Molding a lump of clay

Molding a lump of clay
I am a work in progress, molded by my Maker, refined by His fire, shaped with His love. Walk the journey with me.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Wilderness Lessons: 1 - What it means to care

Towards the end of last year, I lost my vision.

Not physically, but spiritually.

I felt no love towards anyone. I didn’t really care anymore. I had reached the bottom of whatever well of compassion there was in me, and nothing came in to fill it back up.

I was just empty and dry.

And then I became angry. I don’t know why exactly, but everything made me mad. Or irritated me. And I couldn’t be bothered to work up the patience and tolerance to deal with people or problems.

I was finished.

People call it a wilderness season, a time in the desert, a mid-life crisis…whatever the name, the symptoms are the same…depression, doubt, angst, exhaustion, grief.

I cried easily for no particular reason...rather embarrassing, really.

The only possible way forward was to withdraw…take time out with God…

go into solitude.

So I pulled out
of the leadership team, out of ministry, even out of team meetings. The only commitment I held onto was being a mom and a wife, but every other thing I put on the back burner for about 2 months.

One of the things I am most grateful for during that time was the nearness of God…I never felt like He wasn’t there. He didn’t go quiet on me. Rather, He was the One who called me to ‘go up the mountain’ and spend time just with Him.

I learned many things during that time…God was extremely faithful to teach me His truths on multiple levels. Some of them I will share on this blog in the days/weeks to come,

others are for Him and I alone.

But one of the first things I learned about was ‘caring’. Our society is programmed to cure, not to care. We want quick fixes. We want people to try this or try that to get over their depression, be free of their anger, come out of their slump. We find it hard to wade through pits of despair with people…we just want them to pull up their socks and get on with it.

And yet, sometimes God has a purpose for those pits that won’t be realized unless the pit-dweller remains there for a season, embraces the darkness and confusion and pain, and allows God to minister to her in that place. There is a refining process that can take place in the pit if we will surrender ourselves to the Lord, trust Him to do what He needs to do, and allow Him to bring us out of the pit in His perfect timing. It’s a tricky balance between wallowing when God says, “Come out,” and climbing out before His sanctifying work is done.

And the key lesson
I learned about ‘caring’ as it relates to 'the pit', is that the people who really care are the ones who climb into the pit with you and just sit there, holding your hand, assuring you with their presence but refraining from fixing it all and trying to pull you out. I just read a passage from Henri Nouwen’s Out of Solitude which summed it up best:

“…when we honestly ask ourselves which persons in our lives mean the most to us, we often find that it is those who, instead of giving much advice, solutions, or cures, have chosen rather to share our pain and touch our wounds with a gentle and tender hand. The friend who can be silent with us in a moment of despair or confusion, who can stay with us in an hour of grief or bereavement, who can tolerate not knowing, not curing, not healing and face with us the reality of our powerlessness,

that is the friend who cares.”

This pic says: "To be with you is all I can do."

I am blessed to have friends who, although having their own challenges in life, willingly agreed to walk through this wilderness with me, to read my rantings and ravings, my musings and doubts, my questions and ponderings. They held me up with their prayers, they didn’t shy away from the dark places I wandered, they didn’t judge or criticize the ugliness of my heart as I laid it all out there. They were safe, faithful, present. They were the friends who cared.

I’ve learned from this walk in the wilderness what those suffering in the dark places of their souls need most…a caring friend to share in the fellowship of suffering with them. Not one of Job’s unhelpful advisors, not abandonment… just the simple presence of a fellow sojourner who acknowledges her own inadequacy to fix the problem, but trusts God’s unfailing love and is ready to stick with her aching friend through the long haul as God works out His good purposes in her life. After all, God's Word says that sorrow may last for the night, but joy comes in the morning. However long that night is, the friends that are with us in the darkness will celebrate with us that much more in the joyful morning.


It’s really rather simple when you experience it.

And now having experienced it, may God grant me the grace to extend that same level of care to whichever hurting friend may need it next.


chris said...

Your words are so simply, yet eloquently, true! The darkness of the wilderness does reveal a light and beauty of the Lord unseen in the brighter days. And i have also found it to be true that both the receiving and giving of care in the"being there"of those 'pit times' really does minister the love of God so unavoidably. Thank you for your openness to share.

Shannon said...

Still holding up the ropes in love and prayer from this end! Thank you for the update--i remember thoughts last year through many "frowning providences" and laying hold of truth together that this is always for my good and His glory. May it be so!

James said...

I see I came across this about a year too late. Story of my life lately. Thanks, anyway.