What’s really happening when you feel God moving away from you?
Eventually Parker calmed, his exhausted, spent body lay drained and limp in the cradle of my arms. It was time for all of us to go to bed for a good night’s sleep. A good night’s sleep for Parker and Chris, but not for me. I would be pumping breast milk around the clock to deliver frozen to the NICU in the morning for use in Cory’s feedings. I didn’t want to keep Chris awake with a procedure needing to be repeated several times during the night, so, with great trepidation, I prepared to once again sleep in the place of my confinement the last three months. I hadn’t even wanted to look at that room, let alone enter and sleep there.
Hesitantly, I walked back into it, then stopped and visually scanned the setting. It resembled a miniature memorial, everything left exactly the way it had been two days earlier when Chris frantically drove me to the hospital. Books and pre-school artwork were piled on the floor and bed, half-consumed drinks stood like monuments beside my hand-penciled calendar on the bedside stool. The monitoring device—with its snaking cables and strap—lay haphazardly discarded on one side of the mattress. A disarray of magazines, letters and bills littered the bed and floor. At least I don’t have to stay in bed if I don’t want to now, I thought. With a resigned sigh, I prepared for bed and the night’s labors.
Between the demands of pumping Cory’s food, the sleep I had gratefully anticipated remained elusive, and I found myself wandering from the room in the middle of the night. Finally arriving absent-mindedly in the living room, I stopped at one of our large sliding glass doors to look heavenward. Almost involuntarily, I sank to my knees on the hard, cold tile and gazed with questioning intensity at the piercing sparkle of stars suspended in the velvet black winter sky. There was Someone in those heavens I ached to grasp. Someone at my fingertips who seemed to be moving away from me.
“I will never be as close to You as I was then, will I Lord? Never as close as these last three months.” With a creeping sense that a sort of separation or change had begun—that God was becoming increasingly elusive—I was powerless to constrain the tears spilling softly down my cheeks. I desperately wanted to be able to reach out for Him, to pull Him back. He no longer seemed to have anything to say to me. He seemed so eerily silent.
But I knew in my heart that it wasn’t God moving away. It was me. My heart ached from the subtle and annoying resurgence of my fierce, self-sufficient independence and complacency. The notion of growing apart from the Lord—of possibly losing sight of Him—was far more agonizing than the vivid memories of the previous three months’ horrors. “God is never so close to the vine as when He is pruning it,” goes an old Scottish saying.
At that moment, the vinedresser appeared to be moving on, and the thought of standing alone in the vineyard was intensely frightening.
Over the past two years, I’d often felt as though I was being butchered. In reality, I was experiencing a re-shaping—a carefully planned cleansing—the dead, adverse, unproductive aspects of my life removed for transport to the incineration pile. They weren’t even material for a recyclable compost heap.
God had brought me back to the “Peniel” of my life that began in April of 1993; brought me back to complete what had to be finished. He’d put me right where He needed me to be to get my attention. Without the ability to run and hide, or to do things my way, I’d been forced to look squarely into the face of God, and not shift my gaze. To hang on with a clutching grip. Like Jacob clinging desperately to God—begging for His blessing—I latched on so tightly I was unable to let go. Now, I didn’t want to release my grip.
“How can ‘thank you’ ever suffice, Lord,” I whispered, “for what You have done for me; for what You have given me? Your grace and mercy are without bounds, and I don’t deserve Your love, or that grace.” I shook my head, in awe of the love I would not and could not—in this lifetime—fully comprehend. “Once again You have proven your faithfulness, even though You do not, and should not, have to prove a thing. Thank you, Lord. Thank you!”
Reluctantly, slowly, I struggled to my feet. With one last aching search of the heavens, I returned to spend another night in the bed of my discipline. Jacob won a victory with God, not by fighting, but by yielding. Yielding to God’ power and perfect love; yielding to His divinity, authority, and mercy. A bed had been the site of my debility and my victory, the location where I’d become fully, acutely aware that I could not walk anyplace without God; that my life would always require His presence. Without Him, I was stagnant, lost, and disabled.
Without Him, I was nothing.
With intense gratefulness, thanksgiving and praise—and a curious feeling of regret—I slipped beneath the covers and fervently attempted to savor the sweet taste of grace and all it had to offer.
NEXT WEEK: Life with a preemie in the NICU…
Until next week,
Thanks for joining me!
bed: photo credit: <a href="https://www.flickr.com/photos/dno1967b/5396498851/">dno1967b</a> via <a href="http://photopin.com">photopin</a> <a href="http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/">cc</a>
stars: photo credit: <a href="https://www.flickr.com/photos/thelotuscarroll/9471450469/">Lotus Carroll</a> via <a href="http://photopin.com">photopin</a> <a href="http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-sa/2.0/">cc</a>