I can recall, in painful clarity, walking into church on Sunday morning, clothed in ego, wearing a shell of arrogance and an expression of deflection. (Expression of deflection, as in, “Look at this face, keep things shallow and vague.”)
I’d sing during worship, if I thought the song wasn’t stupid, and when I did sing, I was doing my best for the people around me to hear what a fine voice I had.
I’d sit, with arms folded, during the sermon as if those folded arms in front of me could protect me from hearing what was being said.
But, inside, I was churning and uncomfortable, my thoughts racing around in my head trying to outrun the dread that was chasing them and barreling straight toward more disappointment and heartache. There was no joy there in that place.
There was no joy in that church among the smiling faces and God’s word, the joyful noises and the truth. No, there was only the pain inside that wouldn’t go away, the guilt and shame of my life and the discouragement that had overtaken me and that I looked forward to at every stop and turn along this long, hard road before me.
But, I went. After a while, the words that I tried to fend off seemed to be pointed directly at me. I felt like I was being spied on and preached about.
I thought about quitting, not going into that place anymore.
Everything was against me, even the sermons seemed to use me as a poster boy for what NOT to do!
Psalm 42:3 Day and night I have only tears for food,
while my enemies continually taunt me, saying,
“Where is this God of yours?”
4 My heart is breaking
as I remember how it used to be:
I walked among the crowds of worshipers,
leading a great procession to the house of God,
singing for joy and giving thanks
amid the sound of a great celebration!
I heard these words again the other day. I thought, “Hey! I remember being there!”
I remember loving the thought of going to the house of God, being with the people there, celebrating through the music the joys of the Lord and hearing truth delivered in a way that made me thirst for more.
I remember that being only a distant memory, the guilt that felt was heaped upon me as I walked through the doors, the pain and fear I felt as I tried to hide my flaws and sins from others and the way truth seemed to turn into a vile attacker to my fractured pride.
I remember my arms folded in front of me as a last line of defense, protecting the broken and ashamed man that just couldn’t take much more.
I lived right there at the end of verse four for a long time, taunted, brokenhearted, disappointed and discouraged.
Psalm 42:5 Why am I discouraged?
Why is my heart so sad?
I will put my hope in God!
I will praise him again—my Savior and my God!
Yep, I waited far too long to walk out of verse four and into verse five.
If you see me on Sunday at church or at work or out at the grocery store, or the baseball game, I will not fold my arms across my chest. I will be open and vulnerable and I will talk to you. I will share what God has done for me, celebrate with you, cry with you or just sit with you.
It has been a long road, I’ve been discouraged along the way. I may be discouraged tomorrow. But discouragement is only a stop along the way. It is no longer my destination. I am no longer a solitary soul hiding behind my mask, the illusion of a life I have created or emotions running while to hide my real failures.
No, discouragement is just a place to rest for a moment while I assess where the next step falls along my journey.
I consider myself blessed to have such a backdrop as my past. I can set the life I now have next to it and see a miracle.