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Sitting at a stoplight, I must have looked quite distressed. Next to my car, a monster truck pulled up and the man in the driver’s seat also had his windows down. We sat there in silence at the stoplight. It was dark, the kids were quiet in the back. Suddenly the man turned to me and said out of his window, “Hey, it’ll be OK”. I said, “Thank you.” The light turned green. We drove away.

Then just the other day, I was sitting in my car, alone, parked at the grocery store. I was receiving a private therapy session from one of my favorite bands, listening to their song. Then a woman came up to the car parked next to mine, started putting away her groceries. She peered into my car and asked, “Are you alright?” “Yes, I’m okay. I’m just sitting here listening to this song…” I replied. She didn’t seem convinced. “You’re sure you’re going to be OK?” I swallowed and nodded. She continued, “It’s a beautiful song. What’s the name of the band?” I told her it was a Russian band. She told me she likes a band with five of them Celtic women singing in it. Did I know that band? I nodded in the affirmative. Of course I did. “Well alright, honey. You take care now…” I smiled again. “You too.” I said.

I wondered what is it in these people that allows them, so effortlessly, to show empathy and compassion to others, and what stops some from doing it even when they want to. It must be an internal peace with self. It must be a lack of self-consciousness. “What if they’ll think I’m weird that I’m talking to them? What if they just want to be left alone?” Such thoughts cross the mind of the failed comforter. These are my thoughts, though I know the truth – nobody wants to be left alone when they are suffering.

Two episodes I regret: one – we were at a playground in San Diego, and there was a young couple with a small girl there. The man was saying hurtful things to the woman, I didn’t hear them but I could tell by the body language. He was bent over her, almost, she was shrinking into herself, holding on to her little girl. Then he walked off, she put her girl in the swing and started pushing, silent tears rolling down her cheeks, choked sobs, shoulders shaking. I wanted to come up and tell her that it will be alright. That she needs to leave him. That I understood. I wanted to hug her because I knew that’s exactly what she needed. She was so alone. Alone with her grief. But I just stood there, paralyzed, thinking up excuses, angry at myself because I couldn’t get over myself and just go and help her.

Two – my husband and I were at a coffee shop and at the next table there was a group of three people, getting ready to pray. I wanted to get up and just go over to them and ask them if I could pray with them – pray for them, and then maybe they could also pray for me? I needed someone to pray for me. Where two or three gather in My Name, there I am with them. And so I wanted to be there, where He said He would be. But I just sat there and stared at them hungrily. Oh, the regret.

There in the parking lot I also thought about Pierre Bezouhof from War and Peace – about his final transformation, his coming to God, his realization that the most important things to be had in this life are right here and that God is right here too. Through tremendous pain he lost his inhibitions. He also lost his doubt. Now he no longer questioned the decisions he made. He just knew, and acted on it, and didn’t analyze it. He had peace. Through the difficult times in my life I have felt that God was trying to cleanse me of my inhibitions as well. He wanted me to lose so much that in the process I would shed the baggage – the pride, the self-consciousness, the fear. And sometimes I feel these things slipping off, agonizingly, slowly. And other times I feel like I am clinging to them. At those times I am fearful because I know that this means that there is more pain to come.

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Driving to work, feeling frazzled and sad, I turn on Rachmaninoff’s Vespers, and my soul is taken elsewhere.

Praise the Lord, oh my soul, the hymn begins. I think about how tremendously fortunate it is that in his empathy and foresight, God has given us the aptitude to praise him in a way that is pleasing for Him, and for us. There are moments of clarity when you recognize who you are, who He is – your soul yearns to break out of your body and dash across green fields, your palms tingle, you inhale deeply. And at that moment, when you are consumed by a thankfulness so strong it threatens to overpower you, God gives you the voice, the words, the movements, to praise Him.

In worship, you offer your imperfect attempts but He makes them pure, makes them powerful, makes himself pulse through you so that you are able to give him the praise that he deserves – perfectly. I think that’s why worship can be such a powerful experience for people: they are not only offering their praises up, but they feel God within.

I also think about the resurrection. In church there’s a group of Christian ex convicts who always sit together, right in the center of the worship hall. They always clap the loudest when there’s mention of forgiveness and new life, new hope. They sing their hearts out, too. I look at them and envy them a little. They were fortunate enough to have their sins revealed to the world. Now they could no longer pretend that they were perfect. Instead, these people received punishment but also, forgiveness. They embraced death and resurrection.

But what about the rest of us, standing tense, singing loud but not too loud, raising up our hands, but not too high, rising up when we are told, sitting obediently when everyone sits. What about our resurrection? Outwardly living a righteous life, we are lulled into complacency. We begin to believe the fallacy that we are not so bad. Hey, we didn’t break into a bank. We did not steal, embezzle, beat, rape or murder. But woe to the person who thinks along these lines. They are most in need of resurrection, but feeling that their lives are pretty much okay except for a few tweaks here or there, they do not buy into a complete burial of the self. They cannot be made new because they like the old.

Several years ago I married and had kids. Through the many unexpected turns of events, I beat my chest, threw ashes on my head, begged God, complained to him, berated him. “Why?!” was the question of many seasons. These years have been the most difficult for me, not only because of the hardships that I endured, but because these hardships revealed to me the extent of my own depravity. Daily I face the abysmal darkness that is in my heart. It is near overwhelming.

And slowly I begin to see His mercy. Finally, I want to bury the old. Finally, I want to be made new. And how great it is that inner darkness so deep that it becomes palpable can still be overcome. It has been overcome! And now I want it. I want the resurrection for me.

Praise the Lord indeed, oh my soul, all my inmost being – praise His holy name.

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