Bruised reed… not broken, supposedly

15 01 2008

Years ago, when Jim and I were first beginning our attempts to get pregnant, I began seeing a Spiritual Director. It was overall a powerful, healing, renewing experience. But at that first meeting with her, I was so full of hope. Things were beginning to be difficult in the church, I was struggling with fibromyalgia and fatigue and everything that accompanies FMS… but I was excited to begin trying for a baby, which would, naturally, come quickly.


At that same meeting, my then-Spiritual Director told me God had given her a verse for me: Isaiah 42:3. “A bruised reed he will not break…” I liked that. I liked the verse, I liked the hope it represented at that time, I liked the fact that my SD had felt God had given her that verse for me. That it represented God’s activity and presence in my life, and I should hold on to that as a promise.

I’m thinking there must be another verse for me at this point. Because every time I hear that verse, I flinch. I am so bruised it’s not funny. I have always bruised easily–physically and emotionally. Now spiritually as well. But that’s ok. That’s life. However… now, 6 years after that verse first came to my attention as one for me, that verse only serves to represent how wrong I was to hope.

I know, I know… I have many things to give thanks for, many relationships that sustain and renew me, many situations for which I am eternally grateful. I’m not so self-centered (at least I don’t think so) as to think that just because God hasn’t given me all the desires of my heart, that God is not present. Nor do I think-now-that because my SD said this verse was for me, that God was promising to never let me be broken. But I kind of thought that at the time. Naive? Yes. Too optimistic? Probably. Still, it’s a bit ridiculous…

So maybe I’m not as broken as I think I am, and maybe I’m just extremely bruised, bent, bumped, bewildered, battered, bedraggled, betrayed, b-b-b- yep, I still think the word is broken.

This all came up for me because last week’s bulletin cover at our church featured this verse, Isaiah 42:3. And I simply wanted to cry. I wanted to–and still want to–cry for the brokenness that has happened. The broken friends, who are tired of being bruised and beaten by life… for the broken systems that contribute to our brokenness. (and sometimes cause it). For the brokenness that is all around.

The Enigmatic God

5 09 2007

My friend Dan posted this quote by Robert W. Jenson on his blog over a month ago, and I am just now responding. (Sorry, Dan!) It’s quite the quote. Deep, and challenging. It’s about—in my opinion—God’s presence, revelation, love, and majesty. It speaks to the reality that though God is always present to God’s people, God is also difficult for us to see, to touch, to feel, to know… and to understand. So much about this God we don’t understand. For example, we don’t understand how, if God foreknows all things and wills all things, how bad things can still happen…

A-ha.. my issue. Mine, and that of many others. God is, as Jenson says in the quote, an impenetrable enigma. God both loves us and allows horrible things to happen. “The only real God is the God within whose will all things occur.” Jenson writes. All things. Good and bad. And the things that we think are bad, but God, in his all-knowing majesty might think isn’t quite so bad. I don’t know. I’m not so sure. But Jenson continues, writing that given that this is “the only real God…”, God is a moral enigma. Not only an impenetrable, but a moral enigma. Absolutely. How can a just and loving God be so seemingly mean?

And yet I believe in this God. This moral enigma, this impenetrable enigma.. this constant enigma of a God who loves his people, including me. This strange God who is both hidden and revealed. Sometimes I feel as though God is so distant that there’s a better chance of me traveling at the speed of light than God revealing himself to me. And at other times I recognize him in moments throughout the day. I like those days.

I pray for more of those days, when though God remains an enigma, I am able to focus on God’s majesty, love, and desire to reveal himself to the world.

I want Pentecost still to be red…

29 05 2007

Lost and Found has a song about the church, called “Opener”. It talks about churches that have become more like YMCA’s, that preach the news, sing what they want to sing, carry on no history, and how we need to stop the fighting, whether it’s about guitars and amps, or incense and robes… just tell about Jesus. It’s a good song, and one of my favorite lines is “I want palms on Palm Sunday, I want Pentecost still to be red…”

That line ran through my head all last week and weekend as I was working on my Pentecost sermon, and the service. I love Pentecost. It’s my favorite day in the church year (and I said this in my sermon) because I am in need of help, and it’s the day we celebrate God sending help: the Holy Spirit. I love it. And at Arbor, it was red. It always is, because Sue does a fantastic job of changing the banners and paraments (those different colored/symboled cloths hanging on altars, pulpits, lecterns, etc…). I hadn’t been at church since Sue changed the paraments, so walking in at 7:30 am Sunday morning was a treat, to see the red all over. I love it. Jim and I also brought in red balloons, which Jim used during his Children’s Corner.

When I read the Acts 2 passage, about the Holy Spirit coming into the place where Jesus’ disciples and others were gathered, I had arranged for people to stand and read part of the text in different languages–at the same time–while I read in English. It was amazing. I wish I could have just listened, but those who did thought it was great. Awkward, at first. But fantastic. We had people reading Chinese, French, Spanish and Swedish.

I love Pentecost. And I need it. I need the Holy Spirit’s help this week.. it’s a busy week, and I’m emotionally and physically exhausted. So in order to make it through, I need the Spirit of Pentecost to guide me through. I need reminding that the church throughout the ages has been inspired, guided, corrected, and encouraged by the Holy Spirit. So hopefully this week I will be too.