A Dry Spell
(Originally published 1/16/15)
I’m in the middle of a dry spell. Not quite parched, but dusty, thirsty. At first I chalked it up to a busy December, then a lazy holiday. But now that the New Year is in full swing, I’m feeling, well, old. Usually a new year sparks new resolutions, goals, aspirations, or at the very least hopeful feelings about the coming year. But, dry I remain. Uncharacteristically pessimistic and a touch faithless. I usually wait until the rain starts falling again before I post, but I decided that honesty is the best policy, and what the heck? Someone might actually be able to relate to being in the spiritual desert. (Actually, today I’ve had a bit of drizzle break through, so maybe the rains are close behind.)
What brought this on, you may ask? Discouragement. Heartbreak. Some people I love and have lifted up in prayer for years have recently given up on God. And God seems to have let them drift away, at least for now. We are helpless to save them (as if we weren’t before) as they float away from us into a sea of unbelief, and my own faith has been shaken by their departure. Why isn’t God chasing them down? Were my prayers in vain? Should I even bother praying for their return? Is God listening?
These are scary questions, huh? But I take comfort in knowing that I am not alone in asking them. David asked God, “Why have you forgotten me? Why must I go about mourning, oppressed by the enemy?” My bones suffer mortal agony as my foes taunt me, saying to me all day long, “Where is your God?” (Ps. 42:9-10) In other words, “It sure looks like we’re losing the battle, here, God.”
The thing is, I don’t have answers to my questions yet. I may never get absolute answers. Can I be ok with that? Can I go on loving people and serving God without any assurance that He will actually work in their hearts? “Lord help me,” is a prayer that is often on my lips these days as I’m swimming in a sea of uncertainty. “Are you really working all things for good? And what about Your promise that the Word of the Lord won’t return void?”
In the past few days, a pinprick of light is shining through in the form of conversations with a friend or thoughts that the Holy Spirit puts on my mind. Twice I’ve been reminded of the parable of the wheat and the tares, but in a new light. Here’s a quote from Jen Hatmaker’s book Interrupted which has been an absolute page turner for me this week.
“Our Holy Savior advised us well: humans must treat the weeds and wheat the same. We are only qualified to administer mercy, not judgment, because we will pull up many a beautiful stalk of wheat, imagining him a weed.”
Those friends of mine may never have been true wheat, but weeds all along. (I DON’T want to believe this! But, it may in fact be true.) However, God may still be working on them, and while they may appear weeds for the time being, in the end, they may turn out to be the most beautiful stalks of wheat. The point is, it’s not my job to determine the outcome, it is only my job to love. I can’t love people into a relationship with Christ. I can only love them like Christ, which is to say, with no strings attached.
Another ray of light burst on my consciousness this morning on my almost 2-hour long walk. (There’s nothing like a long walk to clear my head!) I was walking on a pretty busy road, one that I drive often but have only walked a handful of times, when I noticed a stream that I’ve never seen before. It was cheerily bubbling and gurgling its way through the overgrowth of blackberry bushes, and into a culvert under the road. I would have missed this hidden little gem if I was driving, or even jogging by. It occurred to me that the Holy Spirit is like that concealed stream. Always flowing, but only visible to the slow walkers. I determined today that one of my goals for 2015 will be to be on the lookout for the hidden streams – the movement of wind and fire that is always occurring, but invisible to the untrained eye. “God, give me eyes to see.”
My husband gave me some advice during one of our many recent faith conversations that has been hugely helpful during my dry spell. He said now is when I need to apply the spiritual disciplines the most. Pray. Read the Bible. Worship. Basically….drink. You would think that a thirsty person with a water fountain nearby would walk over to it and slurp it up, right? The irony for me is that during this desert experience, I’ve had no desire to go to the fountain. I was skeptical of it, and frankly fatigued by chronic disappointment. It has never been harder for me to drag myself to the living water and force my soul to sip. I want to run the other way, distract myself with chores, Facebook, other reading. But oddly enough, the more little tiny sips I take, the less thirsty I become. I don’t have all my questions answered, but I’m beginning to regain trust in my Blessed Redeemer, and maybe even a deeper understanding of faith (at least I’m hoping that will be the outcome).