In my last blog from two days ago, I reported on the sermon on Jonah chapter 2 preached last Sunday at Holy Trinity Church, Huddersfield. I got me thinking.
I became disabled over thirteen years ago, that’s one-fifth of my lifetime. Initially, I was OK, but I started to struggle more and more with the church during the early part of that time.
I don’t think the church was ready at that time for someone who was unrestful. I don’t think that a church that spoke often about being quiet to speak to God would not be comfortable with someone who wished to scream at God.
But I was probably depressed as well, had I been given advice I would have got myself checked out. The advice I got that I had to change the way I was behaving. This advice was also given for the angry temper I had, which I later learned were autistic meltdowns. But then churches, particularly evangelical ones, are very bad with autism.
But I came through. The sermon last Sunday spoke about when you cannot break out of a situation God breaks in. In my case, I found that God was already there, in the dark places of my life listening to my prayers, even the ones which were expressed in screams. Screaming at God is among the most honest prayers I have ever made. God didn’t so much break-in as wait for me. God is patient and kind.
I have found this on social media, source unknown.
Disability causes us to have to look straight at suffering head-on in the same way we look at Christ’s passion, causing us to look away from things we find just too painful and we long for that Easter party.
Chronic pain isn’t easy. But if we take the suffering of Jesus seriously, if we are to take the words of Jesus seriously when he said those who follow him will suffer, if we are to take Jesus seriously at all then we have to find that Jesus is with us as he promised in the darkest parts of our lives, in our most painful experiences. When I feel self-pity Jesus is with me, when I am awake all night in pain Jesus is with me, Jesus knows and understands suffering.
I thank God daily for my life, it is great. I love my life and I love my God. Thirteen years ago I almost died, but I have my life back, every new day is a bonus, it is fantastic. The pain I feel is nothing compared to the life I have, it may leave me with dark moods it may make me uncomfortable to be with and unrestful, but Jesus is there in my darkness, in my unrestfulness. It may mean I am messy, flawed, disappointing and at times deeply hurtful.
The church is messy, flawed, disappointing and at times deeply hurtful, largely because people are messy, flawed, disappointing and at times deeply hurtful. Those people are the best people we have in the church, the worst are those who deny being in any or all of the above categories. I love the church because it is made up of messy, flawed, disappointing and at times deeply hurtful people—people like me.