I’ve not long come in from work. I came home to an incredibly scary email. It was from a lovely blog reader (hello!) who’s been reading my rants over the last few days. She is going through the mill herself, and is struggling to know where faith fits in. She asks (quoted with permission) – “Lizzi, how do you keep your faith when all around you is falling apart? You seem like you’ve got it all together – even in the struggles, you’re still praising. I can’t do that. I’m so angry with God I could scream and shout and kick Him in the teeth if He was anywhere nearby”…
I’ve been thinking for an hour or so about how to respond. I never meant my blogs to make me come across as some kind of faith expert. They’re mostly written for me, because I find that when I internalise things, Bad Shit Happens. I’m a classic extrovert, and bottling it all up sends me round the twist.
When it comes to faith, especially at the moment, I’m not very mature. I can’t say “The Lord Giveth and the Lord Taketh Away…” with a mystic smile and the air of one having some kind of private hotline to the divine. I pray like a toddler in a strop. All shouty and screamy and with great big snotty tears.
And actually, that’s the image that most helps me. A few months ago, I went for a coffee with my lovely friend Emma (and you all need to go read her blog at emmascrivener.net. Because she rocks!) I was going through a real faith crisis, and needed her wisdom and hugs (also Starbucks. Starbucks helps) I hadn’t really reckoned on the foolishness of trying to have a theological conversation with an intensely groucy toddler.
Isaac is generally a fairly sweet natured boy. Until, that is, you wake him from a nap, which is what happened. He woke up, and he DID NOT want to be in a coffee shop with mummy and her friend. He was not impressed. He screamed and shouted and created merry hell, all the the while I’m trying to ask Emma Deep Theological Questions about God and love – you know, no pressure there then!
And one of he things I was most struggling with was the concept of how God can love me when I continually let Him down. I simply couldn’t get it in my head. How COULD he love me? I am, to be honest, a fairly crap Christian. I don’t read my bible enough, I definitely don’t pray enough, and it’s a bit of a miracle if I’m NOT doubting some aspect or other of faith.
Emma looked at Isaac, who by this point had the entire cafe staring at us, and told me – “God loves you like you love Isaac” – (sorry Emma, I’m paraphrasing you a bit, you were probably more eloquant!)
See, when Isaac is angry and frustrated and kicking up, I don’t think he’s let me down. My heart fills up, because he’s suddenly become this three foot little bundle of frustration, and I can see that all the emotions he’s feeling are filling him up with so much pressure that they’ve got to come out, somehow.
And so he choses to let them go in the safest way he knows – at his mummy. Because he knows that mummy isn’t going to get angry with him or be upset with him, but she’ll just cuddle him and sit with him until he feels better. (mostly. I am neither an expert Christian or an expert mother!) It’s safe for him to give me all his frustration, because I’m bigger than he is and I can handle it. And so he’ll scream and shout and get upset – and then usually, he’ll slump, exhausted, in my arms, needeing the comfort of someone who Just.Gets.It.
And, that’s how I keep my faith in the bad crap. Not by smiling and pretending it’s ok, because it just isn’t. It’s completely awful, and actually, to deny that is to deny myself.
And so, when the bad shit happens and threatens to overwhelm me, I don’t try and keep it all together. I don’t try to pray great resigned prayers abandoning myself to the ultimate will of God. As to the thology degree – forget about it.
I scream and I shout and I cry like a toddler who’s just had their ice-cream taken away. I yell and I swear at God and I stomp my little feet and tell Him I don’t want Him around.
And then, when I’ve got all that out the way,
I slump, exhausted. Into the arms of the one who’s big enough to take it.
If there’s one thing the last couple of weeks has taught me, it’s that it’s ok to be real with God. Look at Jesus in Gethsemane – not muchof the fake smile there, is there? He’s honest with God, and He cries out with anguish to Him. The next day, He even asks why God has forsaken Him – surely the most terrifying question ever.
But in the end, He cries out to his Abba – his Daddy.
Because He can take it.
And He can, somehow, make it glorious.