I stopped going to church regularly from September 2013. The other was part of the same church community. He left , but the circumstances around his leaving, the lies he told about me to others and the impact that that had on their responses towards me, meant that I felt that I couldn’t attend. Occasionally I tried, for the sake of my children, but most Sundays whilst they attended church, I sat with my bible and notebook and read and prayed and sobbed.
I missed so many things about gathering with other christians. One Sunday I went to a different church – I was so ‘thirsty’ I had to go, despite it being hard to explain to my children why I was going to church but not to ‘our’ church.
I sat at the back and a man got up and talked about gardening. He said that it can be hard to dig the roots of something out, but if you let God put the fork in and loosen the soil then the roots will come out much more easily. He continued, “God wants to do this because of the great work he wants to do in the next stage of your life. He wants good soil in order to have really good ground for growth”.
The question he asked was ‘What do you need to let go of? What soil is God wanting to stick the fork in to get rid of’?’
I knew the answer instantly. I needed to let go of the other. I had my notebook with me and I wrote these words as I sat in the service,
‘I need to let go of him [the other]. Totally. Forever. completely. I need to let go of what was. I need to let go of wondering about his present. I need to stop thinking about what he’s doing, how he’s feeling, whether he wants me, whether he doesn’t. I need to let go of future stories which include him in my story.
That’s too hard.
So now I’m listening to the sermon for my answers’.
The person preaching took as their text Titus 2 v 11-13
‘For the grace of God that brings salvation has appeared to all men. It teaches us to say “no” to ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self controlled, upright and godly lives in this present age, while we wait for the blessed hope- the glorious appearing of our great God and Saviour, Jesus Christ’.
I should have known by then that as soon as I wrote something like ‘I’m listening for the answers’ – I would be given them.
The question posed by the preacher was ‘What do we do while we wait?’ That was the question I wanted the answer to. I was waiting for the same thing those early Christians were waiting for. I was waiting for the end and all being made new, and the struggle being over. I didn’t know if I could wait.
The preacher continued – he said that the first thing we should do in the waiting was to hope, and he defined hope in this way,
“Hope is a confident expectation in God. The object of hope is God himself. We can have hope because God is sovereign, victorious and returning. The basis of our hope is God’s grace to us in Jesus. Our long term future is settled and so we can cope with the hard things now. It frees us in the present. Put your hope in God.”
Once again it was confirmation that the juxtaposition, the co-existence of hope and difficulty in the present is how it is expected to be for us. That loving God, following his ways, having faith, DO NOT make life easier in the day to day struggles. What we do have is a hope, a certainty that this is not all there is. ‘Our long term future is settled’.
He listed 7 other things for us to do in the waiting – they all spoke to my situation. He said that the waiting was analogous to child-birth. Something is being birthed in pain that we can find, and will know joy in.
It all tied together for me. I knew what had to be dug out. I knew that I was right in holding on to hope. I began to believe in the possibility of God preparing the ground for future growth and my life not being only about damage, and survival and sadness.
I went to pray with a woman at the end. I cried and told her that God was telling me hard things. She prayed and then she said this,
“I don’t know what the particulars of your situation are but I think that God wants you to know that He will meet your deepest needs. He says that you are not to look for those to be met somewhere else. By someone else. He loves you more deeply than you can understand.”
That morning proved to be another significant turning point on my journey. I will write more of that tomorrow.
Lights in the darkness. They were becoming brighter.