The Heartache of an Echo
By Thom Hunter -- http://thom-signsofastruggle.blogspot.com/
“Where is God? ...Go to Him when your need is desperate, when all other help is vain, and what do you find? A door slammed in your face, and a sound of bolting and double-bolting on the inside. After that, silence.” – C.S. Lewis, after the death of his wife. My grandfather was a man of few words. At least he was to me. I was often just an intrusive little boy who always forgot to not slam the screen door when running in and out. I'd yell out an "I'm sorry" as I bounded down the porch steps or down the hall. Paw-Paw, sitting at a card table playing Solitaire, would usually just make a grunting noise in return, not looking up from the cards, though once I paused and saw him smile. That told me a lot more than the grunt. I regret now that I was always dashing in and out and passing his table with little thought. He was so accessible, but for some reason I felt he would have little to say, not a lot in common, and might want me to linger longer than I wanted to. So, I dashed and slammed. What was so much more important? Hide-and-seek with the now-forgotten
neighborhood kids in our connecting yards? A comic book down the hall that needed reading? I wonder if the slamming door echoed in the emptiness of the room in which he often sat alone playing his cards or eating syrup on bread? How long did the smile stay on his face? I do know that my grandfather was not a man of few words with everyone. He helped my older brother assemble a motorcycle. That takes more than a grunt. And I do remember him putting some pretty stern and loud polish on a few words here and there . . . again usually spoken to my brother, often from the front porch as the motorcycle disappeared down the street. Probably sent the neighbor kids into a deeper form of hide-and seek. I wouldn't necessarily say Paw-Paw had a way with words, seeing as how he somehow gave my grandmother the nickname "Bump," a term of endearment she endured until his death and probably repeated in her peaceful thoughts until her own. What words would he have had for me had I listened? Would I have had a nickname? What might Paw-Paw have wanted to hear had I slowed and sat a moment at the table? Maybe he was much more interested in me than I thought. I believe he was. Maybe he would have said more if I had sought more. I believe he would have. I' never picture God as a grandfather, puttering around in the garage for spare parts to make this or that work again. He doesn't tinker. He ticked the first tick and knows all and sees all and hears all . . . but sometimes I think He plays a little Solitaire. How about Hearts instead, God? Deal me in. I know that God is omni-present; but it seems every now and then He is omni-absent. The sign on the door says "Gone Fishing," the lights are out, the doorbell dings in an empty room, the No Vacancy sign is on . . . drive on down the road . . . alone. Yes, I know that is not true; He never leaves me; He never leaves you. Even as I sit here and write questions about His absence, He knows each keystroke in advance. But . . . will He keep me from misspelling? Bad grammar? No. Wasn't He there, in the Garden of Eden, right after Adam and Eve's encounter with the serpent? His Word says God came walking up in the cool of the day. Surely He was also there in the heat of the moment. Yet He didn't clear his throat and wag his finger and say
"Ummm . . . Eve . . no, no, no." So Eve did, did, did and we've been done for since. God was oddly silent and then clearly loud. I'll admit that it bothers me a bit to know that God was with me before I slipped and, with all the power of the universe, watched me tumble, twist and turn on the way down, hit the bottom with a gut-wrenching and bone-jarring thud . . . and then comes out in the cool of the day as if He had not seen it all happen. Is He really a "what's up?" God? No. “Wait for the Lord. Be strong and let your heart take courage. Yes, wait for the Lord.” -- Psalm 27:14 But I don't want to wait. I want to act. I want to meet a . . . need? Iwant! How many of us, when we are dialing a number we shouldn't know; turning into an area we shouldn't go, logging on to a website we shouldn't see, acting like someone we shouldn't be . . . say to ourselves: "Wait . . . Let me ask God about this?" It's easy to say He's not speaking when we're not pausing. It's pure spiritual finger-pointing to say He's not responding when we're not reflecting. I think sometimes we think we might prefer a "No . . . No . . . No . . ." wagging-a-warning finger God. And we would, of course, gently lay down our pride, sweep aside our defiance, thank Him profusely for keeping us from falling, pledge our undying trust and obey without question. Or perhaps we would eat of the fruit; gain the knowledge we do not need; satisfy the glutton side of our spirit and waddle into our all-too-familiar rescue me mode. Fact of the matter is, God does wag a "No . . . No. . . No. . . " finger in our faces. We just ignore it and say we didn't hear Him. Are we actually expecting God to come sit by our bedside and read His Word aloud to us at night? My son, do not forget my teaching, but keep my commands in your heart, for they will prolong your life many years and bring
you prosperity. Let love and faithfulness never leave you; bind them around your neck, write them on the tablet of your heart. Then you will win favor and a good name in the sight of God and man. Trust in the LORD with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make your paths straight. Do not be wise in your own eyes; fear the LORD and shun evil. -- Proverbs 3:1-7 OK . . . I'll do that. But . . . remind me. Okay, God? I just might forget. Oops . . . that was how the verse began: "do not forget." And it asks me to "keep." Keep what? Those commands I so easily tossed to lighten the load as I traveled down the me-want road. And . . . oh yeah . . . He wanted me to write "love and faithfulness" on the tablet of my heart. But . . . that's my heart. There's not much writing room left; I've done a lot of scribbling and mark-outs through the years trying to satisfy the longings of my heart. Of course then He wants me to trust. Trust? Lust? Tough choices we face in this life. He says if I trust Him instead of myself . . . he will take all those crooked detours, jagged fault lines, dangerous drop-offs, impossible mountains . . . those cliffs . . . out of my path and make it "straight." We're not talking sexual semantics here . . . we're talking direction . . . which can certainly lead to some serious sexual semantics. So what else does this "silent" God, who has looked up at me as I once again slammed a door in haste, have to say? He says for me to not "be wise in my own eyes." Who knew that the pursuit of wisdom could be so dangerous? Well . . . Eve, I guess, in retrospect. Adam, too. And, oh yes, the serpent. But he knew it all along. Surely God doesn't want me to just be stupid? I'd get into so much trouble. Oh . . . yeah. That. For the foolishness of God is wiser than man's wisdom, and the weakness of God is stronger than man's strength. -- I Corinthians 1:25 I remember driving out onto a lonely hill at the edge of the town I grew up in, seeing the lights in the distance and thinking of each of them as a porch light in a home where everything was right and good, every body tucked in for the night, every heart satisfied, every mind at rest, every soul at peace. Lacking the courage to call out to God, I repeated instead within my
mind what all was not right with my world . . . my home . . . my heart . . . my soul . . . my peace. And those words echoed within the emptiness . . . and brought me heartache. I had come to the hill alone . . . and remained there alone . . . and departed alone. My choice. We may come to the garden alone . . . but we shouldn't leave that way. He is so accessible, but He might want us to linger a little longer than we want to. So, we dash and slam. "Oops . . . sorry." What must really be difficult for God -- if anything could ever so be labeled -- is to hear the echoes of His own Word as it descends into our valleys and reverberates against the emptiness we feel as we seek to satisfy our selves with increasing self-absorption. We want to move that mountain, cross that valley, swim that ocean . . . and then . . . when totally satiated, cry out "Where were you, God?" With you. The heartache of His echo. I know sometimes it seems that we are all alone in whatever battle has worked to separate us from His love, whatever temptation has tattered our goodness, whatever sin has led to our shunning. But we are never alone. We would not, could not, will not be alone. Having trouble finding your own way out of your mess? Tempted to blame God, declaring Him absorbed in some sort of Solitaire while you slowly slip away? Maybe, in some small way, God really is like Paw-Paw. Maybe I would hear more than a grunt; see more than a passing smile . . . if I would open a few doors here and there instead of slamming them as I proceed to and fro on my own. Maybe if I played a little less hide-andseek, put away the comics -- the pursuit of happiness as defined by culture -- and paused at the table, talked to Him, listened to Him, pulled out the chair, sat down . . . and waited. Like He asked me to do in the first place. Remember: “Wait for the Lord. Be strong and let your heart take courage. Yes, wait for the Lord.” -- Psalm 27:14 You know, that's what I always wanted: to be strong, to have courage. And He said I could. If I would wait for Him. I bet that was a resounding echo.
I do love God. And, with God, Solitaire is a team sport. One heart. Next time you find yourself feeling the pain of self-induced pity at your pitiful plight of weakness in the face of temptation, remember: Wait. Be strong. Take courage. Wait. We don't do that very well, do we? Waiting. Waiting on the Lord. Want . . . wait. A choice that can lead us into a celebration of conversation or a heartache of echoes, purpose or pain, oneness or aloneness. Victory or defeat. Restoration or repetition. A straight path or an endless cycle. God is never silent. He spoke it all in advance of every question. God Bless, Thom