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