Thursday, February 27, 2014

When Life Gets Quiet and I Can't Deal

The strangest thing about journeying with God is that sometimes, he spreads a nubby blanket under a shade tree and asks me to rest a while.

After years of shade-dwelling, lounging around in oblivion and sweet simplicity, we were pulled out and thrust into the glare. Our retina's half-burned, our cheeks well past rosy, we took up our hatchets, swinging them wild through thick uncertainty and tangles of self-doubt. Our legs and our hearts were taxed and strengthened with every rocky path.

Over time, the fears that seized us had tumbled around and around until every jagged edge was smooth and we were left with pockets full of marbles, sheepishly wondering what on earth was ever so scary.

It's astonishing that we were ever worried about this life of ease. But we were, or at least I was. I was terrified, pacing in the pitch of night, swallowing down that persistent rumble of dread. There was no tangible "thing" I could point to, no lurking monster or strange apparition. I had nothing but my good common sense and the collective words (both spoken and otherwise) of almost everyone I'd ever known, warning of danger in these under-streets of life and in the unfamiliar alley-ways of bottom-up living.

I'd been told my entire life to walk toward light, to climb and climb, to get and have and gain and grow. I was sold the lie that I could do my job without my life ever actually changing, that I could love my neighbor and the poor theoretically, my nobility hinging on my invisible willingness to do more if God ever asked me. (Not that he would because he had missionaries for that.)

I was scared because I was stupid. And I was stupid because I was a newborn, infant Christian masquerading as a stalwart soldier of the faith, allowing my years of "service" to speak for me. My name is Shannan and I've loved Jesus since forever.  But I did not know obedience and my ability to trust God was inconclusive since my feet had only known sure footing.

Hindsight being the illuminating wonder that it is, here's a short list of some of the things that knotted my guts: poor people, graffiti, teenagers who wandered around after dark, loud cussing, language barriers, crumbling sidewalks, busted-out streetlamps, cigarette smoke, broken beer bottles, mental illness, low test scores, neighborhood hooligans, junky front porches, rumors, rotten teeth, dirty clothes, rap music, and litter.

It wasn't the threat of murder, assault, abduction, or even vandalism that had me emotionally hiding under the covers. It was mostly just dirt and brokenness - literally.

We've learned to step over buckling concrete and I don't mind saying I now see a certain beauty in the juxtaposition of Little Debbie wrappers amid splendor.

Now what?

What do we do when our house is back to its regular decibel level and the hooligans have actual faces and names?

My newest instinct is to search out a pocket of darkness and run headlong into its light. I find myself day-dreaming about a future where every clean thing is put through the wringer, compacted and compressed until I'm left holding a jagged hunk of coal like the prize that it is.

But I'd like to think I'm done making plans, so instead, I drift through dim, quiet evenings, feeling around for some meaning. I teeter on this chain-link fence, jittery as a midnight cat. Something new must be coming. I'm skeptical this rest will last long, equal-parts terrified and hopeful that I'm right.

Since nothing else seems to work, I pray quietly and out loud, thanking God that he's already here, active in my rest.

The problem is, I don't know if I completely believe it.

I can nod along with Solomon, imagining myself swaying easy with the seasons. But I don't remember requiring convincing when it comes to retreat and I've lost a good bit of faith in myself along this way. I've fallen in love with a God who calls me out past my limits. It's hard for me to picture him lounging with me on the couch.

I know for sure that sometimes we're entrusted with simply doing what was asked of us - love the poor, console the brokenhearted, make family of our neighbors - while he throws his legendary, ridiculous grace around. Christ lives in us, walks the blocks by us, so why wouldn't we run to our local wounded the same way we butter our toast, clock into work, change the oil, pay the mortgage, and soap up tiny arms and legs every day? Why shouldn't he expect us to weave his highest calling into the fabric of life we tend without question?

Getting here was the easy part. Letting roots fall down into the earth is a lazy girl's labor. Growing them out takes muscle and grit and quite possibly more time than I'd like to share.  I don't know if Relative Inactivity was ever logged on God's calendar, or if I'm dealing with my familiar refusal to do the hard work. I don't want an out and I'm sick to death of the excuses that held me captive in a middle-class ghetto of oblivion where all the edges of life blurred into something mostly pretty and my spirit was dying from a lack of truth that shows up with shared pain.

So, I wait.
My heart and bones rest while my eyes scan a full perimeter.

I do small things, desperate to believe the kingdom magic where common sense gets everything wrong. I do small things, leaning in while we all somehow, in spite of ourselves, slide closer to eternity.


  1. Wow. Shannan, you always challenge me and tweak my set-in ideas. But this, this I may have to print out and read on a regular basis. When I read the title, I was afraid that something bad had happened in your dad's situation (mis-interpreting "quiet"). This paragraph is still playing in my head, ".. a newborn, infant Christian masquerading as a stalwart soldier of the faith, allowing my years of "service" to speak for me. My name is Shannan and I've loved Jesus since forever. But I did not know obedience and my ability to trust God was inconclusive since my feet had only known sure footing.". Wow.

  2. It makes me wonder how many more times I'm going to have to hear "God is with you in the waiting." Jesus Calling has been telling me for days now. Preacher preached it on Sunday morning. Still, it feels like these arrows of truth are bouncing off the armor of I NEED TO KNOW RIGHT NOW WHAT IS COMING. BUt I'm stubborn. I will get this. God's teeth, I'll get this.

  3. I LOVE this and the honesty! I have been in that season of waiting several times!!! Right now I find myself in a season of conflict....between my certain calling (to teach and shepherd women) and what I saw/experienced in Africa. So, I am walking in strict obedience standing on truth because my feelings cannot be trusted. I am waiting on God to help me sort it all out, but until then I will "walk by faith and not by sight"!

  4. My name is Mary Anne and I've loved Jesus since forever too. Now more than ever though I find myself wanting to KNOW him more. Asking that has led me on a scary unknown path that we are just now beginning to "train" for and see unfold. I'm terrified and yet excited to be following him into the unknown where his will awaits. Your blog always inspires me to push past my fears and lean more on my faith. Thank you for that.

  5. I love reading everything you write. It's beautiful. I'm humbled by your faith and your desire and willingness to seek and follow God's path for you. I'm a religious person and have been all my life (raised and still an active member in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints - or Mormons as we're more commonly called) One of my favorite quotes from one of our church leaders is this, "'God does notice us, and he watches over us. But it is usually through another person that he meets our needs. Therefore, it is vital that we serve each other in the kingdom" Your posts make me want to break out of my comfort zone and do more. Thank you.

  6. I've started reading Radical and everything you wrote reminded me of that. Except in a refreshing, female voice.

    You perfectly put into words (always) the challenges that come with being Radical.

    I'm also doing 7 the Bible study so it seems everywhere I turn God is speaking to me and shaking the foundation I felt so firm in and showing me the heart I must have for ALL people.

  7. I loved this whole post, but I'm with "slip4" in that this quote is what made me feel like you were inside my heart for most of my 20's.
    "I was scared because I was stupid. And I was stupid because I was a newborn, infant Christian masquerading as a stalwart soldier of the faith, allowing my years of "service" to speak for me. My name is Shannan and I've loved Jesus since forever. But I did not know obedience and my ability to trust God was inconclusive since my feet had only known sure footing."
    I wish more believers could find out the true joy that comes from a leap of faith. And the puzzling contentedness that can come even when you have no clue what you're doing or what the future holds. You simply trust the One who does. I regret those years I spent in fear, and find myself wondering what new challenge awaits tomorrow. I have a feeling yours might be revealed when that writing project wraps up. Can't wait to see...

  8. I enjoy every word your write. I stretch myself to understand and follow and that is a good thing. Growth...That is what we are here for, to learn and grow and come unto Him. Thank you for being a bit of an instrument for me.

  9. This - " nobility hinging on my invisible willingness to do more if God ever asked me. (Not that he would because he had missionaries for that.)

    Yes! Praying for the church to wake up!

  10. Your post reminded me of a poem I love by Amy Carmichael;

    Hast thou no scar?
    No hidden scar on foot, or side, or hand?
    I hear thee sung as mighty in the land;
    I hear them hail thy bright, ascendant star.
    Has thou no scar?

    Has thou no wound?
    Yet I was wounded by the archers, spent;
    Leaned Me against a tree to die
    And rent by ravening wolves that compasses Me, I swooned.
    Hast thou no wound?

    No wound? No scar?
    Yet as the Master shall the servant be,
    And pierced are the feet that follow Me.
    But thine are whole.
    Can he have followed far
    Who has no wound, nor scar?

  11. we're at a bit of a fork in the road, and i'm doing my usual pacing and thinking and way too much yammering to hear Him clearly speak. pray for me to be quiet.

    also, i miss you. do you skype? i am weird on skype, just like i am weird on the phone. probably because i am weird in person and somehow that doesn't go away via skype or phone. but back to i miss you: i'll bet we could mesh our waking hours one of these days. lmk. love you big, my dear.

  12. Shannon...This will be the first time I have commented although for the last month or so I have wanted to. This post was the last straw...I simply could not stand to let another "direct hit" post go by without my comment. There is so much that you have said over the last few days that went straight to my heart. God is working in my life and I'm stepping out in faith for really the first time. You see, my husband and I are praying, along with our closest prayer warriors, about opening our home to our 2 grand-nieces. There parents have abandoned these precious girls for a life of drugs, crime, and jail. I shutter to think of all they have witnessed. We have no children of our own and I can not help but believe God wanted our home to be the place where the girls could learn of Gods love for them and that there is a safe secure environment for them. Earlier this week my husband and I were very frustrated and deflated over some recent events. Then, at my Bible study yesterday morning a new lady was there. God sent her there just for me. She is a foster parent. This wonderful woman has had over 40 teenage boys come through her home. We had lunch afterwards and I felt as if the weight of the world has been lifted from my heart. It was God's hand...just as your blog is a part of His doing for me right now.

    1. Your words here have me bowled over in goose-bumps and all sorts of feels.
      I'm so thankful God has you on this path. The hard paths are the best. I'm here to tell you.
      But they ARE hard. But you won't be going alone.