I cannot answer the question of why I signed up for this class at our church.
It’s offered once or twice a year I think. I’ve seen it in the bulletin off and on for a while, my friends have led the class before. I’ve heard of it. And sometime in February I guess – I started taking the class.
Eleven weeks. Every Monday night.
It was the real thing. Signed contracts to attend every session, to not share the stories of the people in your group. A group therapy of sorts for sure.
I attended the first week and was pretty sorry I had signed my contract and made my commitment.
The outlook wasn’t awesome. The class sounded hard. Painful.
For eleven weeks kind friends and kind strangers brought dinner to my house to feed the kids. Kind friends watched the kids week after week. Eleven times. (That’s a lot of kindness, if you’re keeping track. None of it unobserved on my part. Piles of grateful I’m sitting on in this house, I tell you.)
I sat up front every week because I get too easily distracted in the back row.
Every week it was the same – sing together some song that I expected to mouth through but instead found myself singing and praying in some kind of near-to-tears worship new to my weary heart.
A lesson taught by the author of the Redemption book via video or by a regular person via stage.
Then a timer was set and a single question was asked to probe your mind and to help process what you had been reading that week and learning that evening.
All of this followed by a small group with just a few women and a few counselors – chairs all in a circle with no space to stare at anything other than their faces or their shoes or your own hands.
The kids and I had a running joke for the entire eleven weeks.
I’d come home from class and London would ask, “How was your class Mommy?”
I’d smile and say with some exaggeration, “It was the worst! I’m so glad I went.”
I was joking with her – but I meant it too.
This class was so hard.
So hard because the leaders didn’t tell me what to think. Hard because they just asked me questions and then I would be sitting there – avoiding eye contact and thinking about disappearing – and suddenly I’d be speaking something I hadn’t thought before and I’d realize that it was something I really believed. Something that was actually true for me. And, more often than not, something that was slightly (or way) off kilter with what Jesus teaches.
It’s hard to face that sort of stuff about yourself every Monday night for eleven weeks.
At some point during the class we were encouraged to write our own psalm – a record of our journey thus far.
The backdrop for the entire Redemption book was the story of the Israelites crossing from slavery to freedom. From bondage to the promised land.
And that’s sort of what my psalm felt like to me.
The last night we had the opportunity to share our psalms out loud. With a microphone. In front of people.
That was a different kind of hard.
Now I know this post is already unusually lengthy, so if you need to pause and come back later today, feel free to do that. If you want to get a cup of tea or one of those new adorable mini-drinks from Starbucks, you certainly can. If you need to do your actual job if you’re reading this as a procrastination to your employment, do what you need to do.
But I am going to share my psalm here.
This is what I wrote after eleven weeks of reading about the Israelites. Of plowing through my current suffering. Of sitting in hard places on Monday nights with strangers who were willing to share their junk with me too.
O God –
I had such a long list
(actually, less long …. more wide)
of all the things I would get by loving you,
of all the ways my life would look
by choosing you
when, in fact,
I was always choosing me by using you.
A means to my end.
A war within
while I thought I was battling without.
a good marriage
happy and kind kids
and a loving husband.
And I’ve wanted all these things far more than I’ve wanted you.
They have been my prize.
The trophy at the end of my race.
The reward for all my heart’s labor.
The reason for The Rise and The Fall and The Get Up and The Go To Sleep.
I’ve been so infatuated with Things.
My hands full up with all that.
O God –
I am an Israelite.
“Give me my manna.
You promised and I deserve.
Give me this good thing,”
my arrogant and demanding heart shouted.
“God – you owe me!” I persisted.
I stomped my feet and crossed my arms
and listed my claims on your blessings.
I haven’t wanted you, God.
I’ve wanted what you can give me.
You’ve watched me chase the manna and forget the provider.
You’ve watched me place my throne (made out of cards and paper straws and ugly pride) far above yours
and I can’t even hear you say you are enough
because I’ve already written my own pages.
I’ve hoarded your manna
and I’ve cried against your unkindness when it is rotting at sunrise.
You have allowed my cup to be filled with bitter.
You have revealed your vast power through the stripping away of my thin veneer.
You wrecked me
and ruined me.
And my heart has cried out,
“How long, O God?
You’ve made me weak
and you’ve turned my hope inside out.
You’ve said, “no” and “not now” and “you can’t have this”.
You have sustained me
undone me and remade me.
Everything I bring you is filth and rags
and I want to want your glory.
I want to hook my faith
all my hope
into the constancy
the never ceasing
the all knowing
the always pursuing
grace and love of a relentless God.
A God who is
I want open open hands,
arms stretched out.
I want to hold all of my remaining good gifts with these open open hands.
These lovely lovely gifts –
They are nothing to me without Jesus.
Alone, they are without hope
if not for God.
who is my only Enough.
the pillar and the cloud.
from the pharaoh without
and the pharaoh within.
Whose glory is my heart’s dwelling place.
The God who is