I was standing in church, one of a handful of white faces amidst a sea of darker. It was praise and worship time, my main reason for ever attending any church service. (First is worship, second is community, third for the stories the pastor tells, fourth for the occasional doughnut, and fifth is for the actual sermon – sorry. It’s not that God doesn’t speak to me through the sermon, because He does. It’s just that normally, if I want to hear from God, I close the door to my bedroom, find my journal, turn on some worship music and then start praying. Sometimes I pull out my Bible. After that, I call (or, usually, grab coffee with) some of my wiser friends. Wisdom and advice is always more easily swallowed with a cup of coffee (or, in my case a cambrick) in hand. )
So, anyway, I was one sweaty (it wasn’t fall yet, and temperatures were still above the 100’s) white face in a sea of non-sun-burning faces in church. And we were singing, thanking God that, like the wind beneath an eagle’s wings, He lifts us up above the storm. I don’t remember the exact song actually – just that image. And I remember praying, “God, just walk with me through the storm. I want to feel everything. I don’t want to escape life’s bumps and bruises. Just walk with me.”
Silly me! That was at the start of the hardest year of my life to date.
Why on earth would anyone pray that silly prayer? “Don’t lift me above the storm God, I want to experience it, I want to be bumped and bruised and broken and tossed about.” Sounds painful. It IS painful.
But by that point in my life I knew enough to know that God often does His best work in the smack middle of our pain. And I desired God to do His best work in me.
I also knew that I wanted to experience life – all of it. Including the pain of the storms the song was talking about. I didn’t want to just glide above them, I wanted to be down in them, feeling the roller coaster waves beneath my feet. Thrilling in the ride and risks and healing that would be taking place. I didn’t want God to protect me from this life. I wanted to KNOW all of it, that I might know Him better, that I might share Him better with others.
But, you know what? I don’t think I needed to pray that prayer. I mean, yes, I did. My heart needed to tell God where I was with Him; that I trusted Him to take care of me no matter what.
But I didn’t need to pray that prayer because God doesn’t do that – lift us up above a storm. I was right – God walks with us, side-by-side through the storm. Sometimes He stops us and surrounds us with His body, protecting us from some airborne shrapnel, but for the most part, we get to feel everything. That’s kinda part of the point of this life – to experience it. Somewhere along the line of growing up in a very Christian environment, I picked up the idea that God’s protection means that He’ll keep you from feeling too much pain. That you’ll never get depressed because of Him. Yeah, that’s not how God works. Him walking beside you does NOT mean He keeps those emotions away. Him walking beside you means He’ll help you manage those emotions, that you don’t have to be overcome or ruled by them. But He still wants you to feel the emotions He placed inside us, that respond to the situations we are in, that we might get to know Him better.
The more you live life with someone, the better you get to know them. So, live life with God. Get to know Him. Don’t be afraid of the storms that come, He’s with you. Don’t get bored during the gentle, quiet times of calm, He’s still with you.