"It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair, we had everything before us, we had nothing before us, we were all going direct to heaven, we were all going direct the other way - in short, the period was so far like the present period, that some of its noisiest authorities insisted on its being received, for good or for evil, in the superlative degree of comparison only."
--From A Tale of Two Cities
When I was in seminary one of my professor's favorite sayings was "Can you feel the tension?" We learned what it meant to be immersed in paradox, on the one hand learning so much about the building blocks of our faith while at the same time sometimes losing it. I remember it being one of the most challenging times of my life. And yet is was key in giving me a faith I could stand on, as all of the flimsy stuff fell away. It was there I learned to look beyond the feeling of God's presence to God Who is always Present. As difficult as that time was, I am profoundly grateful for it now. I am still standing.
But there are days. Again I find myself in the middle of a paradox. On the one hand this has been (as my son Isaiah would put it) "the best summer ever!" Just last night we enjoyed a game of kickball in the front yard during the semi-cool of the evening. It was a lovely moment of family fun, all of us playing together. Even my 19 month old was there, except he preferred digging in the dirt on third base. At one point I paused and looked at my life, filled with wonder and joy, grateful to be there with all my boys. There have been many moments like that this summer, more than in the past. Moments full of laughter and love and togetherness. Sweet moments blessing me with hope and humor.
And then there other kinds of moments, other kinds of days. My heart feels raw with the pleading for God to answer one simple prayer, prayed with every inch of my being, all of my molecules straining toward Heaven with longing. There were times like these in seminary when I decided God wasn't there, or that God must be disabled. I've lived enough since then to know better. God hides for reasons that are beyond my understanding, yet His hiding always initiates my deeper seeking, yielding treasures that are worth it in the end. They are just not so worth it in the middle.
I catapult between the extremes: Gratitude that takes my breath away, and helpless yearning aching for God's intervention in deeply held need. Sometimes I feel so full, so joyous. Other times I feel stripped to the bones of faith, empty of all assurances that my prayers matter. Those are the times I'm no fun to be around.
As much as I long for sight, this is not the time for seeing. (I hate this!) I believe it is the time for being present. It is the only thing of value I have to offer Him right now. "I'm still here," I tell Him. "That has to count for something." So far I haven't heard His answer. But I'm guessing that if being Present is one of His best gifts to me, then He can be pleased that I'm present with Him, especially when it hurts so much.
This is me trusting,