Where I Went and Why I Came Back

Image Credit: Dayna Bateman

Image Credit: Dayna Bateman

I’m sorry for the long silence; it wasn’t planned. The plan was always to come back next week. The truth is, though, right now I’m struggling with a lot of things that make writing seem overwhelming. Even writing about them seems overwhelming, and also, I don’t feel comfortable sharing too much, but I will say this: it involves active, untreated mental illness in my immediate family. My own life is pretty great, but I’m heartbroken about the mounting consequences of this illness for the sufferer and for my other loved ones. Watching from a distance and praying, which is really all I can do, is taking up quite a lot of soul energy.

At the same time, I miss writing here. Blogging has been my way of preaching the gospel to myself, asĀ Ann Voskamp would say. Despite what a tiny group I know you readers are (which is my fault for not inviting more people to this space), I like to think that each post makes at least one person’s week a little easier, and I know I’m that one person a lot of the time. Writing about the faith that gives my life meaning and how that faith plays out every day really helps me focus on what matters, and given all the drama in my personal life right now, I need that perspective more than ever.

Reading the Bible helps too. I’m reading the book of Exodus right now. I sit in the back parking lot of my office at the picnic table under the lone tree and I read the story of how much God wanted to set the Israelites free. How God literally moved heaven and earth to do that. The sky rained down frogs and gnats and locusts all to show the extravagant love the Creator felt for the People.

Presumably God didn’t have to go to quite such lengths, though. Surely the slaves could have been freed in one glorious day, their fates changed nearly instantly. Surely any normal person would have let Moses’ people go after just one or two awesome displays of divine power.

But God hardened Pharaoh’s heart, says the black and white text over and over again. I always used to wonder, Why? Why would God do that, knowing it was prolonging the people’s suffering? Why draw it out like that?

The answer is right there in the text too. God drew the story out like that so everyone would know, forever, that I am the Lord their God who brought them out of Egypt. In case there was any thought whatsoever that Moses and Aaron somehow accomplished freedom for their brothers and sisters without God, or in case there was any way the Egyptians would try to claim they chose to free the Israelites themselves, God wanted to make sure it was obviously, undeniably a miracle. Thus the plagues and the parting of the Red Sea and the miraculous food and all the rest.

Because I’ve read the whole Book now, I know this is a theme that comes back again and again. Because we’re doubters, all of us. We doubt that God loves us. We doubt that there’s a grand plan and/or that it’s a good one. We doubt that God cares about our puny little lives or cares enough to help us. Even the ancient Israelites whom God had just freed from lives of slavery doubted. That’s why the Psalms and the Prophets and so many other parts of the Bible repeat this image again and again ad nauseum: God loves you. How do you know? Because of the Exodus and the parting of the Red Sea, etc. etc. QED.

I used to think this repetition was boring. But now I know that I desperately need it, especially at times like these. I need to keep that image of salvation in front of my eyes at all times. God does love me, care about me, would do anything to save me. Even part the sea. Even die on a cross. I need to fix my eyes on the truth about God’s love every day, like a snake lifted up in the wilderness.

So the long and the short of it is, I can’t predict you’ll see regular blog posts from me here for awhile. I really don’t know how long this will last or how it will end. But I’d appreciate your prayers that I can keep writing in some form, because it helps me burn my most lifegiving beliefs into my heart and mind and soul. And then I have a better chance of staying sane, of staying open and vulnerable and loving when I’m tempted to be bitter and despondent and angry.

Here’s to knowing God will help us all get out of this mess, somehow.