“How was your weekend?” I asked “Bonnie” when I visited her again.
With a pained expression, she confessed that it hadn’t been easy. Her fears were having a heyday with her, and she felt defenceless against them.
Once again she was on the cross with Jesus. But this time, instead of feeling comforted, her heart cried out, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me? Why are you so far from saving me, so far from my cries of anguish? My God, I cry out by day, but you do not answer, by night, but I find no rest.”
I thought of the psalmist David who composed that lament, likely while on the run from King Saul. Yet in the next psalm, Psalm 23, David sings that he found rest by still waters, was protected in dark valleys, and that his loving God pursued him all the days of his life. David looked back at those nights of anguish and knew that God was there. God had gotten him through them.
This reminded me of two recent spiritual direction sessions.* One directee, “Jim,” told me, “I’ve been reading your blog, about how you had this moment of intimacy with God in your helplessness. That kind of stuff doesn’t happen to me. I’m stuck in this place I can’t get out of. I’m lonely, bored, unsettled, and underutilized. And God doesn’t seem to be doing anything about it.”
Jim knew in his head that God was with him, but he felt like God had left him to rot in jail. Bravely he closed his eyes and pictured himself in a prison cell. When he did, he discovered that he wasn’t alone. Other inmates were with him and one of them was Jesus. The solidarity he felt gave him hope.
Another directee, “Kathy,” said, “When I found this lump on my breast, I was horrified. How had I not noticed it before? For weeks after that, I was hounded by fear and shame. Then one day I felt a calm presence. It came so softly and gradually, it took me a while to notice it was there, but I had this sense I was accompanied.”
God’s presence was revealed to David when he looked back, to Jim through his imagination, and to Kathy through a palpable calm. Bonnie has experienced God’s presence before in similar ways, but that day God came to her disguised as a friend.
“Thank you for coming,” she said when I got up to leave. “I feel better.”
God says he is with us on our journeys. He says he has been with us since each of our journeys began. Listen for him. Listen to the sweet and bitter airs of your present and your past for the sound of him. –Frederick Buechner, The Sacred Journey
*Thank you to “Bonnie,” “Jim” and “Kathy” for graciously allowing me to share their experiences.
“Ameripride/Canadian Linen were very enthusiastic and committed to supporting our work by creating 1,260 comfort kits for those without homes this winter,” said Wanda Mulholland, coordinator of The Society To End Homelessness in Burnaby. Ameripride/Canadian Linen held their third annual Day of Service on September 28, 2016. “We are grateful for their efforts and for the generosity of SPARC BC, Save On Foods and PODS,” said Wanda. The kits will be distributed in Burnaby, Surrey, Tri Cities, New Westminster, North Shore, and Abbotsford.