And, after dusting off your Bible and dancing shoes, why not practice ‘feeling’ again? (How can you dance, if you cannot feel the music?) How long has it been? A week… a month… a year? Maybe a life-time ago, since you decided to stop feeling all that pain …that it is easier to shut down your heart, and feel nothing, than to experience that raw encounter with your own mind and heart?
There is no strength in shutting down. I know. I did it for a long time, just to survive. And I learned that denial is not the path of greater courage; it is the path of defeat. It takes courage to walk through the pain and grief that are inevitably part of human experience. We all suffer. The difference lies in facing pain courageously, or pretending it doesn’t exist.
Personally, I vote to bring the Wailing Wall back. We have become so cultured that at a time when weeping loudly, wailing, and crying out would be most appropriate, we sit stoically, straightening our collars, pressing imaginary wrinkles from our skirts and tucking every hair in place, willing ourselves not to experience reality. And then we label it ‘self-control’ and slap the word ‘biblical’ on it because, well, the Bible does talk about temperance.
Yes, yes it does. It talks about temperance and doing all things decently and in order. And I would say that it might be ‘in order’ to fall apart, now and then. King David, a great man to whom a country looked for guidance, was a mess before God (and the people) on more than one occasion. After seeing his own sin and losing his ‘love-child’ because of that sin, he grieved before God. Job sat in a state of depression (for how long?) after he lost everything that mattered to him, except his own soul and his God, and a few miserable friends. Both great men. Yet, both would be judged ruthlessly in today’s society… and church.
How did we get to this image-based-performance way of doing life? God gave us feelings, emotions and the resilience to get through the ‘dark hell’ of life. It is in that darkness, often, and in those times of deep feeling, where we discover the love and faithfulness of God in ways that no stoic performance can offer. Keeping it together appeases the people around us so that they can be comfortable in our grieving and our pain. God forbid that they should awaken and begin to feel their own things, because of our inability to present that image. But what if the anger, frustration or disdain they feel for us is something God wants to break through? What if the pain they hide is the pain they need to feel before they can go deeper? And what if the way for them to experience these encounters is through our vulnerability?
Jeremiah 31 tells the journey to dancing and living with joy, from a place of bondage and loss of identity. The journey begins where many are content to stay, with survival. But, staying stuck in survival prevents us from discovering grace and rest:
2 “The people who survived the sword found grace in the wilderness…
when I went to give him rest…”
But God’s love draws us into a place of newness, of hope, of being rebuilt:
3 The Lord has appeared of old to me, saying:
“Yes, I have loved you with an everlasting love;
Therefore with lovingkindness I have drawn you.
4 Again I will build you, and you shall be rebuilt …”
God doesn’t rebuild in some haphazard, ramshackle, ‘good luck’ kind of way. No, He restores us to that wholeness for which He initially designed and created us. He tells it, using virginity as the symbolism. And we all know, when virginity is lost, it is gone, physically. And yet God…
4 …I will build you, and you shall be rebuilt…O virgin of Israel!
He promises, having restored and rebuilt and seeing us as though we never lost the purity and innocence of relationship with Him, He will take us further. “Dust off you dancing shoes,” He says, “and get dressed up. Grab your musical instruments! You’ve got some rejoicing to do! Sing with gladness! Shout! Proclaim, give praise and say, O Lord, save Your people!” (v 6b-7 paraphrased)
And all of this He says to His people who are in a place of captivity, still waiting for deliverance. They have nothing but His promises and commands to go on. In their bondage, He tells them to give praise and cry out “O Lord, save Your people!” (This isn’t the ‘after party’ to celebrate freedom! It is the ‘claiming of a promise’ and trusting God, our Heavenly Papa, to fulfill it!)
And then He says how He will deliver, and it sounds a little less ‘pretty’ and ‘together’. They will come from every part of the earth, including women ‘with child‘ and those in labour with children. A great throng will come; among them the blind and the lame–those who have a difficult time seeing the way, and struggling to get ahead. Those are the ones God will rebuild and heal! (Verse 8 paraphrased)
Oh the messy walk with God, to places He longs to lead us into!
“9 They shall come with weeping...”
And there, in broken places, God leads them with supplication, pleading earnestly for them to press on. Picture our Heavenly Papa, on His knees, gently encouraging the lame struggling to walk, the blind hardly able to grasp truth, the weary pregnant, vulnerable ones, “You’re going to make it… follow me… there’s a straight path here… trust me… I’ve got you and won’t let you stumble!”
And why does He do this? Ah, my friends, because He is a “Papa!” Like that first time daddy, amazed and intrigued, crazy in love with a first born child…. That’s a daddy heart I trust!
“...For I am a Father …!”
~ T ~
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