Read Throwing Dishes at God Part 1here.
How long can one throw dishes at God?
Well, longer than you might think. Just ask Job. Or Peter. (FYI: This post is going to make a lot more sense if you read Part 1.) I guess the simplest answer would be: as long as it takes. Because He isn’t going anywhere.
To be honest, though, I didn’t know that at the time. Whenever I was in a full-blooded rage, I kept one eye on the sky for incoming bolts of lightning and the other on the earth lest it swallow this foul-mouthed, ungrateful child whole.
Yet, because of His great mercy and love, none of that happened.
He never swallowed me up or struck me down. He never shut me up or shut me down. Rather, He let me stay in the fight. And He stayed in the fight with me. The brokenness and depravity of the human heart does not and cannot shock God. He’s seen it all. And He loves us anyway.
Flickers of Light
Often times, during this season, opening my Bible felt like trying to lift Thor’s hammer. When I did muster the strength, the verses, once as refreshing as a cool drink of water, became like dry sand in my mouth. But by God’s grace, I would occasionally stumble on scriptures that glowed like a balefire of hope. Such was the case with Isaiah 54:10-11:
“…Though the mountains be shaken
and the hills be removed,
yet my unfailing love for you will not be shaken
nor my covenant of peace be removed,’
says the Lord, who has compassion on you.
‘Afflicted city, lashed by storms and not comforted,
I will rebuild you with stones of turquoise,
your foundations with sapphire…”
As the landscape of my life crumbled into the sea, God’s love stood still. As I threw dishes at my shattered image of God, His promise of peace remained. As I lay ravaged in the dust, I remembered He would rebuild me.
Wisdom of a Dead Man
In my darkest hour, (and by ‘hour’ I mean days, weeks and months) I picked up C.S. Lewis’s A Grief Observed, a sort of journal he kept after the death of his wife. And I thought, finally, finally, here is someone who knows, who understands:
“The conclusion I dread is not ‘So there’s no God after all,’ but, ‘So this is what God is really like.’” (p. 5)
“What reason have we, except our own desperate wishes, to believe that God is, by any standard we can contrive, ‘good’?…Step by step we were ‘led up the garden path.’ Time after time, when He seemed most gracious He was really preparing the next torture…the Cosmic Sadist” (p. 33-35)
For the first time, I felt heard, understood and validated. I also figured that if C.S. Lewis, of all people, experienced such doubt and despair, there was hope for me yet. I continued to walk through the pages of his grief, all the while saying “Yes! Yes! He gets it!”:
“All that stuff about the Cosmic Sadist was not so much the expression of thought as of hatred. I was getting from it the only pleasure a man in anguish can get; the pleasure of hitting back…’telling God what I thought of Him.’ And of course, as in all abusive language, ‘what I thought’ didn’t mean what I thought was true. Only what I thought would offend Him (and His worshippers) most. That sort of thing is never said without some pleasure. Gets it ‘off your chest’. You feel better for a moment.” (p. 45)
I found that Lewis’s confession was my confession, too. Like Job, I’d listened to rumors of God. Like Peter, I’d felt confused and abandoned by God. And in my pain, I took pleasure in ‘hitting back’. Lewis’s words were the rooster that crowed, and I felt God’s unbending stare arrest my soul. Like Jesus with Peter, God did not reject me, did not condemn me:
“He always knew that my temple was a house of cards. His only way of making me realize that fact was to knock it down.” (p. 61)
“I need Christ not something that resembles Him….My idea of God is not a divine idea. It has to be shattered time after time. He shatters it Himself.” (p. 76)
Suddenly the verses from Isaiah burned brighter. God was shattering not just me. Not just my life. But every single image I created to resemble Him. Because He would not, He will not, allow me to settle for anything less than Himself. He will dig down deep, unearth every lie. Even the pretty ones. He will rebuild me. And He will make my foundations of sapphire.
Words of a Friend
Last year, a friend expressed concern after reading my somewhat bleak Thanksgiving post. As he listened patiently to parts of my story he didn’t know, understanding softened his countenance. Then, in a quiet voice, he asked, “Nichole, do you love God?”
Did he know? Did he know that I was Peter on the shores of Galilee? Did he know that he was, in that moment, the voice of Jesus asking “Nichole, do you love Me?”
Now, Jesus doesn’t ask questions to get answers. He always knows the answers. Rather Jesus asks questions to reveal the truth. And the truth He revealed that night sounded like this: Remember, Nichole? Look. Look at me. You love me. You love me. You love me. And I love you.
That moment was like the striking of a bell, the ring of which resounds in my soul even today. I love Him. Does anything else matter?
In the Silence
In Part 1, I shared briefly about my solo retreat last spring. I’m not exaggerating when I say ten thousand posts couldn’t do justice to significance of those three days. How do you bottle the Word of God? How do you weigh the prayer of friends? How do you measure the healing of a heart?
For sometimes the smallest moments carry the most power.
During my grief, one of my greatest frustrations was that God so often seemed silent. Distant. I am a person used to feeling Him and hearing Him. His silence, His distance, they felt like abandonment. Many times I asked, Where are you? What are you doing? Why aren’t you helping? Why won’t you fix this? And all I heard was silence. What made it worse was that I knew, I absolutely KNEW He was with me, seeing it all, and doing nothing. I didn’t doubt that He was with me as much as I doubted that He cared.
Until my retreat. That day, when I cried out, Where were You in all the pain?!
God answered immediately: Everywhere I touched, you hurt.
I still can’t tell this story without weeping. Such tenderness. Such compassion. I see Him now, in my memories, watching me suffer – not aloof, not uncaring, not cold or mocking or spiteful – but suffering with me, a parent refraining from holding His child because His touch, His voice would only cause me more pain. The space He gave me, the silence, they were His mercies. They were His perfect love.
Days of Future Past
Shortly after that retreat, a friend read my Did God Really Say post (long after it was published). He sent me this in response: “I started crying when you heard God say: ‘We’ve come too far, you and I. Don’t let us go backwards.’ I love the ‘let us’ part of the ‘Don’t.’ It captures so well that if we step back from Him, He steps back with us.”
How precious a message! Tucked away two years ago in my own writing. Uncovered by a friend like hidden treasure: Not only did God know that I would remake Him in the image of my pain. Not only did He know that, like Peter, I would cry, I don’t know Him! Not only did He know that I would crucify Him again.
He knew that He would go with me every step of the way.
He knew He would wait for me as He did for Peter. Without judgment. Without dismay, disappointment or anger. He would build a fire and prepare a meal and feed me from nail-scarred hands.
And He would love me anyway.
© Nichole Q. Perreault
Read Throwing Dishes at God Part 1 here.