Q & A: Tuesday Wrap-Up – Week Six

Painted in Waterlogue
In the midst of nausea and exhaustion this week, I was delighted to see some newcomers joining their posts to the link-up and to meet a couple of new folks in the comments section, too. It has been such a joy to listen in as you all talk to one another (and to me), asking good, hard questions, offering personal experiences by way of answer. At this stage of my life, it’s the personal stories that tell me the truest things I know. It’s not theological debate, it is most certainly not drawing any kind of line in the sand. It is story. Stories of God’s faithfulness, stories of feeling lost, stories of being found. So I thank you for sharing your stories with me and with each other. I truly believe this is how we grow, that this is how the pieces come just a little bit closer to fitting.

One new contributor told the story of finding safety in a women’s group, of hearing heart-felt sharing and coming to see how beauty shines brightly right in the middle of the broken pieces:

Because our lives are full of broken shards but God makes art with the pieces. No one escapes the hammer of a world turned against itself and we live shattered in a million jagged pieces. We walk around cut and try to put together the pieces with a good night cream and a pep talk.

Oh, yeah, I’ve heard enough pep talks in my day – I’ve even given a few too many pep talks in my day! but all that is really needed is a sympathetic heart, and ears tuned to hear the whisper of redemption, even in the midst of the hard places. 

Another new friend spoke powerfully of redemption found in the bleakest of circumstances, giving testimony to the promises of God made real in the midst of deep sorrow:

So, as always, I took it to Jesus. My all time, ultimate healer. I cried out, through my tears, and much pain, asking Him how was I going to get through all of this?? I said, I am totally broken, never going to be whole again. Jesus said, ‘No, No, No!! You are wrong my daughter. I am the Potter, you are the clay. I will collect all of your broken pieces, put them together, and recreate you. No, you will not be quite the same as you were before the stroke, but, you will still be you, AND YOU ARE WHO I LOVE!!

An online friend dug through her archives to find one of my favorite of her posts from mid-2013. And she quoted one of my go-to lines when the waters of my life become rough and unsettled:

And I didn’t know what to make of it all, only that it wasn’t going well and I couldn’t fix it, not any of it.   

But somewhere in the middle of it all, as I stood desperate in the kitchen, the words of Julian of Norwich came to me.  Julian, who lived her life cloistered in a cell with two windows – one that faced out on the world and one that faced the alter and cross.  Julian, who lived in a time of war and plague and deep anxiety, yet dared to believe and claim that we are all held, all sustained by the love of God, her words echoed through me,

All shall be well, and all shall be well, and all manner of thing shall be well.

Julian’s words sank into me like an anchor, a life-line, restoring, reconnecting me to the One who is life, the One who was and is and will make all things well.  So I wrote them down on contact paper and posted them over the sink.

In the midst of several new contributors, there were some wonderful post from our ‘regulars.’ I loved these words about the sacrifice of relinquishment:

The shards of our shattered hopes and dreams become a marvelous mosaic in God’s hands.

When we take those broken pieces of our lives, frayed fabric of our days, torn edges of our thoughts, tangled threads of our theology, gaps and holes in our flawed and imperfect understanding ~ all become sacrificial surrender, holy offering, and a handing over to the Master Potter and Architect of our souls.

He alone can fully mend, heal, renew and restore to better than it was before. We seek, ask, do our part, trust, rest, and leave the outcome up to Him. 

It isn’t easy. Everything inside cries out to know and understand beforehand. Relinquishing control is a challenge.

Another regular contributor used the book of Ecclesiastes as the still center for his wonderings about making the pieces fit. The words of The Preacher in that great book of Old Testament wisdom has been speaking grace and peace into this writer’s life for decades:

I think we miss the point of the third chapter of Ecclesiastes – There is a time and place for everything under the sun.  This chapter is usually used as a consoling text – take heart, it all fits together.  What is usually not understood is that the point of Ecclesiastes is that we will never know how it fits together.  What this chapter is doing is listing all of the contradictions of life: birth, death, war, peace – they are all a part of the human experience.   There may be a time for each experience, but it is not given to us to know when that time is. “ Vanity of vanity’, saith the preacher,’ all is vanity.”  

A long-time friend-of-the-web posted a link to his post from earlier in the week, just because I asked him to. I loved the way he wrestled with the very question we’ve posed for the week. . . without even knowing the question had been posed! And he used humor to do his work:

We unpacked life, layer after layer, and the more I thought about it, the more I considered the breadth and scope of our time here. It’s a wild ride; isn’t that cliche? Apologies. I’ve always been predisposed to cliche. Old habits die hard. Shoot; there I go again! Let me try again, because if at first I didn’t succeed, and all of that. We unpacked life and I considered how it is composed  of a series of both unfortunate and fortunate events. I considered how both pain and joy are gifts, how they teach us what it means to be alive to the presence of God around us, in us, and through us. Without pain, where is the need for communion with God? Without joy, where is the thankfulness cultivated by God at work in us? Joy and pain, yin and yang–they bring the balance to this thing we call grace. All is grace. This could become cliche if we let it, almost the stuff of silver linings. But it’s much more than that. Consider it. The snow of winter–its melting gives way to the shoots of spring. The sickness of the child–it draws us deeper into our need for trust in an eternal God. The community of faith, the wife, the children–they keep us moving forward.

And a newer-web-friend did the exact same thing this week! She wrestled with the ideas we’ve been tossing around and agreed to link her beautiful musings with our conversation. I loved discovering that the Spirit of God is hovering over the waters of the internet, blowing similar truths in a variety of directions. Here are her words about ‘holding the reins lightly,’ — written before my own were penned:

The spiritual reality is likely the most important, the most real, but I can’t let it crowd out the rest. If I’m going to write honestly and live honestly, I can’t forget the ground beneath my feet. I can’t forget what 5 pm feels like.

And it isn’t only honesty at stake. It is also love. If I am going to love my neighbor well, I can’t stop seeing the dirtiness of my own patch of dirt. I can’t forget that we are all together in this land of muddy snow and headaches and 5 pm yelling.

Maybe, the trick is not learning to hold on to two true things. Maybe, there aren’t two realities: one spiritual, the other temporal. Maybe there is only the one. Maybe I must learn to see without splitting everything in two.

Maybe, there is glory in the dirt.

YES!! “Glory in the dirt,” living right, smack-dab in the middle of the paradox, holding the joy and the sorrow together. And as we work to hold the various pieces of our life together, forming some kind of cohesive whole, this regular contributor reminded us of where the center truly is:

Others have suffered too and continue to do so. I weep for them and do what I can (and I know I can always do more) to build a kingdom of justice and peace. To comfort the weeping and console the hurt.

(And these others are the only ones who know if they too have been blessed through their suffering. That is not for me to say.)

In all this my only certainty is that Christ loves each and every one of us with a heart that yearns for us to be at peace, to know our common humanity and to live in his Kingdom.

Love. God’s love for us. That holds all the pieces together. And I hold on to that.

I want to hold onto that, too! But there are days, even seasons in our lives, when it’s painful to do even that, close to impossible to hold onto the reality of the good and the bad, the beautiful and the ugly. A writer new to blogging, but not new to this blog, asked these questions as she wrestled with this topic:

And what to do with the fact that most of us are hurting for one reason or another – everyone has their own pain, and some days even that knowledge is almost overwhelming, and I wonder how God could have created the world in the first place, knowing how much anguish and suffering would occur…

I don’t know how to make it all fit.  Life hurts. God is good.  How do these two things make sense together?

At this point, the only answer I have, is to give up the questions.  The only way I can find peace for my mind and heart is to stop trying to make it all make sense, and turn my eyes on Him – not for the answers He can give me, but to find rest for my soul.

Like a child, hiding in his mother’s lap when it all becomes too much, too overwhelming.

The only way I know to make all the pieces fit is to stop trying to make them fit, and hand them all to God.  To stop trying to see the ‘bigger picture’ and make it all make sense, and instead focus on Him and His love for me.

He loves me!  And I can trust Him to make it all fit.

And this is the very best place to land, isn’t it? In a place of trust and relinquishment, choosing to believe that God is big enough to handle all the confusion that we carry inside our souls.

The last link in the list this week spoke about sacred space and what a gift certain places on the planet can be for us, speaking peace into our restlessness and hope into our despair. I can so relate to this! For me, that sacred space is either at the beach or in my own backyard, surrounded in both places by the wonders of creation: 

This. This is why I come here Here I am reminded of your existence, of your character, And why I can trust you when the pieces don’t fit

And I am reminded. I can hold in tension two truths about life Sometimes it’s hard, desperately difficult Sometimes it’s good, heart-stoppingly beautiful And You are present In both. For today it’s enough for me.

And for today, this is enough from me. I have neither blog space nor energy to dip into the comments this week. Please know I read (and usually reply to) every single one and I thank God for your willingness to engage these questions each week. Together, we are living into the answers — even when we cannot discover a cut-and-dried, formulaic set of words or ideas, we are still living into the answers.

Friday’s question: Why do bad things happen to good people?

 

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Comments

  1. These things are weighing heavy on me this week as we’ve experienced a very unexpected suicide in our small church community over the weekend. Being a young congregation, the majority of the deaths we experience (few and far between) tend to be tragic in some way or another. I don’t know that I will have any words on “why” this week, just silent waiting, you know, to look for the ways in which God’s great love and mercy continue to be made know. Thanks for hosting this series, Diana. I believe it’s been bread and wine for many.

    • Oh, Kelly. I am so very sorry. Praying for you and your community this morning. Our congregation has walked through suicide twice in the last twenty years and it’s one of the roughest things to deal with that I know anything about. Thanks again for linking up this week – your words matter.

  2. What a collection of wisdom and beauty you’ve inspired and collected, Diana. And I agree completely – God shows himself in story. Which is just one more reason why we should listen well.

    • Amen to the listening well, Christie. That seems to be a core issue of life, doesn’t it? And thanks so much for linking your beautiful post here this week – always a pleasure to read what you write.

  3. Gwen Acres says:

    Kelly’s comment, ” this series has been bread and wine for many”, brought tears to my eyes. That comment brought instant imagery and community that touched my heart. Each morning when I waken I hurry to get my coffee and then to the computer to find my “family”. Thank you so much!!

  4. Diana, I am shaking my head at the stream of thought running through so many of these posts, that of God taking the broken shards of our lives and circumstances and putting them together into a beautiful mosaic. It is trite but I’ve found it to be true, only because I’m on the other side of living that out more times than I’d like to count. We had a women’s team meeting the other night to talk about our upcoming retreat and thought we’d do an activity where we bring pieces of old pottery and plates, those that are broken beyond repair, and put them together in a new piece of beauty….a mosaic of life.
    Isn’t God amazing?

    Be well, friend, and thank you for curating this space.

    • You’re welcome, Jody – and thank YOU for your faithful contributions. There really was a strong thread present in every post this time around – fun and encouraging to see.

    • Being a visual learner, this idea of yours got me excited, Jody! I can see a colorful, unified masterpiece created out of all the broken pieces. (Isn’t there a song titled, “Broken Pieces?” Sounds familiar somehow.) I’ll be anxious to hear how the retreat-attenders respond–the outcomes!

    • Gwen Acrea says:

      This will be especially meaningful if each lady brings broken pottery shards from her own home. What a lovely mosaic they will make and how poignant that each person’s brokenness will be what makes it beautiful!

  5. Diana, I read these posts and take them with me into my days, pondering although seldom commenting. I haven’t had time to peruse everyone else’s links but the conversations that you have initiated are inspired. I love your evaluation: “Together, we are living into the answers — even when we cannot discover a cut-and-dried, formulaic set of words or ideas, we are still living into the answers.” You’re absolutely right!

    • Thanks, Carol, for de-lurking briefly and offering these words of encouragement. Glad to know you’ve found this conversation helpful.

  6. Diana, I made my way over here today and am so glad I did. On a personal level I’ve been dealing with questions of faith and have found the most comforting answers in stories. With an answer hungry heart I’m leaning in to the truths of life experience, my own and others. These real life God encounters, as relayed through words and images are holding me up and for that I’m grateful. No coincidence I’m here today…the snippets of wisdom are soul-food indeed. Bless you for sharing it all.

  7. Find the “glory in the dirt.” What a colorful rendition of “Give thanks in all circumstances!” Love it. I also appreciate your addition, Diana, about holding the sorrow and the joy together. We don’t have to swallow the sorrow and pretend it doesn’t exist. But we can wrap the sorrow in joy, starting with the joy of God’s presence even when we’re hurting (Psalm 16:11). Thank you for compiling so much thoughtful material in one place. Indeed: The Spirit hovers over the blogosphere!