(Note: I’ve reposted this story from 2019, because it reminds me what I miss most about my church. Today, we met outside in our socially distant circles, and while I’m grateful we are meeting at all, I’m sad to be missing out on the kind of fellowship with my church family that’s described in this story.)
I was feeling out of sorts because I hadn’t really wanted to come. I didn’t want to go last Sunday either, and I didn’t. I’ve realized over the last few nights that I haven’t been listening to what I’ve read in the Bible. I’ve read hurriedly, just to get through it. I’ve felt irritated by the grandboys, grumpy with the teenager, and am losing again in my ongoing battle with food. For whatever reason, I couldn’t run to Jesus.
Coincidentally, or maybe not, life has been easy for the last few days around here, and whenever it gets good, I don’t feel the pain that normally puts me on my knees. So when I sat down by Lisa at church, and she asked me how I was doing, I said, “Welp, I’m in a shit-hole and I can’t get out.” She squeezed my hand. I was grateful not to see her eyebrow raise. I didn’t deserve her acceptance, and the relief of it pierced me.
I can’t tell you how many words during the service seemed to speak just to me. Lisa pointed to the next song, ‘Come All Ye Pining, Hungry, Poor,’ (yes, that was it exactly) with such a tender and understanding face, the tears I haven’t been able to find slid down my cheeks. To confess where I really was and to find a kind face was almost more than my heavy heart could take. She also handed me a Kleenex, which is part of why I always sit next to her. Well, that, and the fact that I can say shit-hole in church, during the worship service, and she doesn’t bat an eye.
There was more throughout the service of love and grace that spoke to me–an empathetic verse, several statements in Eric’s sermon, more lyrics in the last two hymns, hugs from many friends. I felt completely surrounded by a cocoon of God’s goodness with God’s people, and that, when I least deserved it. Why does the gospel always surprise me when I’ve forgotten it and can’t find my way back? And why does it make me a little mad when I realize all over again that it is unearned and undeserved?
When I got home, I fixed lunch for Stone and myself and hung out with him a while since The Cowboy was at his father’s farm helping out. Then I went upstairs and climbed into bed. I wanted to want to get busy and do my usual restful, family type Sunday-stuff, but I just couldn’t drag myself to it. I really just wanted to curl up and be held by God.
I hadn’t felt any emotional drama with anyone today but I was whipped. Maybe I was depressed? And so I started worrying about that. And then I thought of Stone and The Cowboy and what is going on in their worlds and worried some more. And I was about to go off on other things that trouble me, but I realized that Jesus was nowhere in all of that. The sweetness I lay down to find wasn’t inside all my fears.
“Ah, Jesus. Take me away from me and into you. I can’t do it. I want to, but I forgot how to get there.”
So I lay there, wanting to feel comforted, and after a bit, fell asleep and woke feeling rested…but then worried that I was getting lazy. Was depression descending after all? And would it be something else to battle going forward? And then, here they came again: the fears and worries tumbled in, multiplying like rabbits.
“Lord Jesus! Help! Help me to remember you and your goodness to me,” I pleaded.
I forced myself to call to mind many of his gifts, just in the past few days—the washer that got fixed, the call from my sister-in-law, the way the traffic parted and I escaped just in time for an appointment—and my heart felt a little lighter. “Thank you, Jesus.” And after a few more minutes of that, lo and behold, I even felt like I wanted to get up, depressed or not, and I went for a bike ride and remembered as I rode, so many bike rides I’ve been able to have over the years here and elsewhere. “Thank you, Jesus.”
The sun was peeking out from behind clouds that had held it captive all day. I was feeling more like myself, the exhaustion falling off like too many clothes. I remembered other activities I enjoy and am able to do, even with my bad knee. “Thank you.” And then, so many more ways he’s taken such tender care of me over the years flooded in–the good health of our family, the appliances that work, the money to pay bills, the sweetness with friends, several restored relationships. “Thank you, Jesus.” “Yes, I remember that, too. Thank you, Jesus.”
By the time I parked my bike, my heart was so full, I could hardly contain the praise and joy.
So I’m sending this to you, for what it’s worth, because for me today, the road from pining where I started, to slap full where I ended, seemed paved with remembering his blessings to me.
I’m remembering now there are lots of places in the Bible where God tells his people to remember what he’s done for them and to tell others, too. I guess I’ve always thought it was for his benefit, because he likes our praise and worship. And I’m sure he does. But I see now that it’s also for my benefit, because it lifts me out of me and into him. Such a banquet for my hungry heart, to find him and so much joy at the end of my pining.
I also see that while the gospel is all about grace and what he’s done and his good words and more, I also see that there was a little part for me to do. I had to speak to my heart and soul about those things. I had to do the remembering.
“Bless the lord, oh my soul, and all that is within me, bless his holy name. Bless the lord, oh my soul, and forget not all his benefits…”
I’m hoping you will all come to Bible study this week. There are many kind, non-eyebrow-raised faces among us for the many others of us who are “pining, hungry poor.”
Together, we can look into his Word.
Full up and grateful,
Click on the link below to hear Come All Ye Pining by Red Mountain Music. The words and music are under the link.
Quotations are from
Psalm 103:1-5 ESV
Psalm 34:8 NIV
(This is one of a series of emails written to the women’s Bible study group of Rock Creek Fellowship.)