We went back to church today.
For the first time since July 3 (besides July 31 when we snuck in the back to hear Presiding Bishop Elizabeth Eaton and then snuck out at the end of church like ninjas), we sat among our brothers and sisters in Christ and brought ourselves before God to worship–to proclaim that even in the darkest of seasons, He is still God.
And you know what? It was hard. But it was also good.
There have been days in the past six weeks that have left me with lots of really hard questions and very few answers. There have been days that have left me feeling hurt and abandoned and disappointed and angry. That’s real life in the midst of tragedy and grief.
There have also been days in the past six weeks that have left me overwhelmed by the incredible power of the love of Christ as experienced through the communion of saints–this great cloud of witnesses that we heard about this morning in the lesson from Hebrews:
“These were all commended for their faith, yet none of them received what had been promised, since God had planned something better for us so that only together with us would they be made perfect. Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider him who endured such opposition from sinners, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.” (Hebrews 11:39-12:3)
This morning, as I sat in worship, I received another beautiful reminder of how this great cloud of witnesses works.
One of the things that has been really difficult for me in this season is singing. Those who know me know that music, and especially worship through music, has always been a very important part of my faith. I’m confident that it still is, and will be an important part of this journey. Yet right now, I am struggling to find my voice for worship.
I try to sing and I start to cry instead. So I stop, and I listen. I hear the voices of those around me–the voices of this great cloud of witnesses–lifting their voices in a season when I find that very difficult, and by them I am carried into the presence of this God who I know to be good despite this difficult season I am in.
I have been working my way through the book I Will Carry You, authored by Angie Smith, the wife of the lead singer of the Christian band Selah. She writes about her journey of faith through the loss of their daughter in 2008. I’ll probably write more as I read and reflect on this book, but as I was reading last night, knowing that we were planning to go back to church today, I was struck by this short passage:
“People constantly ask how it is that I am not angry with the Lord. My honest answer is that I have been angry, and I have been disappointed. What I have not been, and what I refuse to be, is disbelieving.” (Smith, I Will Carry You, 106)
I’ve been angry. I’ve been disappointed and sad. I’ve asked a lot of hard questions. I’ve used some more colorful than usual language. And I’ve found it difficult to worship God through song. But in the midst of all of that, there is a great cloud of witnesses that sings when we cannot. That prays when we have difficulty finding the words. That is carrying us through this difficult season of our lives. And for that, I am eternally grateful. And because of that, I will continue to trust in a God that suffers and weeps and mourns with us. Because that, my friends, is a good good God.
So, church today was hard. But it was also good. We were welcomed with hugs and with reminders that we have been and are being prayed for. We were reminded that it’s okay to not be okay, and that there are a whole lot of people who love us. More than anything, though, we were reminded that there is a great cloud of witnesses walking with us through this season of life.