I close my eyes and see my feet on stone, the landscape around me rocky, colorless, empty. Where is my love for You, Lord? I catch a glimpse. So thin, so fragile, this gold-leaf love. Floating away on a zephyr created by my own reaching hands. I cannot grasp it. Cannot feel it. This precious, flimsy love. I’m so hollow, I have become a question.
With eyes still closed, I explore this vision. Words of revelation come to me:
I am standing in the ruins of a faith built on ideas.
A faith built not on God, but on ideas of God.
I thought I knew Him, this God of Jacob. I was not a foolish girl. I had heard He was a God who could not be bought, a lion who would not be tamed. But I didn’t know Him until He dragged me into the wilderness and refused to answer when I called.
He tore down mountain after mountain, rearranging hills and valleys until the landscape was unrecognizable. Both my physical family, after the loss of my brother, and my spiritual family, after a challenging season, were shattered. And the greatest sting was not experiencing God’s absence. The greatest sting was knowing that the all-powerful God of the universe was right there, witnessing everything, and doing nothing to stop it.
I think I understand the disciples better now. How they might have felt as they watched Jesus submit to death on a cross. As they pried His bloody hands from the nails and carried His lifeless body to the tomb. As they laid him there and said good-bye, turned their backs and walked away. And He, their Messiah, their conquering King, Israel’s Salvation and Deliverer, did absolutely nothing to stop it. (Matthew 27:57-60)
They thought they knew Him, this son of David. Thought they’d built their faith on Him. But they’d built their faith on ideas of Him instead.
We, too, can build our faith on ideas of God. Like the disciples, we can fashion scripture into formulas and platitudes that fit our own understanding, if that helps us sleep better at night. Like the disciples, we can lean on teaching that reduces our walk to a step-by-step method for successful living, if that helps us feel more in control.
Or we can persevere like David, wide-eyed, wide-hearted, refusing anything but the true, untamed heart of God. We can hold on fiercely to God like Jacob, wrestling with Him in the midst of our trials, until we get to the good stuff…the real stuff…blessings that change us, alter our journey, even if that means we walk with a limp. We can reject platitudes and shallow teaching like Job, and brave the whirlwind of God’s mighty presence, that we might also say, “
I admit I once lived by rumors of you; now I have it all firsthand – from my own eyes and ears!” (Job 42:5 MSG)
I stand in the ruins of a faith built on ideas. But beneath my feet lies the Foundation that will not be shaken, the Promise that will not be removed.
Like the disciples, I carved myself a God of my own design. But now, as the dust settles and rumbling quiets, I see Him and I hear Him saying “Afflicted city, lashed by storms and not comforted, I will rebuild you.” (Isaiah 54:11)
I am so empty I have become a question. But like the vacant tomb, I am a question of freedom and of hope. A witness to the Truth. And I, like Mary Magdalene battle-worn and broken, run crying in the streets, “I have seen the Lord.” (John 20:16-18)
© Nichole Liza Q.
*The above post was written for Wintonbury Church as part of the Stations of the Cross 2019 booklet.
**Digital photographs of original charcoal drawings by Kate Tortland. These two drawings are part of her 14-piece Stations of the Cross collection which depicts Jesus’ journey from the Garden of Gethsemane to His resurrection. The collection is on display each year for Good Friday at Wintonbury Church; and an accompanying booklet with photos of the artwork, scripture, and meditations written by church members is provided for guests.
Stunning. Love it. A big part of what I see God doing in His Bride right now. Thank you!
Thank you, Leroy!
What a thought-provoking post. Images, strong images! I think it will stay with me for a long time, causing me to think at night, where am I? I see my sister in this post. I saw here being rebuilt when the Leukemia was changing the landscape of her body, taking away her flesh, leaving her with fragile bone, like a starving African. But the inside was like a fertile valley, rich and lush. She would say, to her friends, “Yes, God does answer prayer.” she was such a testimony. I can hardly breathe thinking of the changes she went through and how God bound her heart to him. She is my hero. And even though my sight loss has changed how I see the physical landscape of my life, I think God is still in the process of tearing it down and wanting to rebuild until in my blindness, I lean in closely to feel his face.
Thank you so much.
Wow. Thank you for sharing these powerful testimonies of God’s presence in the midst of loss and pain.
Wow, so poetic! As an intellectual, this spoke to me. My pastor just preached this morning on traditions of men being held up as greater than the commandments of God. I think we all have ideas of God that need to be torn down.
I’m so glad it resonated with you. Thanks for reading and sharing your thoughts.