Friday, April 17, 2009

Burst strength

I was reading a thread on the Sonlight Lifelong Learners (LLL) forum, a place where all sorts of people come to ask the questions and talk about the things that people--Christian and non-Christian--don't normally talk about. Not at the gut-wrenching depth that the participants in LLL discuss them.

LLL is a private place. You can't go there unless you're a customer of Sonlight or pay for entrance.

Once you get in, however, you'll find a wide range of participants. People of all manner of faith--or unbelief, or downright antagonism toward faith.

But you'll get their honest perspectives . . . --something, as I said, you'll rarely find anywhere else. At least not accompanied (usually) by relatively gracious attitudes, even when the speaker is hostile toward your perspective.

So I was reading this thread instigated by a woman who asked,
Have any of you been Christians and are no longer?

How did you get to this place?

I would very much appreciate talking about this with someone.
And then, upon prompting, "explained" what was really on her mind:
I am tired. And feel done.

Grew up in church. None of it came home if you know what I mean.

Married [my husband] 24 years ago. Drug him to church totally against his will. He claims to be a believer; a Christian. Hates church. Went for our kids.

Non-denom[inational church] for 3 years. Kicked out of the church by the pastor because we broke the rules and brought our sleeping infant into the "Family Room" (what they call the sanctuary.........what a joke).

Went to a Calvary Chapel for 5 years. Felt lost the entire time. Everyone had the "be there every time the doors are open" philosophy, and the "serve in just about every capacity you are able" philosophy, and if you don't, absolutely expect no connections whatsoever.

Left after 5 years because I was drug into a meeting and told I had to disclose information about some gossip going around in the homeschooling group, and I had one week to do so.

Went to a different Calvary Chapel for 3 years.

Left because I had twins and was exhausted and told my close friend, the pastor's wife, that I needed some time at home. We were told, "We'll be here when you get back" and they stuck to no contact whatsoever.

I desperately needed my "church family" (sorry............pains me to say that word) but we were only worthy of friendship if we were THERE on Sunday.

No break warranted.

Been out of church for 2 years. Husband could care less.

Where is God in all of this?

This was one of the longer threads I have ever seen on LLL: over 300 posts in the course of a week of intense dialog.

At the tail end of the thread the original poster wrote,
I had a tough week last week and think so much just came to a head. A close friend lost her brother to a suicide and it just brought me to this place of re-living my father's suicide 11 yrs. ago. Add to that 4 straight days of basketball tournament; 10 hour days bouncing from game to game, city to city, with twins put me over the edge. . . .

I . . . feel this burning question: "Just how much do you think I can take????"
The actual post included additional comments that indicated greater resolution than I am reporting here. But it is that burning question at the end of the portion I have here quoted that elicited one final comment by another person:
I have asked this question a few times in recent years--while I know that 1 Corinthians 10:13 ["No temptation has overtaken you but such as is common to man; and God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will provide the way of escape also, so that you will be able to endure it." --JAH] is TRUE, sometimes it gets so close to that line that I feel like I'm going to break.

I actually read a poem about this the other day... lemme find it:
"A Psalm While Packing Boxes"
by Joseph Bayly

This cardboard box, Lord, see it says
“Bursting limit 200 lbs. per square inch.”
The box maker knew how much strain
the box would take, what weight would crush it.
You are wiser than the box maker
Maker of my spirit, my mind, my body.
Does the box know
when pressure increases close to the limit?
No, it knows nothing.
But l know when my breaking point is near.
And so I pray,
Maker of my soul
Determiner of the pressure within upon me
Stop it
lest I be broken
or else
change the pressure rating
of this fragile container of Your grace
so that I may bear more.
I looked to find where this psalm came from.

In the midst of my search for the source, I discovered that Mr. Bayly lost three teenage sons. The source didn't say this psalm was the direct result of those losses. But it certainly implied a connection. And I can imagine it.


Having read the story of Mr. Bayly's losses, I am reminded of Horatio Spafford and the inspiration for his great hymn, "It Is Well with My Soul" (something my siblings and I sang at our mother's funeral 20-some years ago. (It was her favorite hymn and, certainly, one of mine as well.)

Spafford's story (as told in Wikipedia):
[It Is Well with My Soul] was written after several traumatic events in Spafford’s life. The first was the death of his only son in 1871, shortly followed by the great Chicago Fire which ruined him financially (he had been a successful lawyer).

Then in 1873, he had planned to travel to Europe with his family on the S.S. Ville du Havre, but sent the family ahead while he was delayed on business concerning zoning problems following the Great Chicago Fire. While crossing the Atlantic, the ship sank rapidly after a collision with a sailing ship, the Loch Earn, and all four of Spafford's daughters died.

His wife Anna survived and sent him the now famous telegram, "Saved alone." Shortly afterwards, as Spafford traveled to meet his grieving wife, he was inspired to write these words as his ship passed near where his daughters had died.
In that context, then, the significance of Mr. Spafford's hymn is almost beyond imagination:
When peace like a river attendeth my way,
When sorrows like sea billows roll;
Whatever my lot, Thou hast taught me to say,
It is well, it is well, with my soul.

It is well with my soul,
It is well with my soul,
It is well, it is well, with my soul.

Though Satan should buffet, though trials should come,
Let this blest assurance control:
That Christ has regarded my helpless estate,
And hath shed His own blood for my soul.

My sin, oh, the bliss of this glorious thought!
My sin, not in part, but the whole,
Is nailed to the cross, and I bear it no more,
Praise the Lord, praise the Lord, O my soul!

For me, be it Christ, be it Christ hence to live:
If Jordan above me shall roll,
No pang shall be mine, for in death as in life,
Thou wilt whisper Thy peace to my soul.

But Lord, 'tis for Thee, for Thy coming we wait,
The sky, not the grave, is our goal;
Oh, trump of the angel! Oh, voice of the Lord!
Blessed hope, blessed rest of my soul.

And Lord, haste the day when my faith shall be sight,
The clouds be rolled back as a scroll;
The trump shall resound, and the Lord shall descend,
Even so, it is well with my soul.
I pray, somehow, that Mr. Bayly's psalm and Mr. Spafford's hymn as well might, somehow, prove helpful to you today.
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