Today at (in)courage, I share a slice of Lean on Me. Here’s a sample for you.
I’m so grateful these women were so generous to share a little bit of this book that was many years in the making.
And, oh yeah. I punched a wall in it.
Over a year had passed since my divorce, and God’s silence was still too much for me. I was out of town, and in my hotel room one evening. I wept. For hours. Why? Why? Why? Where are you? I don’t understand.
Still nothing. Still silence. The numbness morphed into anger. I drew myself up on to my knees and faced the headboard of the bed. I considered a drastic choice — a choice that would go against everything I learned a Christian should do.
Flashbacks of Sunday school and Bible verses and my life as a good preacher’s daughter — as a woman in ministry — went flying behind my eyes. In between the flares of my anger and hurt were memories of holy moments. I reflected on the night of my ordination when I was twenty-nine, the elders of my church leaning over me and putting their hands on my head, my shoulders, kneeling beside me as they commissioned me. I thought of my grandfather on his deathbed, telling me to never give up on the church. The moments of grace given to me by friends and the times my heart grew supple and receptive. How many times did I kneel at the altar? “Anne, the body of Christ broken for you; the blood of Christ shed for you.” I ate the bread. I drank the wine. My tears were in the crevices of the wooden floor in front of the place I would kneel Sunday after Sunday.
But somehow, this reel of sacred and lovely memories wasn’t enough.
So much. So much. So much fury and grief and silence and loudness, and it was all in a vacuum that finally opened, a breaking point that was broken, and everything went soaring from the secret places where they hid into a very material atmosphere.
In that moment, I didn’t care. I didn’t quietly renounce Him. I yelled. I put my fist to the wall in the hotel room. Not only did I swear God off, I swore at God, dropping four-letter words that were difficult for me to hear as they slipped out of my mouth. I threw the pillows as hard as I could across the room screaming at Him to leave me alone.
I am through. With. You.
I stared at the pillows on the floor and felt my right hand throb from its violent contact with the wall. With a red, swollen face, my eyes eventually closed and I fell asleep.
I woke the next morning covered in anxiety. I turned on my computer and did a search for “Catholic churches.” I needed to confess. I needed some form of penitence. An atonement. I called the church and a sweet older woman’s voice greeted me on the other line. I set up confession with a Catholic priest in a town where nobody knew me and begged him to give me some way to earn back grace. I am not even Catholic.
He was the priest and he was from Tanzania and in seminary. Because I wasn’t Catholic, he couldn’t offer me confession. But he offered me a seat in his office and wise, wise words.
My battle with God the night before was not a way for God to opt out but a way for me to allow Him in even further. I was not the prodigal son. I was the older brother. Like the father in that parable in Luke, God came outside His celebration to see why I wasn’t joining in. I pushed my list of demands on Him. I didn’t want Him. I wanted relief. The prodigal son was covered in an obvious filth when his father met him: the slop of pigs and sweat and dirt from his humiliating journey home. I was covered in my own loam, though not so material: my fear, my control, my entitlement, my cursing, my rejection of Him.
I could not earn his love and I could not remove it from me. We cannot remove God’s love from us. It is like, as Rilke says, one of those “things that will not ever leave.”