For the last three weeks, I’ve been holding a creative writing workshop in my apartment. This represents a new frontier–I’ve taught writing before, but not in my own home. Feelings of vulnerability, anxiety, awkwardness, fear arise as they do for me, and probably for many of us, when we foray into fresh territory.
These are all alleviated, as they always are (if at all), by the actual people–there are three of them, and they have all in this short amount of time become dear to me.
Last night, to kick off the class, I gave the following writing prompt: “Write your life story in five sentences.” I decided to participate, too.
So I hit the timer for ten minutes and these are the five sentences that immediately sprang to mind and heart: “Suffering. Suffering. Suffering. Suffering, Suffering.”
Suffering of course is not the WHOLE story. I managed to come up with a little narrative that included the suffering but also the joy, light, resurrection. And the students’ stories were each, in their way, killer.
Still, this morning in prayer I reflected upon that wellstream of pain that clearly lies deep within–or maybe not as deep as I’d thought, but rather just below the surface.
Then as I do every morning I read a page from Oswald Chambers’ My Utmost For His Highest.
Oswald (1874-1917) was a Protestant Holiness Movement evangelical minister and he is always scolding about, among other things, how God doesn’t want our “service,” he wants us! All of us. He’ll figure out what to do with our talents and gifts. We allow God to “help himself” to us–as if we were a meal, or a pile of clothing, or a flower!
Which is actually sound spirituality and sound theology. So while ordinarily I would give someone of his description a wide berth, I have come to view Oswald as a dear Friend.
Anyway, his entry for February 27 reads in part:
“Have you been limiting, or impoverishing, the ministry of Jesus to the point that He is unable to work in your life? Suppose that you have a deep “well” of hurt and trouble inside your heart, and Jesus comes to you and says to you, “Let not your heart be troubled…” (John 14:1). Would your response be to shrug your shoulders and say, “But, Lord, the well is too deep, and even You can’t draw up quietness and comfort out of it.”…The thing that approaches the very limits of His power is the very thing we as disciples of Jesus ought to believe He will do.”
I thought of the initial five-sentence life story that had sprung immediately to mind the night before. I thought: Have I ever TRULY invited Christ in to the deepest well of my being to heal me? Do I believe he COULD heal that huge and hemorrhaging a wound?
Suddenly I thought of Lazarus, dead for three days in the tomb, wrapped in bandages, his wounds festering, his body already decomposing. His sisters Mary and Martha had asked Christ to come and for three days had been waiting for him, wringing their hands: Please, Jesus, come into even these wounds, the wounds of death and putrefaction. [John 11:1-44].
Lazarus is a metaphor for all of us: our humanity, the death sentence that’s imposed on us simply by virtue of being born, the hurts and twistings of our psyches that for many of us date back to childhood and that seem so impervious to change and healing.
I bowed my head and for a second, from the depths of my being, truly prayed: “Lord, please heal this wellspring of hurt”–that dates back before memory; that is in large part generational; that has in many ways ruled my life.
“Lord I believe, help thou my unbelief.”
As often happens with sincere prayer, I wept.
And immediately, I felt, along with Mary and Martha: “Why didn’t you come sooner, Lord? Why did you wait so long?”