I got it yesterday when I was cleaning out my room. My room at university is one of my favourite places. It’s full of fun things, some wonderful books and, best of all, a nice, soft bed. I’ve spent a lot of my time in that room, smiling. But that room is one of the places I have come to dread, too. It’s lonely and remote and away from everyone. In that room I have cried out to the ceiling, hoping to reach the God who, so often, seems to be just beyond reach. I have done bad things in that room and thought evil things. I have been angry with myself and I have hated my brothers and sisters.
But I cleaned out my room with that strange feeling in the pit of my stomach, that feeling of disconnectedness and acute awareness of change. I hastily staked my books and DVDs away, rushed to stuff dirty laundry into a black bag and quickly disposed of the junk I had accumulated that year. Then, I stopped. I stopped when I came to the notice board.
Now, I don’t know what gets pinned to your notice board, but the things on mine made the strange, sinking feeling in the pit of my stomach get a bit more intense. A knot made it’s way from my diaphragm to the middle of my chest, up to my throat. Waves of joy washed over me as I read the cards from well-wishers, bits of paper I’d kept from times of prayer and celebration. I even came across an A4 sheet with good things about me written on it, by the men on my corridor. I couldn’t look at it though. I put it away without examining it too much. These icons of joy, reminders of happy days held, for me, a tinge of guilt and grief. Guilt for the people I had forgotten, and grief for the relationships lost. Strange, what we find on our notice boards.
So I cleaned out my room. A room of such joy, and of such sorrow. A strange mixture of both clinging to every trinket ensured that there was litte I could bare to dispose of. After emptying the draws and cupboards, the walls remained. Amongst the posters of bands and films I like, I came across a number of pieces of paper which had been written on in my own hand. Of course, I knew they were there but much like God I had all but forgotten them, they had become a part of the furniture of my life. On these pieces of paper were words of hope and faith, loving words for dear friends. I remembered with that strange, sick feeling in my stomach, the hours I had spent lying on my bed scribbling down prayers for everyone I could think of. Words of blessing, over marriages and relationships, prayers of safety and joy, notes trust for the future and in God’s guiding hand. It was hard to read these.
Funny, how these little prayers, much like everything else in my room, provoked a strange combination of anger and joy. I was so joyful, because God had answered every prayer on those pieces of paper. I was angry, because God had answered every prayer on those pieces of paper. Angry because, though God had performed miracles in the lives of people I love, there was no such activity in my own.
That’s the crux, though, isn’t it? The ups and down of a year summed up by these scribbled words.
Yet, despite my lack of faith, my frustrations and doubts God is immutably good and loving and faithful. Even when I couldn’t look at those prayers, when my spirit was all cracked and dry, God was totally committed to blessing those I care for. God kept on listening when I had stopped talking.
I sit in my empty room with many questions pulsing through my mind. The staked boxes of organised things contrast my racing mind stuffed with confusion. Why do simple things conjure a myriad of contradictory thoughts? Shame, embarrassment, success, celebration guilt, grief, joy, happiness, love, faith, anger, hate, failure. All at once. That strange feeling in the pit of my stomach carries all the feelings I’m not sure how to feel.
God is immutably himself. This is what I can say at this time with any certainty.
Words of grace I wrote months ago caught up with me, though I was far from it. Very peculiar indeed.
If we are faithless, he remains faithful—
for he cannot deny himself.
(2 Timothy 2:13)