Shortly after my mom found a note on the table saying my dad was leaving after 20+ years of marriage, I remember making my way to one of my favorite places on the planet. A bookstore. Books are my friends, my teachers. I remember thinking that stormy night, “if only I can find some words of wisdom and comfort during this time; then I might be able to gain my footing.”
I walked briskly through the mall and stumbled in to The Family Christian Bookstore. It had to be a good starting point–right? My eyes scanned the shelves for what felt like hours only to find books about being Left Behind, or experiencing a Present Darkness. Though I felt a darkness, I was pretty sure these fictional titles were not what I was looking for. There were Cases for Christ, and happy, snappy self help titles. Rush Limbaugh was even peering disapprovingly across the room, Telling Me So. From my perspective it was all rubbish. I didn’t want light and fluffy Christianese telling me everything was going to be okay if I just prayed and sang Kumbaya. I certainly didn’t feel like delving in to a darkness that I was already experiencing without any other information besides an ending when we are all are in heaven…or left behind. I was already depressed enough. I didn’t want theological proofs for my faith. I wanted to know God cared about my pain. Rush Limbaugh had never proven helpful…and I was certain at this point in my journey He would not have any words of Hope–why was He in the Christian bookstore anyway? Ugh…his sneer was sending shivers down my spine.
I sheepishly approached the counter where a geeky looking 40-something peered down at me. I whispered that I had experienced some challenging life circumstances that had rocked my faith and I was hoping he might point me in the direction of a good title. The awkwardness continued as he took me to a section I had already visited. He made no suggestions (appearing to never have personally faltered in his faith), just a judgmental finger pointed to the sign, “Self Help.” No need to embarrass any more authors…but again...absolutely not helpful. I wanted the title to read, “My Heart Has Been Slammed on the Floor and Stomped on…Where Do I Go From Here…Oh and By the Way, Does God Even Care?” Instant purchase, cash money.
Needless to say, it didn’t exist…or certainly wasn’t on the shelf that day. Do books like this not sell? Are authors not willing to be honest? Does no one else have faith faltering or faith altering moments? Does no one else wonder if God knows or cares? Thankfully my faith did not hinge on finding the right book that day. There were many other ways that God spoke to me: through His Word, through faithful Christ-followers who had gone before me and hit hard times, and through a lot of gut honest conversations that I had with God and my therapist…just being real.
Recently I am sensing a nudge. A nudge to write the words that I desperately needed but were not available. I am taking some serious steps of faith to write down some of these words for others. Words that I couldn’t find at a time when I needed them most. Words of sojourners who had attended the school of hard knocks, been beaten down, and struggled to get up again. Words from someone older and wiser who had had their heart thrown to the floor and stomped on…and wondered if God knew or cared? Our most recent faith journey has been rough. I am reminded at this time, how important the words are of other faith-filled pioneers. The ones who have seriously laid eyes on evil, embarked in a spiritual battle, or had life-altering news, and arrived home battered and bruised. I am sensing I need to write those words. For me. For others. Because no one needs Rush or Self Help or Mr. Christian Bookstore Clerk brow-beating you when you are already beat up enough.
Please be praying for this next phase of our journey. A phase where we relocate. Where God moves us back across the ocean. Be praying for our family, the transition. And if you think of it, please pray for inspiration and direction on the gathering of the words, the right time, and platform to share the words. The very words that I hope will bring health, healing, and hope to others who have hit hard times and don’t know where to go or what to do next. It starts here. Thank you for joining us on this faith journey…all of it. Not a moment is wasted.
By the way, if you are currently hitting hard times and struggling to find words of comfort and encouragement…I have found 3 gems that have proven helpful to me. One I have read and re-read over the past 15 years on the subject of suffering and pain: Disappointment With God. And two more recently: Every Bitter Thing is Sweet and Bittersweet. I hope they bless you and gently guide, with no brow beating, condemnation or confusion. Grace dear one…grace.
May You Be a Blessing and May You Be Blessed,