This past week I had one of those sacred conversations. A conversation where all things fake and phony fade away and the people involved are open and honest about life.
I was sitting in my office and someone stopped by. I have this policy, if my office door is open you are welcome to come in and say hello…if the door is closed I am involved in something that needs my undivided attention.
As the person came in and began to share it was clear that while life was good…it was overwhelming. They are in the role of caregiver and the amount of time and energy given to the one they were caring for left them tired and weary at the end of the day. The truth is that this individual is always in caregiver mode. I have watched from afar as they have come alongside many a people who have needed a gentle touch or simply to know that someone was there and cared for them. It is how they move, how they look at the world. There is a sense of thankfulness for all God has done in their lives that motivates them to give, and to give generously of themselves to others in need. That giving is life giving…it is a spiritual gift, a calling and yet at the same time it can be draining and if we are not careful it can lead us to a place where we feel drained and left with little energy or space for ourselves. Effective, long term care giving is a balancing act between sharing with others and making sure we take time to care for our own body, spirit, and soul.
We talked about the need for self care. It was clear that being on the giving end of life was leaving them tired and weary. I have heard others in such roles ask, “When is it my turn?” “When do I get to put my needs, wants ahead of the rest of the world?” In a sense we reach a place where we grow weary in giving and if we are not careful we will “burnout” and simply grow bitter and hard or walk away from the care giving relationship, if that is possible. I know in my own life and ministry there have been times where I have felt this way. In the quiet, darker moments I began to ask, “God, I have given so much…when is it my turn to receive?” Over time I have learned that when those thoughts and feelings begin to rise it is good and right to recognize and honor them as an honest and true reflection of where I was emotionally at that moment. I also learned that making any kind of major decision when feeling such emotions was usually a bad thing. I was not thinking clearly, or at least not moving the way I wanted to live my life and I would regret conversations or decisions made while in the midst of such a “valley”. I grew to learn it was time to step away and make time for me, to do what gave me life and spoke health and healing to my soul. This will be different for every person. Maybe it will be a little retail therapy, or going out for a good meal with friends you have not seen in a while. Nancy has found our sun room to be a place of refuge and she will go sit there and read when life begins to crowd in just a little too much. Other times she will go out and begin to pull weeds, we have plenty of those, and in the midst of something “mindless and mundane” there is a sense of calm and peace. Our front porch has become my refuge, I have even learned to overlook all that “needs to be done” to make our landscape perfect. Whatever it is we need to allow ourselves the “freedom” to step aside and be refreshed as we journey through seasons of care giving.
As our conversation continued we went from deep to ultra deep when my guest started talking about experiencing the presence of God. “Pastor, there are times when I feel like God is so close to me I could touch him…then there are others where it feels like He could not get any further away. What am I supposed to do when it feels like God has left me and I am all alone?”
Sit with that question for a minute. Read that last paragraph again. Allow the depth of what they are asking to wash all over you. This is the type of question that someone seeking to develop a deep, abiding relationship with God asks. Many in our day will speak cute, pleasant and reassuring words about God always being present. They will talk of “rose garden” type walk with God where there are no doubts, worries or cares. Those who speak such words deny the reality of our life experiences and ultimately miss out on seeing the full depth of who God is. The person who boldly and honestly asks, “Where are you God?” “Why do I not feel your presence in my life at this moment?” “Why are there seasons where I feel so alive spiritually and others where pursuing you feels so much like a chore that has to be completed?” This person is the one who is on the verge of encountering Abba Father in a life changing way. I am all for honesty. Jesus said, “the truth will set you free.” Imagine getting honest with God about how we feel about our relationship with Him, truly honest and then allowing the Spirit to minister to us and draw us deeper. “Thy Kingdom Come, Thy Will Be Done!”
We talked of seasons. We talked of how life, filled with it’s demands and “urgent” callings can get in the way of us being aware of God’s presence…even though God is walking with us each and every day. We talked of the need for quiet and reflection, for allowing God time to speak into our lives. It is so easy for us to begin to think poorly of ourselves, and then begins this downward spiral. I think poorly of myself, therefore God must think poorly of me…then I think less of myself…which leads me to believe God thinks even less of me…on and on it goes. Ultimately we reach this place where God feels distant from us. I mean really, why would God want to be near such a loser who struggles with (fill in the blank). As we talked I encouraged my visitor to set aside some time of quiet and to sit and ask Abba Father this question, “Abba Father, How do you see me?” “Abba Father, as you look upon me what do you see? As you peer into the depth of my soul, my reality what is it that brings a smile to your face?” I encouraged them to sit in quiet with those questions. My sense being that as we see more clearly how God views us we come to understand the reality of the ever present Spirit of God in our lives. We come to experience the full depth of Abba’s love. Jesus words, “I will never leave you nor forsake you” become more than just words…they become real for our lives.
There will be seasons. I know I have them. I treasure those “mountain top experiences” where God’s presence is so real it feels like I could reach out and touch Him. In the times of dryness I work to remember such times and pray God will open my heart, mind and soul to see more clearly the reality of how Abba Father is walking with me each day.
I treasure these “open door” conversations. I could plan, prepare, and strategize for ministry to happen for months and not “create” anything near as sacred as these Spirit led conversations. In these moments the Spirit is moving, God is present and I am thankful to be allowed to share in such sacred moments.
All the Time God is Good, God is Good All the Time!