Tuesday, 7 June 2011

The Lord, the lifter of my head

Well, you take your time, don't you?  I know that your time makes more sense than my time, and your timing is certainly better, but sometimes I'm here, waiting for you, and you just seem to take your time.

Waiting, waiting.... then bam, there you are and you make me smile and you make me cry and you make me worship you and you make me think 'Well, you took your time'.

Church, just over a week ago and I was shattered. Fragile. Low in mood. It was just after I'd spent a week not knowing if I had breast cancer or not and it'd been a long, hard week. I'd been hoping that Katy's surgery was going to be postponed or even cancelled and just learned that it was definitely going ahead. Other smaller troubles were occupying me too, and I went to church on Sunday evening (a treat, since Bryan puts the children to bed and I am on my own) and I waited for you. I was weighed down and miserable. I felt sure you would speak to me, comfort me, give me a quick hug. It was a 'good' service. The talk was excellent, the music good, the chance to chat and worship with my church family was great. But I didn't find you in a personal way. I suppose what I meant was that I didn't feel you.

Nope, you thought you'd wait until I got a bit lower, didn't you?

A week later and Bryan's uncle is ill, Katy has had her surgery and we are in the middle of the nightmare of dressing changes, broken nights, irritability, poor communication and headaches. I am in church again with all the family, barely the energy to look around for you and there you were. Smiling at me.

You were in the music, you were in the prayers, you were in the talk, you were in the people who spoke to me, you were in some very special friends with whom I prayed after the service.

What have I to dread, what have I to fear
Leaning on the everlasting arms?
I have blessed peace with my Lord so near
Leaning on the everlasting arms

Leaning, leaning
Safe and secure from all alarms
Leaning, leaning
Leaning on the everlasting arms.

We sang that, and I thought, how appropriate that is. I have been overwhelmed with fear recently. Fear that I might die, fear that my little girl might die, fear that my Mum might die. Bryan's uncle really is dying. I have found sleep difficult, felt near despair last week when everything seemed to be happening at once. I've felt distant from you, and although I haven't doubted that you're still right there, I've not felt as if I've been in your arms. Only a couple of nights before I'd cried as I wrote this and said, Lord, I'm leaning into you, just as Katy did into me in the hospital. Leaning. I knew you were holding me up.

Safe and secure from all alarms.

The music on Sunday changed to the old favourite of mine which is loaded with meaning. It could have been written with me in mind.

My troubled soul
Why so weighed down
You were not made to bear this heavy load
Cast all your burdens upon the Lord
Jesus cares, he cares for you

Jesus cares, he cares for you
And all your worrying won't help you make it through
Cast all your burdens upon the Lord
Trust again in the promise of his love.

What can I say? You reached down and touched me. You said 'You're safe and secure. You have me to lean on. You weren't made to bear this burden, so give it up to me. Trust me. I love you.'

I will praise the mighty name of Jesus
Praise the Lord the lifter of my head
I will praise the rock of my salvation
All my days are in his faithful hand.

My Lord, I was choked up and tears were running down my face but I praised you because you are so merciful to bother with such a pathetic specimen as me. I am so full of doubt and mistrust and so quick to forget the wonders that you do for me.

My anxious heart
Why so upset?
When trials come how you so easily forget
Cast all your burdens upon the Lord
Jesus cares, he cares for you.

So quickly I become discouraged and start to wonder what you're playing at. Why don't you do things my way? Why don't you take away all the duff things that are happening in my life? I start to mutter and scowl and complain. It doesn't take much to knock me off my perch and then I am wanting more and more. And you always find more for me, just not on my terms. You are patient and forgiving and keep helping me to my feet even when it's my own fault that I'm on the floor. When trials come how easily I forget; and yet you are the lifter of my head. I love this image - I hang onto it. I am downcast, head bowed, tears on my face and you reach down and tilt my chin with a gentle hand so that my eyes look up and see you again.

I will praise your mighty name, Lord Jesus. I will praise you. You are my loving God and I praise you.

The talk on Sunday was vivid for me. When I reach the end of myself, there you are. I need to keep walking even when the path is invisible because you will not let my foot slip. I am so limited; limited in so many ways. Limited in my energy, my good temper, my patience, my wisdom, my understanding, my vision, my faith. You are the ultimate resource. You never run out. You are never exhausted. Never too tired, never beaten, never vulnerable, never confused.

You reassured me and you held me and you loved me and then you challenged me. You want more for me than this, don't you?

St Paul said:

'...for I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. I know what it is to be in need and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether living in plenty or in want. I can do all this through him who gives me strength.'
Philippians 4:11-13 (NIV)

Oh my Lord, I want this so badly. How do I learn that secret? I know that you offer peace; I know that in you is found peace. Sometimes I have it, but as the song says, when trials come how quickly I forget. That peace seems out of reach of my fingertips then. Elusive. Something that other people have, but me? I'm in turmoil. I'm lying awake worrying about things I over which I have no control. I have this fear.

'For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and a sound mind.'
2 Timothy 1:7 (NKJV) 

This was one of my daily readings last week when I was at rock bottom and I laughed in a mirthless sort of way and disputed that I had any of those things - power, love or a sound mind. I felt weak and pathetic and resentful and angry and with a mind full of confusion and doubt and anxiety. I didn't have any of those things, but definitely the fear. It seems about fear to me. Not peace. Though I'd like peace better.

It's always been fear with me; I remember at university it used to grip me, sometimes, that if I wasn't careful people would see through me, that they'd see that despite the qualifications there was nothing to me. Nothing there. I can remember sobbing to a bewildered, much less intense flatmate one day that I knew that I was good at some things, I knew that I could do things, but it didn't matter, because there was nothing there. I wonder if this was a prod from you back then, Father. It was certainly a fallow period in my spiritual life, despite regular Sunday lunches with the vicar of the local church I rarely darkened the door for a service. I felt so empty. I don't feel that way any more; I know that it's wrong to say that there is nothing there because you are there. I am your child and I am precious and gifted and valued by the only One who matters. I know this, but the spirit of fear? I think he lurks still.

Fear that people won't like me. Fear that I'm inadequate. Fear that I'll fail. Fear that if I take my eye off the ball then something awful will happen. Fear that it's my responsibility to hold everything together. Fear that it'll be my fault if it does fall apart.  Fear that I won't cope when I lose someone I love. Fear that people wouldn't cope without me. Fear that I'll live my whole life not knowing the peace that is being held out to me.

It's tiring, you know.

I need to work on it. Life is too short to keep doing things this way. I just don't know how to take the next step. I just don't know.

The glory of the Lord
So help me with this will you, Lord? I want the peace, the power, the love, the sound mind. I want to know the secret of being content even if my health and my family's health is not so good. I want to banish the spirit of fear and leave room for the things that you want to give me.

I'd better get some sleep. The girls were so tired tonight that they were asleep early, which is good for tonight but doesn't bode well for the morning. I need to think more about these things. Or perhaps not; need to think less and pray more?  As I write this it's sunny and it's raining and there's a beautiful rainbow. Look at you, Lord. Your beauty shines through the rain. I'm sure there's a mighty symbolism there somewhere.

Lord thankyou for Sunday. Thankyou that you care so much that you showed me how much you understand me, how much you love me. You put it in terms I could understand. Thankyou for such good friends. Thankyou for my church family who have wrapped us up in prayer recently. Thankyou for the wisdom of Matt and Ruth and those that teach us and the skill and perception of those that choose the music. Thankyou that you had your hand on my little life on Sunday and always.

I will praise the mighty name of Jesus
Praise the Lord, the lifter of my head
I will praise the rock of my salvation
All my days are in his faithful hand.

Lord, you are faithful indeed.

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