“My daughter doesn’t currently attend church or call herself a Christian. She respects my spiritual journey and occasionally asks me about it, but she doesn’t believe that it has anything meaningful to offer her. I understand. I wish it were otherwise with all my heart, but I understand. She prayed for many years. She attended Sunday school and memorized Bible verses and sang the same songs I sing. She hoped and hoped. No one can say she didn’t try.”
Debie Thomas shares these words in a “Faith Matters” article in the Christian Century. She begins her article with words from her daughter as a preteen: “There’s a wall in front of me, Mommy. A thick, dark wall that keeps me trapped. It never goes away.”
Debie talks about living in “fix-it” mode for years, the continual effort to diagnose, heal, comfort and care for her daughter as the debilitating symptoms of her illness manifested in many ways. She talks about her struggles with God because of her daughter’s condition. She talks about the disparity between the biblical healings and her own experience.
I know that this reflection may seem a bit out of place. If there is a time and place for cheerleading, the September Crier is it. I’m supposed to be upbeat and excited about the program year that is before us. As we return from our summer calm I’m supposed to encourage you to embrace the new cycle of church ministry. And, believe me, I’m excited about all of it: better attendance at worship, 7 to Sup, Youth Group, Nourish Bridgeport, and all the rest. But, what excites me the most is always the opportunity to draw closer to God, to be touched in one way or another by the Truth that honest faith seeks and sometimes discovers. I found truth in Debie’s reflection.
She continues, “These days, I don’t try to blow up my daughter’s wall or persuade her to climb over it or leave it behind. She’s technically an adult now, and my role in her life is shifting. So now I simply sit next to the wall. I face it and endure it. I live each day in its shadow, hoping my daughter will decide to keep living, too, even in that chilly darkness – and hoping that my presence at the wall shows her something of God’s steady presence in its shadows, too.
When I scour the Bible now, I skip over the miracle stories. I read instead about the wilderness, and I imagine how slowly time moves in that parched, barren land. I read about Jesus at Gethsemane, deserted and afraid. I read about manna – mysterious sustenance for one day at a time. And I read about the lost lamb the shepherd follows into the treacherous night, the little one who can’t help but wander. The exhausted, endangered one who needs so badly to come home but just cant find her way.”
So, where’s the Truth? For me it is in the love and faith that allows Debie to sit with her daughter in that darkness. It is in Debie’s courage to find God in alternatives to the biblical stories that don’t seem to work. It is in her holding to a savior who shares her compassion without revealing his solution.
What I love about church is that it is full of Truth too. I find it in our worship, in our study, in our fellowship, and in our outreach. It surfaces regularly though you never quite know when. The best thing we can do is ready ourselves for it. Be present. Be prepared.
God bless, Tim