A close friend shared her story with some of us friends a couple nights ago. It started out so beautiful and miraculous.
She told us about a summer when they prayed 8-10 hours a day as they traveled through Asia, transforming the Atheist hostels they stayed in. And how God told her to tell an alcoholic abusive neighbor about Christ, but when she got home he himself had unexpectedly come to her door to ask her to tell him about Jesus. She told of starting a “Family Meal” each week which grew to 60 regulars, bringing people in the neighborhood to Christ left and right. They were even approached by their pastor to start a church plant. She told how God told her and her roommates to let a homeless couple live with them.
As she told us about these good times she looked at the ground humbly, and spoke slowly, cherishing the memories.
But then she told about a relationship that God, as far as she could tell, instructed her to pursue. But as she let her heart grow around this person, the instructions seemed to change for both of them and led to a devastating rejection that pulled her into an abyss of depression and mental instability.
Over the course of five years she started cutting herself, and pondering suicide. Anxiety attacks totally incapacitated her, and eventually on a very lonely day she desperately checked herself into a mental health hospital. She said that during that time she laid the words “Fuck you, God” down in her journal so often that she was surprised that God did not just say, “enough with you.”
But again she teared up as she recounted things like how the same homeless couple (that they had helped get their own house) let my friend live in their living room. Every night the wife would tuck their kids in and come down and listen to my friend pour out her heart until the morning hours, day after day. Then my friend smiled with a deep love as she told how one of her friends offered to pay the $10,000 to go to a specific mental hospital that my friend thought could help.
These were some of the most beautiful tears I think maybe I have ever seen. These tears landed somewhere inside of me. They wet a place rarely visited with a flavor I had rarely tasted.
Before that night it was hard for me to understand why God would allow such suffering to happen to someone who was so surrendered. Does God really call this abundant life?
But listening to her, I felt shallow compared to my friend. As she talked, it made me wonder if most of us skip over the surface of life at the speed of culture. I picture a boat hydroplaning over a vast ocean of life- one shore being birth, and the other being death. We strive to cover over any bit of brokenness, and medicate any bit of discomfort.
But my friend had obediently slowed down long enough for some dark, heavy anchor to make a noose around her foot and pull her silently, frantically under the surface. She knows the feeling of the taut rope tightening around her ankle. She knows the eminent, helpless feeling of water covering her head, filling her nostrils. The pressure and darkness closing in, totally independent of how much she struggled against it. She has seen the scary and hellish depths the human soul is capable of feeling.
And i have only felt the glossy tips of the waves on the surface of the water.
But my friend is probably now the most in-love, devoted, passionate, adventure-filled person I know. I love listening to her stories.
I think we will tell stories in heaven. And some of us will talk about bible studies and Sunday school and about which praise songs were our favorite. I kinda cringe to think about that.
But others will be telling their heart-wrenching stories of redemption and children and sages alike will gather and listen for hours at their feet. And I picture it will be spoken humbly and quietly as my friend did. I picture how they would talk, tearing up like my friend did, looking at the ground, except to glance at the children or their friends in the crowd. . . and hoping to see from the corners of their eyes a glimpse of their Jesus, the author of their story coming and standing at the edge of the crowd.
So, since that day when my friend told us her story, I have started viewing abundant living a little differently. I do not look forward to suffering like she has. In fact I’m scared to ask for it. But I’m beginning to think some of us are more privileged with the responsibility to carry the burden than the rest of us.
The life of seeking God is not for the timid, unless you are ready to surrender that timidity. The followers of God may be raked through coals, they may have the hell ripped right out of them, they may find themselves naked on a hard floor, having been robbed of everything they have ever hoped for and earned. And they find Him there, because He went there for us.
And those are the ones that know him better, and know him closer than you and I ever will.