Image by Rebecca K Photography
By Pastor Abby Lietz
When I was in second/third grade, I remember having pretty bad headaches from time to time. I remember because the remedy my mom offered was one I could not stomach: Tylenol. No matter how big the gulp of water, those small, chalky pills would find a way to cling to my tongue, like seashells washed up on the beach at day’s end. And the taste of the chewable grape-flavored variety? Gag! It was endless frustration on top of terrible pain. My mom did everything she could to help me ingest the solution to my tear-inducing pain; in fact, I recall some crushing up of the medicine into red Jell-o! However, I also remember crying out to God as I lay in my bed one night, struggling for peace. In a moment of prayer, I felt the pain recede. I’ve never experienced anything like that again. To me, in that moment, God was El Roi – the God Who Sees.
This was a faith-forming experience. Not only did I sense my mom’s deep love for me as she came to aid me in my struggle, but I had just started attending church the year I began second grade, the year my family moved to Wolcott from Lafayette. I was learning a lot about faith in God. My mom had been talking and singing to me about Jesus for a long time by then, but this was one of the first instances I experienced God in a way that made my faith pay attention. It was a time when my childlike faith was affirmed, that I knew for sure that God was the kind of God who saw, heard and loved people who were trying to understand the mystery of who God is. People like me, a kid! My faith was encouraged!
Since then, I have experienced many other kinds of pain: the loss of loved ones in death, rejections, heartbreaks, failures, missed opportunities, grief over pain inflicted upon others as they struggle under oppression and through the everyday trials of being a living, breathing human. The list goes on. Given the miracle prayer that seemed to relieve my headache as a child, my prayers to and faith in God could have stayed like that: demanding, sturdy as long as there was a quick-fix. While Jesus says I/you/we must have faith like children to receive the Kin-dom, Jesus does not encourage us to stay children who make selfish demands and are only faithful when we get what we want, when we want it. Instead, when I go through soul-crushing seasons and just plain-ol’ hard days, I am invited to lean into the deeper, wider faith that proves yet again God is sustaining me more deeply and providing love and nourishment for growth in good and new ways. This is long-haul faith. You may be in a season of pain, of waiting for relief. Ooof. Waiting can be painful. I admit I have not always wanted long-haul faith because I am sometimes an impatient person. I have not always appreciated God seeing me when what I see is my struggle or unmet desire. But when I look more closely, I see the God, the Jesus who is calling me to be the kind of person, part of the kind of Church, who can make a faithful, hopeful witness to the Jesus I know – the Jesus who offers his very Self to me, to you, to all people as a gift of love.