Hear It on Sunday, Use It on Monday: Love in the Pit

Welcome to "Hear It on Sunday, Use It on Monday," a community where we share what we are hearing from God. Feel free to write about what you hear in church on Sunday or about a verse that you've been reading or pondering on your own during the week. Or come back a bit later in the week to link up if you're not quite ready now (the Linky stays open until Friday).

For more details on how to link up your post, click here. Or if you're an old pro, simply grab the "Hear It, Use It" button code in the sidebar and get to work!

Thanks for your presence and thoughts here!

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Love in the Pit

My stomach lurches, spicy scent of ginger wafting as I carry the steaming cup toward the couch. Head pounding, back aching, all I can see as I ease back onto the pillows is mess.
A cobweb thread fans in the draft like undulating seaweed. Cup rings stain the chipped white paint on the coffee table. Dingy fringe on the unraveling rug lays tangled on the dusty floor. I feel queasy. A dull ache gnaws in the spot below my sternum.
Teacup drained clean, I ease off the couch and stand at the sink, hot water filling the bucket with suds. As I slosh the mop over the floor in shiny streaks, I think about the conversation I’d had with my sister a week prior – the one where she'd sullenly declared, “I prefer to think of God as distant and removed, because otherwise I can’t make sense of the suffering."
"How do you make sense of the suffering?" she'd asked.
I hadn’t had a good answer for her. I’d blamed it on the chaos of the moment – roller in hand, hair splattered crusty, sock smeared sticky with Valspar Antique Linen, boys carousing past slick walls, I'd just laughed. “I think this is a conversation best had in person,” I’d said, refraining from answering her question.

But now, as I slap soapy water onto the kitchen floor, a part of me wonders if Jeanine is right. Maybe God is distant, detached. Maybe he does simply fold his arms across his chest and observe from afar.

In church this week we continued our study of the Book of Jonah. We read that Jonah, pressed against the stinking, slimy insides of a fish, offers not complaint or despair, but a prayer of thanksgiving to God:

"'In my distress I called to the Lord, and he answered me. From the depths of the grave I called for help, and you listened to me cry'…I said, 'I have been banished from your sight; yet I will look again toward your holy temple…When my life was ebbing away, I remember you, Lord, and my prayer rose to you, to your holy temple...'" (Jonah 2:1-2, 4, 7)

Jonah offers a prayer of thanksgiving, despite suffering; a prayer of thanksgiving, despite despair and pain, fatigue and fear and hopelessness.

As I slosh suds and think about suffering, I don’t pray thanks. As I sweep pebbles and granola bar crumbs and salt crystals into the dustpan, knees pressed into creaking floor, I don’t pray thanks. I do just the opposite, in fact. I choose complaint. I choose bitterness and ingratitude.

Lest you assume I’ve simply forgotten about grace, let me be clear. My decision is a conscious choice. As I push that dripping mop over tile and around chairs, I think about Ann Voskamp’s book. I remember her hard eucharisteo, her wise words and her embrace of thanks. My own choice unfurls before me: I can find thanks in the moment, some small thanks, or I can choose bitter despair.

I choose the latter.

I get angry then. I stand still in the dining room, mop in hands, hair hanging stringy in my face, and I get mad. First at Ann Voskamp, if you can believe it. I do, just for a minute, because I know she’s right. I know she’s weathered far harder trials – loss and grief, depression and anxiety – and yet she still says yes to grace. I get mad because her story, her life, proves the right choice is possible. She's no man unfathomably giving thanks in the belly of a big fish. She is living, breathing, real-life proof that I can choose thanks.

And then, of course, I get mad at myself for being mad at Ann Voskamp, because who gets mad at sweet Ann Voskamp, for crying out loud?

Downstairs in the dank basement I lift the lid of the washer and wrangle heavy denim, tangled sweats, a boy’s winter boot. My fingers brush something smooth and hard wedged beneath the agitator, and when I lift my hand from the washer I see that I have a cross grasped between wet fingers. From the pit, from the depths of grit and loose pebbles and a ring of scum, I pull the cross.

It must have fallen from a boy’s corduroy pocket and spun with the muddy socks and the winter boots that smelled like dead muskrat. I recognize the plastic cross as the one they’d brought home from Sunday School the week before, the one that reads “God Is Love,” black letters stamped on clear plastic. And when the fetid water drains through the corroded pipes, leaving clean(er) clothes and a ring of taupe soap scum, the cross stays anchored on the bottom of the washer. A gift.

I lean the cross upright against the bleach bottle. And then I smile a little bit. I smile at the irony. I smile at how well God knows me. Because not just any old subtle sign will do for me, you know. God  has to get literal with this girl.

“God is love,” he tells me. Even amidst ugly grit. Especially amidst ugly grit.

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Your turn...please tell us how God is speaking to you this week...I can't wait to hear!

Laura  – (February 20, 2011 at 8:39 PM)  

I. Love. You. Yes, I know this. This choosing of the Mara, the deliberate turn to anger. Thank you for this real. Does it help to know I'm beside you there?

Love to you, Michelle. I took copious notes in church today thinking i'd get my linky post done for your this afternoon but I found a bazillion other things required my attention. Sometime this week though. I've got the notes.

Jen  – (February 20, 2011 at 8:51 PM)  

It's so easy to see God clearly in the beauty, in the hopeful. Much less so in the soap scum on the bathroom tub, or the water rings on the coffee table. And yet, so much of our lives is spent in the cleaning -- the tangible and the spiritual. As such, it is that much more apparent to me now, that He would be in those things, too. In the life. In the mess. In the trials and tribulation. All proclaiming throughout the bleakness, that Yes, I AM LOVE. And then, He becomes the beauty. He becomes the hope.

Connie Mace  – (February 20, 2011 at 9:06 PM)  

"Even amidst ugly grit. Especially amidst ugly grit."...oh yes...in the midst of the mess we make...He loves, He saves, He redeems from the pit...GOD is so Good to give His answer (visual cues included:)

all for GOD,

Charming's Mama  – (February 20, 2011 at 11:09 PM)  

Somehow the signs God gives us never seem to be the kind that we think they ought to be, but in the little reminders of our every day mundane tasks. Mine was a rock. Beautiful.

Loni  – (February 20, 2011 at 11:19 PM)  

Thank you for sharing . . . love how God puts all the pieces together - shows His intense love even with a lost little cross.

This is my first time joining you . . . good opportunity to remember what we learned today.

Shaunie @ Up the Sunbeam  – (February 21, 2011 at 2:03 AM)  

This is so good, so honest and a place I can so identify with! Isn't it good of God to get so personal, so clear with us in such creative ways!! He just laughed in the face of your thought of Him as distant and detached!! He tucked that cross in that load of laundry with a wink and a smile for His grumpy girl who needed Him so!! Awesome!!

Jennifer  – (February 21, 2011 at 6:49 AM)  

"Especially amidst ugly grit"--awesome and so true! Yes, my prayer this morning as I face a new week is that I would choose grace and not allow disappointment to change my attitude. To be thankful.

You're right; it's always a choice. I just tend to make the wrong choice too often.

Nancy  – (February 21, 2011 at 9:21 AM)  

Isn't that just like God to put that little plastic cross in the bottom of your washer, to show up just to remind you, "I'm here. I know. I'm with you." (Even when you're mad at Ann Voskamp!)

The Farmer Files  – (February 21, 2011 at 10:25 AM)  

Well if this is what it means to serve a God that loves from afar then I am blessed.

Deidra  – (February 21, 2011 at 2:05 PM)  

You rock. You know that, don't you? I know. I know. It's all God. And God rocks. And because of Him, so do you!

Susan DiMickele  – (February 21, 2011 at 2:53 PM)  

You are so darn funny. Please don't ever stop telling it like it is.

You are the only person I know who would dare to admit when she's mad at Ann Voskamp. I just ordered her book! Can wait to order yours.

Jo@Mylestones  – (February 21, 2011 at 6:05 PM)  

I loved this post, Michelle. You speak from the place we've all been. We could forever lost in that angsty, angry, bitter-trumps-joy place...if it weren't for the cross.

Charity Singleton  – (February 21, 2011 at 7:27 PM)  

Yes, right there in the mop water is God himself, loving you, knowing you, seeing you.

This was beautiful, even if it did take being made at Ann Voskamp to get there.

Lyla Lindquist  – (February 21, 2011 at 9:07 PM)  

Nothing like getting us all to laugh in the midst of your despair... Terrific post, Michelle, poking at yourself you sneak up on us so well and allow us to look in the mirror and see ourselves.

So glad to see all the links here, and hoping to get back later and follow a few of them...I'm all off track with no Monday post myself. (Big surprise...)

Charming's Mama  – (February 21, 2011 at 11:09 PM)  

"It's me again Margaret" and I just wanted to say how much I have enjoyed all the lessons linked up today and wanted to say thank your for so thoughtfully facilitating this blog party.

emily wierenga  – (February 21, 2011 at 11:17 PM)  

thank you, dear michelle, for always challenging, always loving, always encouraging us...

Tiffini  – (February 22, 2011 at 5:19 AM)  

I never tire of hearing how He speaks. Right in the most basic acts of life..in the scum there He chooses to be - would rather be even. Beautiful!

Ashley Sisk  – (February 22, 2011 at 7:58 AM)  

I'm so glad to have found your link up - I've been following up my Sunday messages for a couple of months - I'm so glad to see I'm not the only one. Beautiful message today - so real!

S. Etole  – (February 22, 2011 at 3:18 PM)  

At the bottom of all our muck we find Him ... thanks for the real.

Sandra Heska King  – (February 22, 2011 at 5:27 PM)  

Grace from the belly of the washer. This is awesome, Michelle. And I so cracked up over you getting mad at Ann.

Christina Parker Brown  – (February 22, 2011 at 7:10 PM)  

Beautiful. I can so relate. Thanks you for this.

amandatdodson  – (February 22, 2011 at 11:22 PM)  

Such a great message in your words - loved it! I need your link to be Hear it on Sunday - think about it on Monday - write it on a napkin on Tuesday - post it on Wednesday! :)

Laura  – (February 23, 2011 at 12:10 PM)  

Hey, I finally made it! Only a couple days late, but those notes came in handy. I so enjoyed this, Michelle, thank you for hosting!

Christina Parker Brown  – (April 27, 2011 at 10:52 AM)  

Beautiful. I can so relate. Thanks you for this.

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