The expectations the church sometimes puts on us are crippling. Matt Chandler, my pastor, has talked about how the stories we “showcase” to our congregations are always ones of incredible victory – and usually taking place in a matter of days, or sometimes and immediate transformation. And while this is sometimes the case, Matt pointed out that the vast majority heal slowly, inching along – sometimes unbeknownst to ourselves, or worse – to others. I don’t think there was ever a moment that I felt so aware that I didn’t belong, because the lies I listened to for so long still had a familiar perch upon my shoulder. Quite honestly this is still a struggle of mine, and would drown me if I didn’t kick so hard against it.
Healing had so many varied forms in my life – and honestly I remember them more as people than as events. I remember the expressions and attitudes of those around me – their words of comfort escape me now. To my frustration, the detailed person I remember least of all in this process is God. I can’t quite recall those encounters, or what I learned – or what He said. I can’t tell how I felt here or there, save the reigning feeling of discomfort. There’s a poem by C.S. Lewis that I love to quote (probably over-quote) and it tells my story (and probably yours!) perfectly:
Of this we are certain; no one who dares knock
At heaven’s door for earthly comfort found
Even a door- only smooth endless rock,
And save the echo of his cry no sound.
It’s dangerous to listen; you’ll begin
To Fancy that those echoes (hope can play
Pitiful tricks) are answers from within;
Far better to turn, grimly sane, away.
Heaven cannot thus, Earth cannot ever, give
The thing we want. We ask what isn’t there
And by our asking water and make live
That very part of love which must despair
And die and go down cold into the earth
Before there’s talk of springtime and rebirth.
Pitch your demands heaven-high and they’ll be met.
Ask the Morning Star and take (thrown in)
Your earthly love. Why, yes; but how to set
One’s foot on the rung, how to begin?
The silence of one voice upon our ears
Beats like the waves; the coloured morning seem
A lying brag; the face we loved appears
Fainter each night, or ghastlier, in our dreams.
‘That long way round which Dante trod was meant
For mighty saints and mystics not for me,’
So Nature cries. Yet if we once assent
To Nature’s voice, we shall be like the bee
That booms against the window-pane for hours
Thinking that way to reach the laden flowers.
‘If we could speak to her,’ my doctor said,
‘And told her, “Not that way! All, all in vain
You weary out wings and bruise your head,”
Might she not answer, buzzing at the at the pane,
“Let queens and mystics and religious bees
Talk of such inconceivables as glass;
The blunt lay worker flies at what she sees,
Look there–ahead, ahead–the flowers, the grass!
We catch her in a handkerchief (who knows
What rage she feels, what terror, what despair?)
And shake her out–and gaily out she goes
Where quivering flowers stand thick in summer air,
To drink their hearts. But left to her own will
She would have died upon the wind-sill.’
In the end I think we are never quite sure how we become healed. We get glimpses during the anxiety – and have the sense of being knocked around. And it lasts, for what seems like forever. And then suddenly, we are outside. And the face of the One that I despised for rousing me in the first place, I have come to love for thinking I was worth the trouble.
Sometimes I wish for the pain to come back because I knew the closeness of Him then. I hated His hands, but at least I could feel them. And the process took so long, it started to become a way of life. But I fear that in the process I took His presence for granted. My prayer is that I will cherish every moment of my next season of pain, when it comes.