For the past two months, I haven’t been able to write. It is not for lack of trying or that I didn’t have anything to say (if you know me at all, you know that I generally never run out of things to say…)
I tried to write multiple times, about balance and school and surrender, but every word I wrote felt cheap, inauthentic, insignificant…
The goal for this blog has always been to be completely honest about my journey with God and through ministry.
So, I want to let you in on my reality.
I’ve been drowning in uncharted spiritual waters, wondering the wilderness, deserted in the desert.
God has been silent.
I’m no stranger to the wilderness, but this time I felt His silence in a way that I have never experienced before…at least, not in that capacity.
I could not see Him, I could not hear Him, and I could not feel Him. It was like God was hidden from me.
Theologically, I knew God was there – God’s presence is always with us – but I still felt a sense of absence.
In the midst of this unfamiliar desert, my grandfather grew increasingly ill. Over a five-week period, he was admitted into three hospitals and a rehab facility; spending less than 48 hours in his own home.
As bitter as it is sweet, I spent more time with my Paw Paw in his hospital room that month than I ever had in my 26 years of being his granddaughter.
After being home from the rehab facility for less than five hours, he was rushed back to the hospital. Prayers for a miracle turned to prayers for more time…but, having been revived twice in the ambulance he was taken to the ICU and hooked up to a ventilator to keep him breathing. His chances of recovery were slim to none.
Life is a given until it isn’t.
On February 9th, just two days shy of his 78th birthday, my Paw Paw passed away…
That day, and the days that followed, were a blur. And to be honest, I still can’t tell you my favorite memory of him or what we talked about during his long hospital stays. I’m sure those memories will come back eventually, but right now it is all faded to black and white.
The silence is all I can see in vivid color.
It’s interesting how our hearts and minds process trauma, loss, pain, and suffering…what memories your mind chooses to fade to the back and what it chooses to keep at the surface.
Here are the things I remember:
I remember the prayer I repeated over and over trying to bring comfort – “be present, be near, Lord.”
I remember at his funeral hearing the people I love say:
“I am not okay. I feel empty, like there’s a huge hole inside of me. I feel broken. I feel like a piece of me is missing, and I feel ugly.”
“Now what? How do we go on without him here?”
“It feels like he’s supposed to walk out with us…”
“I feel like when he died, I did too…they just forgot to bury me.”
I remember the night the doctors told us my grandpa had little chances of survival, I read John 11, stopping on verses 3-6. I lingered over Mary and Martha sending word to Jesus of their desperation and being expectant of his arrival.
I remember the night Paw Paw died I went back to John 11. I read verse 32 over and over because I felt like Mary; unable to comfort my family and falling at the feet of Jesus, weeping.
I remember being too distracted by the vivid silence that I missed the comfort and the hope Jesus brought to Martha (v. 20-27)… the promise, the comfort, and the hope He extends to us.
But mostly, I remember silence so loud that it screamed.
It was almost a week after my sweet Paw Paw’s funeral, I finally felt God speak.
“You asked for my physical presence, and I gave you my Word. I was not silent. I was with you the entire time. But I do not work in one exclusive way; I have no bounds, and I cannot be boxed in. The ways I choose to speak in and through my creation is limitless (Romans 11:33-36).
I was with you, placing those verses on your heart to bring you comfort, to show you I was present. I show up. I show up in unexplainable ways, so that you may truly believe (John 11:15, 40).
Like Mary and Martha, you wanted me to show up in your own way, thinking you knew what was best. So, when I didn’t show up as you expected, or how you wanted, you thought I had forgotten you, that I was distant from your pain.
Taylor, hear me: I have forgotten nothing. Just as I saw Mary’s hurt, confusion, and sorrow, I see yours.
Do you not remember that I suffered first?
I gave everything to win you back. So, do not think that I am a distant God who is separated from your pain. I bleed out for this, so that I could be with you in this moment.”
There is no magic formula to get out to the desert. There is also no guarantee that, amid your desert, hard things won’t happen.
Richard Foster offers advice for those who find themselves feeling the absence of God,
“It is this: wait on God. Wait, silent and still. Wait, attentive and responsive. Learn that trust precedes faith… Trust is confidence in the character of God. Firmly and deliberately you say, ‘I do not understand what God is doing or even where God is, but I know that he is out to do me good.’ This is trust. This is how to wait.”
This is what I know: your wilderness, your desert, your Sahara of the heart is never permanent, but the lessons you learn in the midst of it are. Those lessons, in God’s time and God’s way, will lead to the land of milk and honey.
Surrender to the journey He has set out for you. Trust Him.
It is worth it. He’s worth it. I swear it.