Tuesday, October 14, 2008

The Dawning in the Dark

Few writers capture me the way Ann Voskamp does. Her words penetrate! They cut to the heart! When Ann writes I feel her pain, her joy, her...whatever...

Here's a recent post from Ann's Holy Experience:

In my own way, I have known dark. A black memory's suffocated for years, this recurring nightmare of my younger sister's body falling under the wheel, her lifeless little body laying still in a pool of blood in our laneway. That horror-moment's smoldered at the fringe of dark days, branded our nights.

Too, my
mother’s mental hospitalizations, depression, and hauntings studded my childhood, months of me trying to fill Mama’s shoes that were painfully too large for little girl feet.

Then divorce shattered our home, cracked our memories.

Agoraphobia strangled me during my university years.

I cried with the rain the day I miscarried.

For me, in my own way, I have known moonless nights.
Others know nights to fall far darker, inky, impenenetrable black.

Terminal diagnosis, dug graves, empty wombs, living nightmares with no dawn in sight. Is He really enough?

Like Jacob, on moonless nights
we wrestle in the dark with He who allows this dark, this anguish. “I will not let you go until you bless me.”

Like Jacob, we struggle with God: Why this? Give me something different! Do you not love me? I didn’t ask for this, I don’t want this. The pain of this is unbearable, inhumane.
Bless me! Bless me! He renames us. We are Israel, the God-wrestlers.

Abram, Sarai, they know this writhing too, this wrestling in the night and how the cold dark wears at a soul.

Hadn’t God heard their pleas for a child, a babe of their own, with Abram’s eyes and Sarai’s nose, to hold close and dream over?

Month after agonizing month, Sarai is empty, nothing moves in her, their nights have no little one to swaddle and comfortingly kiss. They simply cling to each other in the moonless silence. God had promised. But has given nothing—or something: cutting sorrow. They self-medicate the pain.

Sarai gives her husband Hagar and says. “Go. Sleep with her. Do what it takes to takes away this burning ache. Relieve this sore soul.”

Come a night nearly a year later, the dark is pierced with a baby’s cry. A child! One to hold! A babe to rock, a son to love, a man with their name! The dawn must be close and warm? Instead the nightmare continues, Hagar and Ishmael, this thorn stabbing deep in Sarai’s side.

For thirteen long years, the moonless night hangs.
Then, finally, God appears: "When Abram was ninety-nine years old, the LORD appeared to him and said, 'I am God Almighty, El Shaddai.' ” El Shaddai, literally translated, reads, "God Almighty who is all sufficient" or "God Almighty who is more than enough."

Dayenu. More than enough.

A quarter of a century since the promise was made, and the dawn had never come. Thirteen stretching years of the pain of Hagar’s son while Sarai’s womb shriveled. In the smothering dark of that night, God now comes and says “I am El Shaddai. I am enough.” In a hopeless, impossible situation He says, “Come. Know me as the One who is enough, the sufficient God, El Shaddai.”

Dayenu. More than enough.

Is He really enough? Elizabeth Elliot writes her intimate experience of this God who makes such a claim:

“But it is precisely when we do not have what we would ask for, and only then, that we can clearly perceive His all-sufficiency. It is when the sea is moonless that the Lord has become my Light.”

Is it so? When I do not have what I would ask for---peace, certainty, painless days, settled nights --- when I don’t have all that my soul cries for, it is then I stumble into the mysterious, buoying truth: He is enough. He reveals Himself as the light, the dawn, when my night is the darkest.

Grieving Boothe, having just lost her baby girl, writes courageously of her moonless sea of sadness:

“Sitting in the sorrow means embracing all the emotions, all the incredibly painful stabs of disappointment and anger and frustration and agony that jab at the heart almost every single second of the day...
It means finally, finally, embracing the fact that He has created nothing that will give us as much joy and peace and fulfillment as Himself.”

It is good that we have wrestled, for now we know: He alone is El Shaddai, the one who shows Himself to be enough precisely when we do not have what our heart howls for. Like Jacob, we haggardly come through the night. But the God-wrestle has left us changed. In the black, He has touched us.

We limp and we remember.

Like Jacob, we name this place, this moonless night of wrestling, Peniel-- literally meaning "God’s face"--- for in the middle of the black, we have seen God face to face.

And feeling along His features, we find Him to be El Shaddai: Enough. The dark becomes our dawn. Lord, let the dark come. For in the dark, when I think I don't have enough to make it through to the dawn, is the only place I'll find that You alone are more than enough. In my dark, You dawn. In the dark places of today, let me touch Your face and know You: El Shaddai.

Today's drink of Scripture: "He who dwells in the shelter of the Most High will rest in the shadow of El Shaddai."
~Psalm. 91:1

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