to me, at least not in an audible way. When I pray I am not usually flooded with peace that passes understanding. When I read my bible I often do not understand what it means. Sometimes when I am reading my bible I am blown away as things become clear. However, I don’t sit down with the Lord every morning with a cup of tea and have meaningful communion with Him. I do pray and read my bible, sometimes with great regularity. I also have times where that is missing from my life.
Close to ten years ago I had a major crisis of faith. I was very involved in our church. It was very small and I was in charge of Sunday school for the kids. There wasn’t a specific curriculum that met our needs so I started writing the lessons myself. I was experiencing a lot of inner turmoil and only wanting to feel a sense of peace. I would cry out to the Lord when I was alone and beg Him to please just fill me with peace. My prayers would go unanswered.
I began to feel like the kid in the children’s story about the Emperor who had no clothes. People who used the “Christian speak” began to annoy me greatly. Did God not love me? Why did he not answer me? Why did he not ease my mind? Were all Christians just going around and saying all these things because they didn’t want others to know that they weren’t experiencing what everyone else was? Was God really real? My doubt increased to the point where I became angry. Oh, I kept doing everything I always did. I was in church every Sunday. I continued to plan the Sunday school lessons and teach them. I continued to open our home to church members and do as I’d always done. But… I felt alone and rejected. I had thoughts like Christianity is perpetuated by men who want to control their women and that every thing was a lie. I decided to not believe anymore.
Early one morning I was walking in our neighborhood alone. Not even my husband knew what my thoughts were or that I was going through this crisis. It was a still, humid morning and as I headed down the hill to my house, I was brought up short by a sudden breeze. The sound of it in the trees and the feel of it across me made me hesitate for a moment. I shook it off and continued home. When I reached our yard our neighbor’s young black lab, Swayzie, came up to me. People in Mississippi often just let their dogs run loose and Swayzie had been digging enormous holes in our front yard. Needless to say, we weren’t particularly fond of this dog or her owners. She stood before me with a triangle of our dirt perched perfectly on top of her nose and just held my gaze. I don’t know how long we stood there but in those moments I believed. I could not accept that all of creation around me, including that dog, was just happenstance. I have never witnessed anything left to itself become more ordered. Everything tends toward decay and chaos when left to itself. I actively sought to not believe and I couldn’t.
The pain of these past 12 days has had me questioning not whether God exists, but whether he truly cares about what we are going through in a personal way. Just what does a “personal” relationship with Christ even really mean? My faith is important to me and a part of who I am. I believe the Word to be the inspired Word of God. I pray, go to church and have served. My voice has prevented me from serving in the ways I used to and my pain over the loss of my voice has prevented me from searching out different ways to serve. Our expectations of who we thought would be there for us and then the surprise of who has been has shaken us. Our world has literally been turned upside down.
Paco’s wings need to be clipped again. He will be seven years old in March. In all of that time I have never gotten him to step up onto my finger. I have always had to use the handle of a wooden spoon. He’s been terrible and flying around. It isn’t a big deal when my husband or Double Shot is home because they can easily get him back to his cage. The times he gets loose and it is just me here are extremely stressful. A couple of days ago he was loose for about an hour. The dogs were going crazy. I got a banana and he would eat it while I held it to him, but as soon as I got close with the spoon, he would fly away. He decided to go back behind our TV and was having a grand time crawling all over the wires. I sat on the couch and just watched him because I could not reach him. He then started to bite the wires. His beak is very sharp and I was afraid he was going to electrocute himself. Even though I don’t like Paco, I don’t want him to die and especially not in the middle of what we are dealing with. I got down on my hands and knees and prayed for help. I talked to Paco and pleaded with him to please step up on my finger. I didn’t care if he bit me. It took a good 10-15 minutes with me there holding my finger before him. He put his head down and I tentatively pet the back of his neck. We went back and forth and then he stepped up onto my finger. I went very carefully back to his cage, fully aware that he could fly off at any second.
Yesterday, he was flying around again. He came to me and got on my finger and muttered unintelligible things to me. I held him to my face and he gently nibbled at my face just as he does with my son. God may not be speaking to me. God may not be here in the way that I think He should be or in the way anyone would expect. I may not be feeling peace and joy. But He is here. He reveals Himself to me through his creation… through Paco, the Terrorist, who is now my friend.
We have been thrust into this life of the parents of a prodigal. There is no room for anger and bitterness. There is nothing she can do or say that will make us stop loving her. We have trained her and are holding onto, “Train up a child in the way he should go, And when he is old he will not depart from it.” Proverbs 22:6 Some kids seem to need to learn things the hard way. As she steps into the pen to fellowship with swine, we are praying for her protection. And we will wait. We will wait for the day that she chooses to return and when we see her from afar, we will run. We will run to her with our arms and our hearts open wide.
Update: Chai Tea has now been gone over three months. Later today, we will have our second counseling session with my husband, her and myself. In the past week she has called me twice just to talk. And... I am going to be helping at church during worship by putting the words to the songs up on the screens. And Paco is still a terrorist... yet, still my friend.