Here’s a little of me, or a lot of me, as I delve into the realm of transcendental precepts and keynotes of faith. This is Lent. It inspires reflections and self-examination hinged on a relationship with God, the Father who, with unconditional love, gave His only son to suffer and die on the cross for the redemption of humanity. I share with you my reflections from a place of vulnerability pivotal to the knowledge of self and to a deeper connection with one who created all. It is prudent to pause from mundane cares and tasks to ruminate on a higher plane, and dive into spiritual depths to grasp what is profoundly significant in life.
I share with you memories of two years ago. I attended a class in church, where discussed was a pastor’s newly published book, “Hooked in the Heart,” a glimpse into his reach for meaning and purpose in real-life episodes and occurrences, all in the context of God’s love and the writer’s place in the order of creation. We talked about the pattern of Psalms in the Bible, generally a sequential cascade of lamentation and praise in poetic expression and form. Form was not the focus, but the psalmist’s sentiments, thoughts and insights. As an exercise, we were encouraged to write our expressions of lament and praise modeled after the Psalms. I had one hurdle to overcome – my claim that lament was not my thoroughfare, praise was. “You are a praise person,” the teacher said to me, and I was smugly pleased. That’s what I wanted to think of myself, and that’s how I preferred others to see me. I considered myself a contented person, not prone to complain to the God who made me and provides me with more than I need. In hindsight, I realize I gloated and took foolish pride in this highly biased perception of myself – not a “lamenter” but a “praiser”. Somewhat arrogant, don’t you think?
A few days after the class I got terribly sick with fever and cough. The fever lingered for days, and the cough grew worse and forceful. I battled with this condition for weeks. No medication worked. Each sleepless night was a rocking bout with the cough, and each day was a painful struggle that rendered me weak. Then, surprise of all surprises, I found myself lamenting to the Lord with guttural complaints like: why am I plagued with this hardship, why do you allow me to be miserable, why do you look away as I grapple with this sickness that renders me weak? And worse, I can’t eat – I reminded Him, as if He didn’t already know. Being unable to eat was my strongest complaint, because I love to eat, and that, He knows. I was restless and even angry that I could not perform any of my house chores, not to mention going to work, or attending to my basic routine needs. My laments flowed in torrents as my strength ebbed. The question on my heart was “Why, Lord, why?” My lips were too dry, my nose skin scaled from frequent blowing, my sides ached from coughing, my head spinning, my mind fuzzy – I complained so much. I kicked up a fuss, spiritually that is. My heart was troubled and in darkness. Where was that praise person that I boasted of being? When would the praise part come, I wondered. I longed to be immersed in praises again.
Then with shameful regret I recalled what I pridefully claimed in the class — that I didn’t like to complain, didn’t like lamentations, and didn’t like dwelling in them. But there I was, uncontrollably engaging in lament and willingly immersing myself in it, like it was a newly discovered tool in my hands. To the Lord I cried out, “I can’t bear this anymore, help me please!” almost with every coughing bout, and every sneeze, and every dizzy spell, for three weeks. On the fourth week, I started to feel some relief, but cough would spurt out now and then, as though to tease me and my spirit. I was humbled.
That fourth week, my praises started to flow back. I felt better, like feeling warm sunshine again on my skin after being holed up in a dusky cave. My cave was my self-misery that brought lamentations. Yes, I was sick, and I chose to drudge in my own muddle of self-pity. But I praised God for pulling me out of that misery, for His boundless mercy, understanding and loving care. His grace humbled me.
My pride is painful to me, a thorn on Jesus’ side. I am sorry that I boasted in my “praise person”. It’s like being prideful of one’s humility, not what my heart desires as a child of God. Psalms reveal sufferings that prompt lament. God understands lamentations. Some come with hope, trust and humility; some, with doubt and confusion. Some are breached from anger and despair. But God’s love, faithfulness and compassion are so much bigger and far reaching than any of those. His loving care is fathomless, through His son, Jesus.
This is my Lenten reflection that I share — with prayer that our hearts are ready to receive the one who truly and unconditionally loves us all – through all our lament and praise, He’s ever present and ever here for us. All He wants is a humble, contrite and child-like heart.
I’m a Lola — but also a child, His child.