Saturday, November 20, 2010

Suffer Much?

We tend to go to church on Saturday night, mostly because I like to sleep in and we were trained well by our home church. They offered Sunday night service. I thought it was brilliant and perfect. Your weekend was free to travel or do the kids sports events. You could have a nice big Sunday afternoon dinner and then go to church. We would come home just in time to give the kids little bed time snacks and tuck them in bed. What a great way to go to bed, freshly filled from Sunday school. The Mr. and I would typically have a quiet--read screen free--night and head to bed. Again, what better way to head to bed on a Sunday night than with your head filled with the sermon. It seemed like the perfect way to end a weekend and start a work week.

Anyway. I ramble.

Tonight's sermon was a review course of sorts. It was the wrap up of a series. I'm pretty sure we missed a few, specifically I think we missed the week on suffering or maybe I just don't recall it. Either way, we've been living a little suffering over here, so I just kind of thought whatever.

Thing is, a chunk of the review tonight was about the suffering sermon. We watched a video that sort of hit on it too.

The idea was that God, if we ask him to, will help us remove from ourselves the junk that prevents us from being the masterpiece He created us to be. The illustration was one man portraying God using a chisel to chip the junk off the other man.

Throughout different parts of the sermon tonight I stole some glances up and down my pew. It was a pew stacked with people each having some areas of suffering that are raw, to say the least.

Now, each person on this planet experiences some sort of suffering and at the time of it and even often later on when we think back on it, the pain is real and raw.

We can be jerks and dismiss each others suffering or pain that goes with it by pointing out something that someone else somewhere else went through that was so much worse and yeah, we could. But why? What's the point?

But I watched this video, with God using a chisel to break off parts of this man. The man did a nice job of portraying that it was painful to have this process happening with God.

I know it was only a skit, an illustration.

Can I tell you something?

Sometimes it's like that. God chips away, methodically at your junk, steady improvements are noticeable. Sometimes it's not. Sometimes the process takes a lifetime and moves so slowly, and the improvements so subtle, it's hard to notice, but that doesn't mean it's not happening or not important to God.

Sometimes it's more like your body has been sent through a chipper shredder that they use to make trees into mulch. Complete with splinters.

Again though, even with a dramatic chiseling of the junk, the improvements might be subtle or slow to be realized. That doesn't mean it isn't happening or doesn't count.

The thing is, we sit through a lot of lectures and sermons about suffering and what happens and what we're supposed to do and how we're supposed to act and all that. We read stacks of books on the subject. Most sort of regurgitate stuff we really already know if we're honest with ourselves.

Here's the thing though, at some point in your Christian walk, it's supposed to become real. There's no magic formula for it. It's unique to each person. It takes work and risk. There is pain.

In the risk and pain and work there comes a time when all those memorized quotes and all the maxims and true-isms and cliches sort of fade. There comes a time when the Bible is suddenly very real. There comes the stretch of life where prayer is essential to life. There comes a time when your relationship with God is no longer all the Sunday school answers and things we know we're supposed to say if we're good Christians.

When you're alive and living out what God asked you to be, your unique you, it's pretty stinking real. It's gritty and hard and breath taking-ly beautiful all at once.

Life is bittersweet. I've said a million times before and I'll keep on saying it. I feel like to really fully experience things like love and joy and beauty you need to also really fully experience things like pain and challenge and heartbreak.

A last thought on pain and suffering. I heard part of this thought on the radio and I don't know what book they were talking about, sorry.

Here's the thing about pain and suffering. We like to trot out the idea that God won't give us more than we can handle or our burden will never be more than we can bear, but I beg to differ.

I think it's the opposite. I think God indeed does allow us more than we can bear, more than we can handle or endure simply because when He does, we turn to Him. We come to Him, suddenly broken and realizing we cannot do it ourselves. We can't do it alone. We need Him. And we can only do what we need to do by going to Him and letting Him lead us through it, carry us through it.

On a personal note, even though there are still moments that sneak up on me and blindside me with unexpected tears, I am doing better. I have had a day where I really felt like myself again. There are still places that are hard, but necessary.

Church is one of those. It is for me and for us as a family. We know we need to be there and we long to be there, but, wow, is it brutal and raw. Church and God and our Bibles aren't just good things we do or a thing we put on...somewhere along the line it all changed for us and it is so real. The verses aren't just nice things to say or this Christian thing simply a nicer way to live. I don't know exactly when or how it changed. It was before Little One. Having Little One a part of our family was just a part of the journey.