Photo Credit-Rachel Peterson…Thanks rad mama!
Song of the month-The Unmaking
by Nichole Norderman
(No Spoiler alert. The back of the book I refer to here tells you more than my references do:)
I just set down a fairly popular memoir that has taken me some time to get through. Not because the author wasn’t a good writer, or because the life issues didn’t somehow connect with mine, but because initially, I just couldn’t connect with the young woman the memoir was written about. The Little Way of Ruthie Leming is the life journey, as seen through the eyes of her brother, of a young southern woman battling cancer, and the lessons she passes on to others.
As I read though, I often found myself thinking, “Ya Right! This Chick is just waaaay too perfect.” Other times I slammed it shut mumbling to myself, “I just can’t believe she didn’t go through any doubts as her cancer cells sped her right out of her kids lives and into eternity… Not one doubt about God? Not one bit of anger about all she was going to miss out on? No blame game? Self pity? Come on…”
But because I respect the author and believe his story to be credible, and I was enjoying reading about his own “Doubting Thomas” journey in the process of his sister’s cancer battle, I kept reading. That is, until I slammed it shut it again…
…For heaven sakes! Now Ruthie was looking right at her three baby girls, ranging in ages 17 down to 8 and sternly warning them in the way only a southern Mama can.
“Girls, we are NOT going to be angry at God.” Ruthie said.
“Yes Ma’am,” would have been the only acceptable response to their Mama’s command.
This time I didn’t pick the memoir up again for about two weeks…
Ruthie Leming’s words lingered in my head though. Like I’m sure they did for her daughters.
and I thought…
and I kept thinking…
Just commanding your kids not to be angry at God in times of suffering doesn’t work…does it?
It doesn’t seem to work in our churches, or with people who’ve decided God’s not worth their love or devotion…does it?
I wish making pain vanish was just that easy. As easy as simply saying, “We are NOT” and “yes Ma’am”.
I thought through the dark hours of my own soul and my questions of faith amidst it.
Yes Me. An oh so Holy, awesomely dedicated, Church Leader, Pastor’s wife, Missionary, considered an “elite” in the Christian good works club, good tither, devoted wife and mother, rescuer of small animals, children, squirrels, baby ducks on highways and the like. A dotter of “i”s and a wonderful crosser of “t”s. Yes me, I have had many dark hours of my soul where I really wasn’t as brave as I outwardly looked.
Unfortunately, at times, I swallowed up the anger.
I didn’t tell myself, “We are NOT going to be angry at God about this.”…At least not in my first few Dark hours of the Soul. (Yes people there can be more than one if you live long and hard enough). I fell right on into that abyss like a drunk into a margarita filled, sugar topped, kiddy pool. Splash, soak, slither, sulk.
The words I recently read of Little Ruthie Lemming struck a cord in me though. They reminded me of the words I once read from one of the Great Heroes of the faith, Amy Carmichael. Amy once wrote, “Never be tempted to ask God, ‘why?’.”
At the time I read Amy’s quote I was in my young twenties, minoring in Philosophy, full of adventure and lots of Why questions. And, in my youthful wisdom I also thought Amy C., bound in her Victorian Theology, could learn a thing or two about how one ought to talk to God.
God and I had a great relationship. We were so, so, good. I told Him EVERYTHING. I held nothing back and never, ever, would. It’s just not me. I’m not a holder backer.
So when I hit the first hour of the dark hour of my Soul? Well I let it fly. Yup.
“Take that Amy C.” I thought many times. “Look at all the ‘why’ questions I’m asking now! Why don’t you think I should ask God why? Why?”
13 years of unanswered “why” questions later…I know why we don’t ask ‘why’.
Amy Carmichael had to learn her wisdom through many years of unanswered questions and physical pain. She trudged over the why question in the loneliness of being an unmarried woman, who wanted desperately to be married. She buried that question in her childlessness and feelings of abandonment. By learning to not ask the question “Why God?” , she simply removed the emotion of frustration and anger from her already emotionally saturated heart. And really, did the emotions of frustration and anger ever help any of us in times of bone crushing pain? I don’t think so.
As unrealistic as it may seem in our faithless generation, and as haunting (and slightly too simplistic for my taste) little Ruthie Leming’s words to her girls may have seemed to me, she was right. Yes right…“We are not going to be angry at God.”
Honestly, I wish just before I had entered into my darkest hour, a wise southern Mama would have looked me square in the eyes with power, Faith, and strength and said, “We are NOT going to be angry at God about this girl! Got it?”…
After all, being angry at God is about as useless as being angry at a hummingbird for not letting us put it in our pocket, or a butterfly for not inviting us into its Chrysalis…It just isn’t logical. And neither the butterfly nor the hummingbird are hindered by our anger. In our anger, we lock ourselves away from the beautiful and miraculous. And what good is that when we are in pain? When we are afraid? When we are tempted to ask “Why”? When we are in our most desperate state to see something beautiful, we hinder it with anger and blame. Yuck.
I’m not saying that we must be Stoics amidst our pain. Or that God will be angry at us in our weak, anger infused sorrow. No, the Scripture says, “ A bruised reed he will not break, a smoldering wick he will not put out.” (Isaiah 42:3) All I’ve begun to realize, through many years of questions, many good books, many bad books, many times of anger and confusion, many encouraging friendships, many insensitive words thrown my way in times of sorrow, and many blessings…is it’s all part of it. All part of our flight of faith. Both the turbulence and the smooth sailing show us we are in route. We are going for it!
So, To be angry at God…Or not to be? That is the question.
No. Just no.
If your going down in flames why light yourself on fire right? What’s the point? Just enjoy the last few seconds of flight till God hits the eject button and shows us the REAL show.
I’m thankful to Ruthie Leming and her powerful words to her girls. I pray they have taken them to heart. If not now, maybe one day. “We are NOT going to be angry at God.”
Grab ahold of it church. It’s time we buckle our seat belts and soar…even amidst our trials. Can it be? Is it possible? Only if we stop looking at what we see as negative circumstances, and focus on all the miracles around us. Every day. Every second. Notice the beautiful and the miraculous.
Thought: If you’re having trouble seeing the silver lining, grab some silly putty and make your own
Dark Night of the Soul: St John of the Cross
The Little Way of Ruthie Leming- Rod Dreher
Amy Carmichaell- I Come Quietly To Meet You