Archive for May, 2016
A sweet mom from across the country posts the question on Facebook: “Can prayers be only tears? Cuz that’s all I’ve got now.” Yes, my friend. Oh, yes. Yes. Yes.
I know from experience. My own—past, present, and most likely, future. I also know from the shared tears of many friends. Turns out we’re in good company. Job’s eyes poured out tears to God (Job 16:20). God told King Hezekiah, “I have heard your prayers and seen your tears.” (2 Kings 20:5) The Psalmist said God even kept track of his tossings and tears: “You have kept my tears in your bottle.” (Psalm 56:8 ESV) Sometimes tears are all you have.
Or even groans. Or stony, dazed silence. I am taken back to dark moments long ago when I sat up all night in a little apartment staring into space, unable to pray. Even—for that one night—unable to cry. The pain of loss was just too deep. The feeling of betrayal was paralyzing. “Why, God? Why? Why? Why?” Actually, to be completely honest, I guess there was one prayer I croaked out: “I just can’t talk to you right now, God.”
In the long hours of that awful night, three thoughts penetrated my numbness. First, I knew friends were praying for me when I could not. Second, I thought I remembered reading somewhere that Jesus “intercedes for us at the right hand of God.” (Romans 8:34; Hebrews 7:25, 10:10-12) And I had long loved that verse in Romans that the Holy Spirit “intercedes for us with groans that words cannot express.” (Romans 8:26-27)
Wordless tears. Deep groans. Lonely loss. The times when—at least for quirky poetry lovers like me—you remember random lines from Emily Dickinson. “I felt a funeral in my brain . . .” And “After great pain, a formal feeling comes/The Nerves sit ceremonious, like Tombs . . .”
For most of us, unlike Emily, at times there simply are no words. But there is God. He knows our ragged hearts: “How long must I wrestle with my tears and every day have sorrow in my heart?” (Psalm 13:2) He hears our sighs: “All my longings lie open before you, O Lord; my sighing is not hidden from you.” (Psalm 38:9) He sits with us in our sorrow. Nicholas Wolterstorff’s plea from Lament for a Son comes to me: “Come and sit with me on my mourning bench.”
HE sits with us. And He does even more. He gives us hope. Sometimes earthly hope. There’s so much ahead that we cannot see. Tears are blinding. But—I have to be honest here—sometimes it’s not earthly hope. But always, always eternal hope. “. . . we who have fled to take hold of the hope offered to us may be greatly encouraged. We have this hope as an anchor for the soul, firm and secure.” (Hebrews 6:18b-19a) Eventually we learn to take hold of that rope offered to us. Like those toddlers holding on to the rope as they follow the teacher, we learn to hold on. And no matter what, He holds the end of that rope.
So, my sweet Facebook friend—and every other friend whose prayers are only tears right now, here is my prayer for you (borrowed from the Apostle Paul): “May our Lord Jesus Christ Himself and God our Father, who loved us and by His grace gave us eternal encouragement and good hope, encourage your hearts and strengthen you in every good deed and word.” (2 Thessalonians 2:16-17)
There will come a day when there will be no more tears. But we’re not there yet. So in the meantime, cry when you need to. Just remember Who is sitting alongside you.
C.S. Lewis said it best: “We may ignore, but we nowhere evade, the presence of God. The world is crowded with Him. He walks everywhere incognito.” (from Letters to Malcolm: Chiefly on Prayer, p. 75)
Yes, He often walks incognito through our world. But now and then we get glimpses. I’ve had more than a few “God glimpses” recently—and most of them seem in some way to involve mothers.
First, there is the flurry of activity among mama birds in our neighborhood. We walked by a picturesque little robin’s nest a couple of days ago. We also have a mama bird (I think it’s an Eastern Phoebe) building a nest in our front entrance. It’s really quite a mess (not at all picturesque like the robin’s). But I have learned that warm and cozy and safe homes don’t need to look Pinterest-worthy. They just need a mama. (I don’t dare try to take a picture of this one, BTW, because mama bird is very skittish and protective, and I don’t want to jeopardize our relationship.)
Then there are other mamas through whom I have seen God lately. Mamas who embrace their children with God’s love even when they are lonely (Dad’s gone again for work?) or chronically sleep-deprived (Whaat? This 7-month-old baby still isn’t sleeping through the night?) or even comforting their children (“It’s going to be all right, honey”) when their own heart is shattered by grief into a million pieces (All right? How can it be all right when the love of my life, the father of these children, is snatched away from me in one tiny terrible moment?) Through these mamas—and so very many others, I see God. He’s the only explanation.
Last Thursday I had the joy of hearing moms at a local Mom to Mom share their hearts about this past year. These are just snatches of what I heard (composite paraphrase):
- I’ve recently come to see how different parenting with God is from parenting without Him. Also how different parenting alone is versus sharing the journey with other moms.
- This is the church being the church. It is my primary source of spiritual nourishment.
- Mom to Mom has ignited a fire within me that has been simmering for a long time.
- Here I can be completely myself. I am listened to without judgment. I am reminded that I am not alone. Both my Titus 2 leader and the very practical biblical teaching help me release my burden of perfectionism and trust God with my kids.
- Moms suffer from a kind of occupational irony. We spend our lives continually caring for others. Who cares for us? This is the one place in my week where I don’t have to prepare anything: coffee, goodies, or childcare. Here I am not only cared for but also given dignity and confidence in my role as a mom. A rare gift in our culture.
- In this past year, not much has changed in my circumstances. But a lot has changed in my heart.
Two recurring themes in what I heard: We are cared for. We are loved and accepted—even welcomed—here, just as we are. No matter what. Really. No matter what. And our hearts are changed.
Hmmm. Sounds a lot like grace. Sounds a lot like God. “Surely the Lord is in this place . . .” (Genesis 28:16a) Because the deep deep love of Jesus flows through the “Titus 2 Moms” who have themselves received that love, these moms feel loved. And they can pass that love along to their children.
One reason, I would guess, why “the world is crowded with Him.”
So, as Mother’s Day 2016 approaches, a shout out to all of you who love your children, another mom, or even a would-be mom (I have not forgotten) with His love. Through you we see glimpses of God.
Happy Mother’s Day!