I arrived at church feeling emotionally fragile (I seem to have felt that way for ages now, but the last few days have been like nothing I've ever had before in my life). The band was playing and I realised that the hearing in my right ear had gone completely and been replaced by a distorting noise a bit like static on a radio. (This happens to me sometimes - if you could see your way clear to healing this it would perk me up no end, but that's by the way). I was chatting when someone came to ask me if I was still ok to do a reading; I hadn't realised that I was supposed to be doing a reading. That's never happened to me before. I nearly didn't go at all; and how awful would that have been, just not to turn up on the day I'm down to read. I continue to amaze myself at how far removed I am at the moment from the control freak who has every day timetabled - I'm missing so many things. I'm becoming so unreliable and I hate it. Where is my rota?
So it turns out that the reading is the bit in John's Gospel about Jesus and Lazarus. 'If you had been here my brother would not have died...' and 'Jesus wept.' and then the resurrection of Lazarus. The sermon was about pain and loss and suffering and referred to the part in Revelation where God wipes away every tear. Eric Clapton's 'Tears in Heaven' was played, which is the sad, sad song full of grief and loss that he wrote just after his four year old son had fallen to his death from a high story window. My goodness, it was an emotional service. The atmosphere was definitely subdued. People carry around such pain, don't they?
Lord, if you needed to break me down a bit more, I didn't need any of that; I started to cry during the opening song, 'Here I am to Worship' and could hardly stop for long enough to scrounge a tissue or four from my friend next to me (to have come to church without any was uncharacteristically shortsighted as well; usually I can be counted on in times like this to have a bagful of hankies).
The presence of the Holy Spirit moves me at the best of times and this certainly isn't the best of times. How much greater was the likelihood that today of all days I would start to cry? I managed to do the reading but I don't think I sounded like me. It was very hard to keep it going and try to limit the voice wobbling.
I know that you are in your heaven and all is right with the world. I know that you are in control, so the way I'm feeling has some reason behind it. I know (or at least, I hope - I believe) that there is light at the end of this tunnel. There is light at the end of this tunnel, isn't there, Lord?
I know that you are working on me and I know that there is a battle to be won. I don't flatter myself that I am so important that the fight is on an apocalyptic sort of scale, but I am aware that whatever my immature and skewed interpretation of the battle between good and evil, I am caught in the middle because this year for some reason I have felt that my relationship with you has been developing.
Maybe it's because my smallest daughter is starting school in September and I am 'waking up' from the preschool years where time is at a premium and headspace is reserved for children and family matters only. I might have some time coming up and I might have the chance to rediscover something about me - make some choices for me...and I decided this year that I want those choices to involve you. I wanted you to show me what I could do for you. I guess that even though I am an amateur in these matters, this doesn't go down well with the opposition. Maybe that's why this year has been a year of climbing ladders and falling down snakes. Maybe that's it.
Understanding doesn't actually help that much, to be honest. Knowing that your leg hurts because it's broken and it'll one day mend doesn't stop you reaching for painkillers. I just wish there were painkillers at the moment.
The reading last night on my little iPhone version of the works of Charles H Spurgeon was just for me, wasn't it? He quoted Exodus 14:13:
|I looked all over for a picture of|
Mr Spurgeon smiling. This is
the closest I could find.
'Stand still, and see the salvation of the Lord.'
To paraphrase, he says that this is what God says to his follower (me) when they (me) are in 'extraordinary difficulties'. When I can't go back, and I can't go forward; when I turn about looking for the answer but no answer is to be found, then God says 'Stand still'.
Spurgeon tells me that other 'advisers' might tell me something different:
"Despair whispers, 'Lie down and die; give it all up.'"
But if I listen to you I should take courage and rejoice in your love and faithfulness. I haven't contemplated lying down to die, but I have definitely heard that 'give up' voice in the last couple of days.
"Cowardice says, 'Retreat; go back to the worldling's way of action; you cannot play the Christian's part, it is too difficult. Relinquish your principles.'"
But if I listen to you, I cannot do this because I am your child, and I should not allow anything or anyone to divert me. I don't want to. I like who I am in you much better than I like who I am on my own.
"Precipitancy cries, 'Do something. Stir yourself; to stand still and wait is sheer idleness.'"
"Presumption boasts, 'If the sea be before you, march into it and expect a miracle.'"
Not so sure about these two, as I don't feel much like leaping into action to do anything, let alone do something spectacular and daring.
Still, Spurgeon finishes well by saying that if in doubt, I should stand ready for your next order like a soldier in an army, and it won't be long before I hear your voice telling me that it's time to go forward again.
'What, if for a while thou art called to stand still, yet this is but to renew thy strength for some greater advance in due time?'
So I am waiting. Still hanging on; I don't really see myself standing with much poise or patience, but I am standing still nevertheless. I don't have anywhere to go and if I did I don't have the wherewithal to get there right now. So I stand and I wait and I am waiting for you to direct me. Actually I'm waiting for you to come and take my hand and lead me somewhere, but if you did just that I'm sure that you'd find me ready to come with you.
I'm standing and waiting.