God, you’re my last chance of the day.
I spend the night on my knees before you.
Put me on your salvation agenda;
take notes on the trouble I’m in.
I’ve had my fill of trouble;
I’m camped on the edge of hell.
On every level. Emotional, physical, spiritual.
Last Saturday under a heavy chemo cloud that was simply unrelenting and suffocating, I sat out on my patio, arms extended, saying, “Take me! Come on! I’m ready! Are you enjoying this?”
Where is that fiery chariot with the divine whirlwind in its wake when you need it?
I thrust my arms upward repeatedly. Repeated jumpstarts accomplishing nothing.
Zombified and ready to be done with it. Desperate for a turn, but that turn remaining frustratingly over the horizon, out of grasp, unattainable. No relief. No let up. “Mike, you are handling all this with such grace; you are such an inspiration.” Such encouragement turns to mockery at such times. If you could only see me now.
“I hate my life.”
I’m written off as a lost cause,
one more statistic, a hopeless case.
Abandoned as already dead,
one more body in a stack of corpses,
And not so much as a gravestone—
I’m a black hole in oblivion.
You’ve dropped me into a bottomless pit,
sunk me in a pitch-black abyss.
Twenty-four hours later it was as if a switch had turned.
Life moves in again like a flood.
Oh yeah, that’s what life feels like.
And I find myself saying, “I love my life. I love my wife. Thank you for not listening to me.”
Amazing the difference twenty-four hours can make in chemoland or any land, for that matter.
My most poignant reminder yet.
Wait for the turn.
When moving into the grimy and gritty paths of significant disruption and disorientation as Brueggeman describes and the Psalms bear witness to, it’s an agonizingly dark abyss. Time seems to literally stand still, to hang limply in the air hovering over your misery, amplifying, accentuating it. There is no light, no praise, no stiff upper lip. It’s Psalm 88 territory.
I’m battered senseless by your rage,
relentlessly pounded by your waves of anger.
You turned my friends against me,
made me horrible to them.
I’m caught in a maze and can’t find my way out,
blinded by tears of pain and frustration.
There is no glimmer of hope expressed in Psalm 88. No countering silver lining. No other hand. No hymnlike comfort. No, “If the skies above you are grey, you are feeling so blue; if your cares and burdens seem great, all the whole day through; there’s a silver lining that shines in the heavenly land; look by faith and see it my friend, trust in his promises grand. Sing and be happy, press on to the goal, trust him who leads you he will heal your soul; let all be faithful, look to him and pray; lift your voice and praise him in song, sing and be happy today.”
I want to kill that hymnist.
At least I do in the land of Psalm 88. In the land before the turn.
I call to you, God; all day I call.
I wring my hands, I plead for help.
Are the dead a live audience for your miracles?
Do ghosts ever join the choirs that praise you?
Does your love make any difference in a graveyard?
Is your faithful presence noticed in the corridors of hell?
Are your marvelous wonders ever seen in the dark,
your righteous ways noticed in the Land of No Memory?
I’m standing my ground, God, shouting for help,
at my prayers every morning, on my knees each daybreak.
Why, God, do you turn a deaf ear?
Why do you make yourself scarce?
Where are the songs of lament, of crisis, of darkness and despair in our enlightened Christian liturgies? If we mention darkness, we pass it over quickly, a quick tip of the hat, a bare glance before recommencing our triumphal choruses of flowery faith and hope and all things bright and beautiful. And in so doing we gut the suffering and short circuit true hope for that matter. Hope is always born in the valley of genuinely felt and anguished despair. Only in such places does it become more than a tenent of faith, a worshipful wish, a lark of shallow optimism that only cuts and isolates the anguished heart and makes it search for the appropriate mask of cheerful courage, of bucking up as we reach for those bootstraps – or reach for the means of actually ending it all.
For as long as I remember I’ve been hurting;
I’ve taken the worst you can hand out, and I’ve had it.
Your wildfire anger has blazed through my life;
I’m bleeding, black-and-blue.
You’ve attacked me fiercely from every side,
raining down blows till I’m nearly dead.
You made lover and neighbor alike dump me;
the only friend I have left is Darkness.
Yep. That’s how Psalm 88 ends. Darkness. Nothing. Nada. Nil.
Such pain must be validated, not soothed; borne, not massaged. Only then can we truly help others, help ourselves.
To wait for the turn…