“He wants us to look for Him,” he spoke gently, but with authority.
As my husband and I sat on the love seat in our therapist’s office, we listened while our marriage counselor spoke to us about finding God in the most difficult times. I have been the one who has been having a hard time “shaking the sadness” and being purposeful and joyful, so his eyes were on me as he continued. He reassured me that God has not abandoned my husband and I in this time of transition. My nervous system feels a little out of whack right now, and because I am facing something I have never faced before it makes it more difficult for me to find God in the equation.
When we are experiencing something that is brand new it is easy to feel like we are in it alone. We are on a new road where we have never traveled, and we don’t have a familiar template to recognize God. Because we know the nature of God, we know He has not abandoned us, but it can feel like He is hiding.
While it is not certain, it is very likely that my husband and I will be leaving California and relocating. We have relocated several times in our marriage and the signs are pointing to it happening again. The difference is that this time I do not get to take my children with me. I do not get to take my family with me.
If we were relocating for any reason it would be difficult, but knowing the catalyst for this particular change is due to my selfishness makes it more painful. To know that my husband will have to leave his granddaughter because of decisions I made makes me question my ability to bring good into his life. Friends and family argue that I am not the one who made my husband lose his job. That choice was made by others in response to how my sin made them feel. We have examined it over and over and looked at it up against scripture, and what my friends and family have told me is Biblically sound. My husband should not have lost his job for what I did.
That being said, for me the bottom line is this: within a couple of months I am most likely going to leave those I love. The reality of what is coming knocks the breath out of me. As I was sharing this with our therapist he asked my husband and I to think of a time when we were children and we had made a mess of something. He wanted us to think of a time when we had made choices that had caused some kind of grief for our parents.
One of the memories that came to mind for myself involved ordering a pizza. I shared a story about the first time I ever ordered pizza for the family. I was about ten years old and someone had elected me to order pizza for the family. (Seriously?) I had no idea what I was doing, and I didn’t have the forethought to ask what anyone else wanted on the pizza. I called and ordered a large pizza with one topping. What topping?
Needless to say when the pizza was delivered no one in the family was thrilled with my choice of topping. The response was unpleasant to say the least. I had failed and there was not a lot of grace from those who were hungry. It was one of the those moments that has stayed with me for years. “The Night Jackie Ruined Dinner for the Family“. Looking back on it now it holds little value–it’s a meal and meaningless in all ways except for how it shaped me. We talked through the silly timeless event and proceeded with an understanding of how these events when left unattended can do their own kind of damage to us for years. Reevaluating a small and seemingly insignificant event can be a productive step towards closing unhealthy doors and passageways in the current day.
Before we left the therapist office he had some final instructions. He urged us to seek God out in times when it may feel like He is hidden. He reminded us of scripture that spoke into the desire of God to be sought out by his beloved.
Once we were on the road my husband turned to me and said, “All that conversation about pizza made me want Pieology.”
We drove to the local trending pizza parlor for some lunch. As soon as we pulled into the parking lot, my heart began to beat faster and I felt nauseous. When I relayed the uneasy feeling to my husband he immediately retracted his desire for pizza, and told me he was willing to eat at home. I could not shake the strange feeling, but I really wanted to try to enjoy the moment. We’ve had so much isolation for the last five months, and at least if we were out of the house it would feel a little more healthy.
We ordered our pizzas (and yes, along with the other toppings, my personal pie had mushrooms). We stepped out onto a side patio to eat lunch in the sunshine. When the pizzas arrived we bowed our heads to pray. In his prayer my husband asked God to help us to see Him. He asked God to open our eyes to the places where He might be hidden. I wanted to feel what my husband was praying, but in the moment there was a part of me that was a little cynical, and while he prayed I opened my eyes and I spied a couple of jalapenos on my pizza. Silently I wondered if I could somehow see the shape of a fish in them. Was God going to be hiding in my pizza?
I had just taken the first bite of my cheesy-deliousness when something caught my eye. Through two windows of the restaurant I noticed the silhouette of young friend standing out on the sidewalk leading into the establishment. Because of the shadows and the distance from where we were sitting, I could barely see him, but I recognized his profile none the less. He is a pastor on staff, and I had seen a post this morning on Instagram reminding me that today was his birthday. I looked to see who he was with–it was another recognizable silhouette. And then I saw another. And another.
When we love people, we don’t have to see the whole person to feel better–even just their silhouette can bring encouragement.
I jumped up and grabbed my husband’s arm, “Come with me…I think some of our people are here!” We rushed to the front of the patio and shouted a hello to several friends who were gathering for a birthday lunch. Their sweet faces turned to us and cheered. Being greeted warmly is never so sweet as it is after humiliation and failure. Hugs and smiles hold more weight than ever, while distance and shunning are like knives to the heart. A few moments later, we found ourselves “crashing” the party of about thirty church staff people we admire.
It seems that today, that is where God had been hiding.
It was such a small thing. It was lunch at a pizza joint, but it reminded me of God’s compassion for us even when we are unworthy. We may be feeling cynical and doubtful, but He is not. He isn’t even tempted to behave that way towards us–for He cannot be tempted by evil. It will be easier for us to find Him if we stay away from those attributes, but He isn’t going to wait for us to “get our act together” to reveal Himself. That’s not His nature.
My world didn’t change today, and I am still most likely going to be leaving people I love. Because living so far from all of my children will be new and unfamiliar it is going to take all that is within me to seek God when I am unable to “shake the sadness.” I will have to remind myself to remember in the midst of the worst moments, I am not alone. God will be with me, and my prayer will be that on the days I cannot see Him he will just let me glimpse His silhouette.
Post Script: If you are seeking a Christian therapist, my husband and I highly recommend Dr. Raymond Jones–for couples and/or individual therapy. Click this link for contact information