Archive for April, 2011

2011/04/30

VDay

This year my Valentine’s décor was up in my house way past the time it should have been taken down.  Yes, even in April there are a few people in my neighborhood who still have Christmas wreaths on their doors, but Christmas is a major holiday. Sometimes we linger, even if a bit too long on keeping the Christmas décor and lights up because it’s a holiday with real meaning.  It has a weight and depth to it.

Valentine’s is more of an excuse to spend too much on greeting cards and to gain a few pounds eating chocolate.  Now, I don’t have much in the way of decorations for VDay—just a little bit of heart soap and something that hangs on my mantle and some old cards from people from various years.  I have a few cut out hearts and some things that Emma made when she was little.

Since I’ve gone through divorce and all the disenchantment with love that goes with that, the last several years I have pretty much refused to celebrate VDay.  In fact, every time the day rolled around, I could be found cursing the holiday more than relishing in it.  So, to put out any decorations, meager as they were, and to celebrate what has been a somewhat complicated day for me is at least a small victory in the scheme of my life.

Last month, our choir sang our last major concert of the season.  It was a Holocaust Memorial concert.  For it, we stood in front of the altar instead of our usual semi-hidden place behind the altar—yes, the other other side of the altar.

The Memorial concert was a mixture of songs and words from people that had been in concentration camps.  Jewish survivors and also liberators from our community were invited. For many of us in the choir, it was emotional to sing and say the words in the program.

The stories of torture, torment, family separation, human experiments, children being treated as if they were lower than animals and mass murder are sadly very real, and these things happened not too long ago.

We sang that night, not just in memory of what happened during World War II, but also for the injustices that continue around the world and even in our backyards and in our personal lives. Some of the songs deal with faith issues, and the fact that anyone could hold onto a belief in a loving God during such a time was telling and humbling. One song in particular wouldn’t stop playing in my head and swimming around in my heart long after the concert was over.

The song is called, “Even When God Is Silent” by Michael Horvit.  The words are from an actual basement in Germany and written by someone hiding from the Gestapo.  Knowing the context of the text, it is very hard for me to imagine writing such a thing.  It is faith at its pure essence.  The words simply say:

I believe in the sun even when it is not shining.

I believe in love even when feeling it not.

I believe in God even when God is silent.

To this day, I can sing the first and third lines convincingly, but it is that middle line that really gives me trouble.  When I really start to break down the words in the sentence, “I believe in the sun when it is not shining” it doesn’t take long to think it through.  Yes, of course, it’s grey some days, but that doesn’t mean the sun has not gone away.  Here, reason it seems, wins out.

Third line seems a bit tougher until I break it down as well.  “I believe in God even when he is silent.”  Yes, I do.  Who else am I screaming at when I can’t hear him?  Why even bother if I don’t believe he is listening?  Why he does not answer in those moments my human limitations cannot illuminate, but if I don’t believe in God when he is silent, then I have to believe I am crazy for yelling at no one.  Not ready for that admission quite yet.

And then there is that darned middle line.  “I believe in love…even when feeling it not.”  No, this one I cannot easily sing and believe.  The notes and the words come out, but my heart is not in it.  Believing in love when I don’t feel it.  How?

I readily admit that this is a big issue for me.  In human relationships, I need reminders, markers that love has not strayed or diminished. It’s not so much that I’m the jealous type or that I have to be with someone 24/7 or anything, I just expect love to grow and progress.  I expect loving relationships to evolve and deepen.  I love with so much of my being that I want that in return.  But for me, this type of loving has seemed to overwhelm people in my life at times.  When it comes to the opposite sex in particular, loving this way has simply not worked.

And frankly, that’s really confusing.  I’ve had several years now to ponder all of this, and honestly I don’t know if I would be able to recognize real love that might last from mere romantic love that might not.  I hate thinking that I’m somehow jaded, but I think I’ve been betrayed one too many times to know if I will ever be able to rest in love again.

In my relationship with God, I’m proud of the fact that I rely on him more today than I ever have.  But the days of aching loneliness and a sometimes-silent Father become true tests of my faith.  I don’t feel as if I’m meant to be alone forever, and yet I am for now, so I look for what God is trying to teach me in these days.

After the concert, I became curious about the word “holocaust” since I had only really known it’s meaning as it related to the horrible tragedy and war crimes of World War II.  But when it is not formalized and capitalized, the word holocaust means, “a sacrifice that is totally consumed by fire.”

When I read that, I thought about the great prophet Elijah.  What a holocaust God provided for the prophets of Baal to witness.  That is before we read that Elijah hightailed it to the desert in fear.  Yeah, he has this great victory, fire raining down and consuming everything, and then gets threatened by a girl and because he can’t take it, he disappears.  And not only that, he basically asks God to end his life right then and there.  Finally exhausted from the stress of it all, Elijah falls asleep.

Of course, in all fairness, it was God’s victory out there with the prophets of Baal.  Though he felt the victory, Elijah may have just been completely overwhelmed at that point.  He had seen a lot happen—he had relinquished his own power and allowed God to use him.  And who knows what seeing that miracle did to him.  As scripture says:

“Then the fire of the Lord fell and burned up the sacrifice, the wood, the stones and the soil, and also (I love this part) licked up the water in the trench.” (1 Kings 18:38 NIV)

Say what? Even the trench water was gone?  I can’t even really imagine it, and somehow I totally relate to Elijah taking off after this.  I mean, things should be great for Elijah for a while, right?  His God just rained down fire on a soaking wet bed of timber and rocks in front of 950 false prophets. But shortly after this when Jezebel unleashes her fury, Elijah takes a sudden leave of absence.

I think there are some people who when they have amazing experiences where they see God at work they are somehow able to put those experiences into spiritual banks that help them get stronger and more confident and faithful even.  But that’s not me.  I regularly need touch stones and altars to remind me of the goodness in my life and the great things God has done.

I need God to wake me up from my stress-induced slumber saying, “Get up and eat.” (I Kings 19:5).  And this is what Elijah does.  Then he makes a long journey to a cave.  Still in hiding perhaps? Was he going to the mountain of God to purposely meet God or was Elijah just avoiding facing normal life again?

There God asks him, “What are you doing here, Elijah?” God asks, not once but twice. (1Kings 19:9 & 13) And in kind, Elijah gives God the same answer both times:  “I have been very zealous for the Lord God Almighty…” (1 Kings 10 & 14) and he goes on from there to talk about what everyone else is doing—like he is trying to avoid God’s question almost.  And then Elijah pulls out the real sympathy card: “…and now they are trying to kill me too.”

For a long time, I too have been pulling out my pathetic sympathy cards and laying them out before God:

“Oh Lord, you know the pain in my spirit that I have been dealing with these past few years.  I lost my job some time ago.  I still feel very alone at times.  And it’s really tough out here in the desert.  There are times I almost long for death because if I died, then all of this would be over.”

Like Elijah, I tell God the details of a story he already knows.  I spell it out for him again and again, just in case he missed it the first hundred times I said it.

And like with Elijah after the wind and the earthquake and the fire, God’s answer, though in the form of a question, is still the same…

“What are you doing here, Kim?”

He asks this because he knows.  He knows I’m not my best when I’m stuck in a place of fear while looking back over my shoulder at the distant past.  He knows that my wandering in the desert and hiding in caves because I don’t know what to do next is a lack of faith.  He asks this question in a gentle whisper so that I really have to stop and listen to hear his voice.

He asks me what I am doing here because he has something better for me.  If I get my rump in gear and get out of my funk, he is ready to show me.  He gave Elijah a very specific list of things to do once Elijah stopped to hear God’s voice.

I had a rough start to this year, but in the midst of that God gave me work that challenged and inspired me.  And I believe in recent days, he has given me some specific things to do too in regards to my long-term future.  So every day I pray for the courage to believe and trust in his plan while fighting the urge to hightail it to the desert again.

I know he wants me to believe in love “even when feeling it not.”  That starts with digesting more fully the way he loves me.  It means looking down at the foundation that has been underneath my feet all along.  He is patient enough to hear me recite my sympathy card script again if need be, but I know that he wants to see me release the grip on that tired story so he can give me a new script for love and life today.

May God give all of us the strength and courage to live in his truths and rest in his perfect love.  Help us Lord to stand our ground after the holocausts–whether they are true tragedies or an outpouring of your power–and to look forward to the work you have before us.  Amen.

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