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"No matter where I am, your teachings fill me with songs." - Psalm 119:54 (CEV)

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

She Listened


God has blessed me with the best friends in the world.

I met them when I went off to college,

Sure that there was no way I would grow in my faith there as much as I had in high school,

And we got together and worshiped,

We sat down and studied the Bible,

We prayed together for hours,

And we just spent time together talking and laughing,

And the more I was around these people,

The more I saw Jesus in them,

The more I wanted to be like that.

We grew even closer the next year,

Learning hard lessons together

About who God is,

Where we should draw our lines,

Just how important it is to be discerning.

These people,

More than any others,

Are the reason my faith has grown so much.

When I see how they live,

I realize I want what they have,

And the discoveries that realization has led me to have changed everything for me.

These people are the ones that I've been missing lately,

Here,

Home,

Not having seen them for months.


I was shocked to see many of them on Sunday

When I went to church.

There were lots of long hugs and "How are you?"s.

It was a beautiful reunion,

Though quite brief.

The service started,

The band came up,

And all of us stopped focusing on one another,

And started focusing on God.

It was at that point that I saw the bread and cups at the front of the room.

We were having communion.


Normally, communion would be a cause for celebration.

The last four months, I have almost started to fear it,

Because I know that before I take communion I am supposed to examine myself.

Four months ago,

When I was living what those hymns speak about,

Examining myself was more about repenting,

Asking forgiveness for all the things I'd done wrong recently,

Meditating on what Christ did for me.

These days,

Examining myself usually consists of lots of worrying,

And even more praying,

About whether or not I should take communion when I feel so distant from God,

And that's exactly what I did,

During the entire beginning of the service.


The first several songs I'd never heard before,

But then they got to one I know,

And I knew what words were coming

Because they came from a beautiful old hymn,

And,

For the first time in weeks,

Tears filled my eyes.

And he sang it as I prayed,

"Yes, yes, I need that" :
"My richest gains I count but loss
And pour contempt on all my pride."
And I was just amazed that I was actually feeling something,

Emotionless as I've been lately,

And, oh, how I needed that!


When they called people forward,

I thought I'd go,

Since I was feeling better than I'd felt in two months,

But I figured I should sit down and pray awhile first.

That lasted all of ten seconds,

Because the next thing I knew,

The band was playing again,

And it sounded a whole lot like God saying to me,

"Get up!

Go!"

Because He knows what this song means to me,

And He knew that it would get His point across.

So I went,

And though I still have no idea why I can pray for weeks that I'd want Him again and feel nothing,

But pray for a few minutes about whether or not I should take communion and have a definitive answer within half an hour,

I will admit that there's something good about having to question this,

That it's not automatic anymore,

That it seems to be the one time God really answers my prayers and gives me a desire for Him again.

It makes it feel more special,

More real.


Instead of a sermon, we break into groups to pray,

Praying for what I need so desperately right now,

And I'm reading through Psalm 38,

Feeling it in my heart.

Then we go back to our seats,

And the band plays a song I'd forgotten I knew,

Forgotten how much I liked,

And my hands are in the air,

And, for the first time in weeks, it feels right,

And, yes, my God is not dead, He's alive,

He's alive!


After it was over, my friends (remember them?) and I sat and talked for far too long,

Yet not nearly long enough.

One came over to me and asked how my summer was going.

I told him the truth,

That it wasn't what I expected,

That being home makes it all so hard,

That I can't get alone easily,

Have a hard time listening to sermons,

Don't have a Bible study I can go to,

That I feel just so far . . .

All the while hoping it's finally over,

Praying that God will allow these feelings to continue.

I finally decide that I really do need to leave.

Before I go, he tells me there's going to be a Bible study the next day,

Invites me to come.

My jaw drops.

He doesn't understand,

So I say it out loud.

"I would love to go to a Bible study."

I sing in the car the whole way home.

I haven't done that in months, either.


The next morning, I pray that I won't lose it,

That that day would be better, too.

I try.

I listen to a sermon,

Though I had to do it while decorating my sister's school folders for her,

Getting my own folders ready.

I count,

Memorize,

But it's still out of my control,

And I can't make myself feel anything.

Finally, I leave,

Drive to the Bible study.

We sit,

Talk,

Have dinner,

Clean.

We don't even really start until nine.

It's nice to just be with them again, though.

Someone pulls out a guitar

And we sing.

I ask for one of my favorites,

And that song I enjoyed.

It was the only thing I really, truly enjoyed all day.


After some discussion, it was decided that we'd read and discuss Hebrews 10.

It was a great chapter,

And there were so many great observations about it.

We talked about sacrifice.

One said she almost wished she could live in Old Testament times,

So that she could experience what the sacrifices were like,

Really understand why Jesus' sacrifice was so significant.

Another across the room responded that he was thinking the same thing just the other day.

(See?  That's what kind of friends I have.  Aren't they awesome?)

One wondered what it would be like to live somewhere between the first sin and God's first promise of forgiveness,

How hopeless it would be to know that the penalty is death,

Not see any way out.

We talked about what a beautiful interruption grace is.

There were just so, so many good thoughts,

And I?

I wasn't hit by any of them.

None of them meant much to me at all.

I was hoping that Bible study would help,

That someone would say something that would hit me so hard I'd just break down and weep.

Didn't happen.

I became a bit restless and frustrated with all of it,

Almost wishing I hadn't come.


When it was all over,

I sat down next to one of my friends.

I wanted to talk,

To catch up with her,

But mostly because I just needed to get it all off my chest.

She'd emailed me the week before,

Said she knew I'd been struggling at the beginning of the summer,

Asked if I still was,

And I'd replied,

Told her how dead I felt,

How I couldn't even be upset about it,

How I was so sick of it.

Well, I sat down next to her,

And she knew just what to ask,

And I told her about how wonderful the day before had been,

Told her how it didn't last,

Told her how I hadn't really gotten anything out of the Bible study,

How it would've been great if it mattered to me again.

And it's been hard because people don't seem to understand,

Or they give me wonderful advice, and I really do appreciate it, but it's stuff I've already tried,

Or they're encouraging, and it's wonderful, but I wish that encouragement helped me right now, made me feel hopeful,

But she just sat

And listened

And let me tell about all I've been struggling with this summer,

And I talked way more than I should've,

Didn't ask nearly enough about her,

But she didn't seem to mind,

And that conversation meant so much to me,

Because I really just needed someone to listen,

And she did.



God has blessed me so much.

I have the best friends in the world.


Reasons 1867-1954 today,

More reasons to bless the LORD,

Because He is in control,

And He knows what He is doing,

Even when I think otherwise:
  1. His anger falls on those who turn their backs on Him (2 Chronicles 29:6-8)
  2. He makes those who turn their backs on Him an object of dread (2 Chronicles 29:6-8)
  3. He makes those who turn their backs on Him an object of horror (2 Chronicles 29:6-8)
  4. He makes those who turn their backs on Him an object of scorn (2 Chronicles 29:6-8)
  5. He brings about things for His people (2 Chronicles 29:36)
  6. He brings about things for His people that make them rejoice (2 Chronicles 29:36)
  7. He brings about things for His people quickly (2 Chronicles 29:36)
  8. He will not turn His face from His people if they return to Him (2 Chronicles 30:9)
  9. His hand is on people (2 Chronicles 30:12)
  10. His hand is on His people (2 Chronicles 30:12)
  11. His hand is on people to give them unity of mind (2 Chronicles 30:12)
  12. His hand is on people to help them to carry out what the king and his officials had ordered (2 Chronicles 30:12)
  13. His hand is on people to help them to carry out what had been ordered, following His word (2 Chronicles 30:12)
  14. He hears the prayer of one who asks that the unclean who seek Him be pardoned (2 Chronicles 30:18-20)
  15. He heals the unclean who seek Him, because of one man's prayer (2 Chronicles 30:18-20)
  16. He hears those whose prayer reaches heaven, His holy dwelling place (2 Chronicles 30:27)
  17. Heaven is His holy dwelling place (2 Chronicles 30:27)
  18. He is greater than the arm of flesh (2 Chronicles 32:8)
  19. He sends out an angel to annihilate all the fighting men and commanders and officers in the camp of the one who speaks about Him as though He were as powerless as the gods made by human hands (2 Chronicles 32:19-21)
  20. The one who speaks about Him as though He were as powerless as the gods made by human hands is cut down (2 Chronicles 32:19-21)
  21. He saves His people from the hands of all their enemies (2 Chronicles 32:22)
  22. He takes care of His people (2 Chronicles 32:22)
  23. He takes care of His people on every side (2 Chronicles 32:22)
  24. He answers prayers with miraculous signs (2 Chronicles 32:24)
  25. His wrath is on those whose hearts are proud (2 Chronicles 32:25)
  26. His wrath is on those who do not respond to the kindness He has shown to them (2 Chronicles 32:25)
  27. His wrath does not come on those who repent (2 Chronicles 32:26)
  28. His wrath does not come on those who repent of the pride of their hearts (2 Chronicles 32:26)
  29. He gives very great riches (2 Chronicles 32:29)
  30. He leaves people to test them and to know everything in their hearts (2 Chronicles 32:31)
  31. His anger is aroused by those who do much evil in His eyes (2 Chronicles 33:6)
  32. He brings enemy army commanders against the leader who does much evil in His eyes (2 Chronicles 33:6-11)
  33. He brings enemy army commanders against the leader who pays no attention to Him when He speaks (2 Chronicles 33:10-11)
  34. He is moved by the entreaty of the one who seeks His favor (2 Chronicles 33:12-13)
  35. He is moved by the entreaty of the one who humbles himself greatly before Him (2 Chronicles 33:12-13)
  36. He listens to the plea of the one who seeks His favor (2 Chronicles 33:12-13)
  37. He listens to the plea of the one who humbles himself greatly before Him (2 Chronicles 33:12-13)
  38. He brings back home the one who seeks His favor (2 Chronicles 33:12-13)
  39. He brings back home the one who humbles himself greatly before Him (2 Chronicles 33:12-13)
  40. His great anger is poured out on those who have not kept His word (2 Chronicles 34:21)
  41. His great anger is poured out on those who have not acted in accordance with all that is written in His book (2 Chronicles 34:21)
  42. He brings all the curses written in His book on the place and the people that have not followed the commands written in His book (2 Chronicles 34:24)
  43. He destroys those who oppose Him (2 Chronicles 35:21)
  44. He destroys those who oppose those who are following His commands (2 Chronicles 35:21)
  45. He destroys those who oppose those whom He is with (2 Chronicles 35:21)
  46. He sends word to His people (2 Chronicles 36:15)
  47. He sends word to His people through His messengers (2 Chronicles 36:15)
  48. He sends word to His people again and again (2 Chronicles 36:15)
  49. He sends word to His people because He has pity on them (2 Chronicles 36:15)
  50. He sends word to His people because He has pity on His dwelling place (2 Chronicles 36:15)
  51. His wrath is aroused against those who mock His messengers (2 Chronicles 36:16)
  52. His wrath is aroused against those who despise His words (2 Chronicles 36:16)
  53. His wrath is aroused against those who scoff at His prophets (2 Chronicles 36:16)
  54. His wrath is aroused against those who mock His messengers until there is no remedy (2 Chronicles 36:16)
  55. His wrath is aroused against those who despise His words until there is no remedy (2 Chronicles 36:16)
  56. His wrath is aroused against those who scoff at His prophets until there is no remedy (2 Chronicles 36:16)
  57. He brings up enemies against those who have aroused His wrath (2 Chronicles 36:17)
  58. He brings up enemies against those who have aroused His wrath that kill their young men with the sword in the sanctuary (2 Chronicles 36:17)
  59. He brings up enemies against those who have aroused His wrath that do not spare young men (2 Chronicles 36:17)
  60. He brings up enemies against those who have aroused His wrath that do not spare young women (2 Chronicles 36:17)
  61. He brings up enemies against those who have aroused His wrath that do not spare the elderly (2 Chronicles 36:17)
  62. He brings up enemies against those who have aroused His wrath that do not spare the infirm (2 Chronicles 36:17)
  63. He gives all those who have aroused His wrath into the hands of the enemy king (2 Chronicles 36:17)
  64. The land rests all the time of desolation until the seventy years are completed in fulfillment of His word, as spoken by His prophet (2 Chronicles 36:21)
  65. He moves the hearts of kings (2 Chronicles 36:22)
  66. He moves the hearts of kings to make proclamations (2 Chronicles 36:22)
  67. He moves the hearts of kings to have His temple built (2 Chronicles 36:22-23)
  68. He gives all the kingdoms of the earth to those whom He chooses (2 Chronicles 36:23)
  69. He appoints people to build a temple for Him (2 Chronicles 36:23)
  70. He moves hearts (Ezra 1:1)
  71. He moves the hearts of people (Ezra 1:5)
  72. He moves the hearts of people to go up and build His house (Ezra 1:5)
  73. Because His people anger Him, He gives them into the hands of enemy kings (Ezra 5:12)
  74. Because his people anger Him, He gives them into the hands of kings who destroy His temple (Ezra 5:12)
  75. Because His people anger him, He gives them into the hands of kings who deport them (Ezra 5:12)
  76. He fills people with joy (Ezra 6:22)
  77. He fills people with joy by changing the attitudes of kings (Ezra 6:22)
  78. He fills people with joy by changing the attitudes of kings so that they assist in the rebuilding of His house (Ezra 6:22)
  79. His dwelling is in Jerusalem (Ezra 7:15)
  80. He is the God of heaven (Ezra 7:21)
  81. Those who do not obey His law must surely be punished (Ezra 7:26)
  82. He puts it into kings' hearts to bring honor to His house in Jerusalem (Ezra 7:27)
  83. He extends His good favor to His servant (Ezra 7:28)
  84. He extends His good favor to His servant before the king (Ezra 7:28)
  85. He extends His good favor to His servant before the king's advisers (Ezra 7:28)
  86. He extends His good favor to His servant before all the king's powerful officials (Ezra 7:28)
  87. His hand gives people courage (Ezra 7:28)
  88. It gives people courage to know that His hand is upon them (Ezra 7:28)



(Take the challenge with us!)

<a href="http://maryschieferstein.blogspot.com/search/label/10000%20Reasons" target="_blank"><img src="http://4.bp.blogspot.com/-8zkGH23srZ8/T2i3Bun0O9I/AAAAAAAABSw/8giPvnJmCPI/s320/10000ReasonsButton.jpg" /></a>
Counting in community:

And linking up at A Holy Experience today - because my post finally matches the prompt!  Talking about relationship this week.



Also, please look at some of the other beautiful posts found at the bottom of this one.  Maybe bless the author with a comment?  It's a blessing to know that God has used your imperfect words to bless another.

  


6 comments:

Christina said...

Those friends you meet in college stay with you for the rest of your life. Friends who just listen and love you no matter what, a gift from God. Praying that He meets you in this dry place and showers you with His manna and refreshing you from the Rock. Blessings!

Mary said...

Hello, Christina! Oh, yes, they are such a gift from God! Each and every one of them just continues to amaze me, and to see God's grace in all of it is even greater! Thank you so much for prayers. I could always use more of those, especially now. Blessings to you, too, friend!

Sylvia R said...

Often just listening, with one's heart, is the best thing any friend can do. Glad you have a friend like that.

Seems like you are measuring your faith by your emotions. But they do not equate. Some of the greatest men of God (and women) went through terrible dark spells, depression, or dryness. Jeremiah, Elijah, David, to name a few in the Bible. And out of the Bible there are lots, too. Faith is not measured by feelings, but by continuing to cling to Him in spite of the feelings. Times of darkness or dryness are times of trial, testing. And here's the testing question: What if you might never feel the desired feelings with Christ but could get some semblance of them by turning from Him to something else, which would you choose? (I think I know the answer.) :)
God bless you, dear sister!

Tori said...

hang in there Mary! God does the most work during the times when He seems to be silent. I've been through countless struggles this summer too. They're hard! But don't give up hope! Continue to pursue, even in the midst of feeling like it's not getting you anywhere. I struggled with a dry period myself last spring for about 2 or 3 months, but when God finally revealed Himself to me after it, I realized just how much He had been right at my side all along. And don't forget that sometimes the best thing you can do is just sit at Jesus's feet and listen to Him, just like Mary did as Martha scurried about the house like a maniac. I love you dearly and I will be praying for you! I'm super excited to be reunited with you next week at school!!

Mary said...

Oh, Sylvia, thank you. You made me cry a bit, and I needed that.

Yes, just listening. It's so, so important. Praise God that He has blessed me with so many friends who are always willing to take the time to listen.

No, not measuring . . . well, maybe a little, but not in the fullest sense of the word. I know that faith is not measured by, but I also know that feelings are a part of faith, and, though I shouldn't expect them all the time, I ought to have them sometimes. With how wonderful the last year was for me and how close I felt to God nearly all the time, to be stuck in this has been incredibly difficult. I don't like to feel distant from God, and it's hard for me to feel like I'm really seeking and obeying Him when I never feel motivated or convicted. But, yes, you're right. No matter what, I'm not going anywhere. It's just not worth it.

Thank you so much for this reminder, dear, dear sister. God bless you abundantly!

Mary said...

Oh, thank you, Tori! Your story is by far the most encouraging thing I've heard (well, technically, read) in months. Thank you so much for sharing! I really needed it. Thank you for the prayers, too. I could always use more of those. I love you, too, friend, and I can't wait to see you again!

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