I love this clip from the movie, “My Big Fat Greek Wedding”, where the father laments the character of his daughter’s fiance’s parents.
It is an analogy that was used by a group of women who embraced doing theology together, who challenged the idea of theology as that which is relegated to a few select academics, reduced to abstract concepts, and sequestered solely in the “hallowed” halls of academia.
And today I woke up to the reality that it is an apt analogy for what has become of my faith and my spirituality. My faith has become dry, like a piece of toast… no jam… no butter.
I am empty. I have been running on fumes.
And how did I get here? Well, I got here through the illusion that because faith is my job, teaching about God and teaching about the Bible is enough to feed me and sustain me. I embraced the lie that I could manage without spending time with God on my own, without reading His word in my own time for my own benefit. But I have come to the end of my reserves.
When I came back from Rwanda, I felt broken and in despair. Even though there were glimpses of light on my trip, even though intellectually I could see the evidence of God and hope, I was blind. I was disconnected emotionally from the source of my being, so I could not fully enter into those spaces where hope and God were evident.
I cried out in agony, “I don’t trust God. How can I trust him when he did nothing to stop the genocide?” And as I sit with that question, I sense the deeper echoes of other pain that is still ever so present, pain that resounds in questions such as, “How can I trust you when I am still infertile? How can I trust you when you did not heal my friend, when you did not prevent my cousin’s death?”
How can I trust a God who would so willingly provide someone with a cell phone just when their phone packed up on them but does nothing to stop so much pain and suffering around the world, such as the horrific genocides that have occurred, and still are occurring?
Through the love of precious friends and loved ones, with the help of them holding me, creating safe spaces for me, and lovingly asking me hard questions, I have been able to voice these hard questions, cry out the despair that at times threatens to drown out the light, and process these last few weeks. I have been able to slowly come to understand that I had been pouring out without taking the time to replenish my spirit, without taking the time to stop AND drink from the well of living water and eat the bread that would satisfy all my hunger.
I was asleep to the fact that I was living the truth of Rilke’s words, a quote that I have shared with so many students in my classes:
“Be patient toward all that is unsolved in your heart and try to love the questions themselves, like locked rooms and like books that are now written in a very foreign tongue. Do not now seek the answers, which cannot be given you because you would not be able to live them. And the point is, to live everything. Live the questions now. Perhaps you will then gradually, without noticing it, live along some distant day into the answer.”
I was blind to the fact that I needed to live these hard questions, to fully live into, and experience, all the emotions that accompanied these questions – the grief, the anger, the fear, the anxiety, the despair – until gradually I would live my way into the answers. And that is what is beginning to happen.
Last week, I spent time catching up with a friend, and after sharing about my experiences in Rwanda, she asked me, “Where is Jesus in all this, Nicole?” I am so grateful to her for asking that question. Immediately after she asked it, it felt like time had slowed dramatically so that I attend to that significant moment. And since then, I have stayed with that question, and it feels like that question is helping me begin to live into the answers I need.
I am realizing that in focusing so much on teaching about God and the Bible, I completely sidelined my spirituality. Because I was living almost completely in my head with my faith, my heart was being silenced to the point where I could not hear it anymore. And so, without realizing it, I moved further and further away from Jesus, further and further away from the living water and the bread of life.
But I am awake now. And I am thirsty and hungry.
At the Casting Crowns concert last night, the group sang their song, “The Well”
Leave it all behind,
Leave it all behind,
Leave it all behind,
Leave it all behind,
I have what you need,
But you keep on searching,
I’ve done all the work,
But you keep on working,
When you’re running on empty,
And you can’t find the remedy,
Just come to the well.
You can spend your whole life,
Chasing what’s missing,
But that empty inside,
It just ain’t gonna listen.
When nothing can satisfy,
And the world leaves you high and dry,
Just come to the well
And all who thirst will thirst no more,
And all who search will find what their souls long for,
The world will try, but it can never fill,
So leave it all behind, and come to the well
So bring me your heart
No matter how broken,
Just come as you are,
When your last prayer is spoken,
Just rest in my arms a while,
You’ll feel the change my child,
When you come to the well…
And now that you’re full,
Of love beyond measure,
Your joy’s gonna flow,
Like a stream in the desert,
Soon all the world will see that living water is found in me,
‘Cos you came to the well
As the words flashed on the side-screens, I realized that I desperately want to be in the place they were singing about… a place where I am full of love and joy, and where what flows from me is an overflowing of the living water that has been pouring into me. So today I choose to stop at the Well-that-is-Jesus and stay awhile.
Here I will stay, and here I will rest, and here I will drink.
Here I will sing with all the need that is in me, Mercy Me’s song,
Hungry, I come to You for I know,
I am empty but I know Your love,
Does not run dry.
So I wait for You,
So I wait for You.
I’m falling on my knees,
Offering all of me,
Jesus, You’re all this heart is living for
Broken I run to You, for Your arms
Are open wide.
I am weary but I know Your touch
Restores my life.
And I will stay here because I acknowledge that I am dry, and I don’t want to be dry anymore.
I will stay here because I confess that I have been arrogant, thinking that I could do life on my own, that the place I am in makes a mockery of my pride.
I will stay here because I no longer want to be in this place.
So, broken, I kneel at this Well, where I will stay and drink until I am thirsty no more, where I will eat until I am hungry no more.
Have you experienced this drought?
How did you recover from it?
Or if you have not yet recovered from the drought, how would you like to move from the place of dryness to a place of being nourished, watered and fed?