God was gone. When I prayed, it felt like I was talking to myself. I had heard the phrase “winter of the soul”. I was in the Arctic.
I knew how to pray. I could use good words like “Thee” and “Thou”. I understood how to use repetition and quote scriptures as I prayed. These things I had been taught before I could speak. Now my words bounced back.
Where was God?
My husband had left me. I had no job, no skills and no money. I had three children and a body full of terror. Having been raised to “do” the right things, I just kept on doing. But it wasn’t helping.
Day after day, the freeze continued. I read my Bible. The words were just words…without meaning. Our church had told me I was no longer welcome, so I had no fellowship…no Bible study to attend. I had no friends.
I was turning to ice.
One day I stood in my kitchen and looked toward the ceiling. Yelling at God had never been in my repertoire, but I had reached the end. I heard my mouth questioning God.
“What are you doing? I know you said you wouldn’t give me more than I could take, but you must know more about me than I do (duh). So where is all that strength you promised? I can’t take much more. I need answers.”
I waited for the lightening bolt. I still lived.
Not knowing anything else to try, I continued to read my Bible and pray. I became a robot. Day after day passed. Still no God anywhere.
As the weeks went by, I began to just talk to God as I worked around the house. I knew it wasn’t being reverent…and I wasn’t kneeling…but I needed someone to talk to. After I survived several sessions of talking, my initial fear that He would do something to me for being so disrespectful dissipated.
He really was gone.
So I stopped reading the Bible. No more praying. I spent that time inside my head…checking myself out. What exactly did I believe? Why did I believe it? Was that belief in the Bible, or was it just my mother talking? Did I want to be like my mother? I was afraid to be honest with myself. God wouldn’t like it.
But something was very wrong.
What kind of parent could I be when I was so numb? How could I answer their questions when I had no answers for my own?
The ice was about to crack and swallow me up.
There had been no tears. Deep inside, I knew I deserved whatever punishment I was receiving. Therefore, I accepted that this was how my life would be. No feelings. No warmth. Just frigid existence.
But my religious training kicked in. Not reading the Bible and not praying made me feel even worse. So I tried it one more time. Lying on my stomach across the bed, the Bible open beside me, I prayed one last desperate prayer.
“God, I need you to help me. Please show me what I’m supposed to do.”
Would you believe that the Bible just happened to be open to Jeremiah 29:11? Those are the words my eyes fell on, when I lowered them to read.
“For I know the plans I have for you," declares the LORD, "plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.”
Obviously I had not understood the words correctly. The God I knew did not care about prospering me or giving me hope. His job was to make sure I toed the mark and did everything right.
So I read them again. Yep, they still said the same thing. I read them again and again. The words stayed the same. But deep inside me I felt a tiny spark of warmth. I had been taught the Bible was true. So could I believe these words? Why had I never heard of them before?
In my despair, I longed for something to hang on to. I continued to read those words. The warmth spread. I talked to God again. It began to feel good. Did He really want to give me hope? Where had He been?
Gently I heard Him say, “I’m not the one who moved.”
Slowly, ever so slowly, the ice began to melt. I began a relationship…with a friend…who I could talk to.
He had been there all the time.
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