Anniversaries, Pains, Highs, and Lows
This year, August is a month of celebration in the Clausing house. At the beginning of this month we had the anniversary of our wedding. On Tuesday, the 22nd, we celebrated one year in Edinburgh (time flies). Tomorrow, the 25th, we celebrate the anniversary of my ordination as a Teaching Elder in the Presbyterian Church in America. These moments are always good times to reflect.
In our years of marriage, I can say that the highs stand out. We have made some great friends. We have had a lot of opportunity to travel. We brought a sweet baby boy into our home and he is becoming an active and cuddly little man. Our one year in Edinburgh has been full of learning about the city, visiting other parts of the UK, making new friends and renewing old ones (yes, I am talking about you Tom and Wendy). I have learned more than I thought possible in a year. We have grown closer together as a family. Over the years of ordained ministry, I have grown in ways I never imagined. I never thought I would be interested in preaching semi-regularly, but here I am in Edinburgh missing the pulpit. I have walked with men and women who have taught me and, hopefully, with whom I have been able to give a little bit of guidance. I have learned how to listen better, and even though I still hate hearing critique, I can accept it and apply it to my life and ministry. I have made great friends in the ministry who encourage me daily. This month has given me and my family ample opportunities to reflect on highlights of the past years.
Yet, in the midst of these reflection obvious moments of pain and suffering come up. This point was poignantly made earlier this week when Taryn was admitted to the hospital because of a rheumatoid flair up. These moments of physical pain are jarring, not only for her but for our entire family. Contemplating those moments in the past it is interesting just how lonely we can feel. Even among friends who love us and care for us, it is easy to feel like we are going through this alone. The lows of life can play tricks on our minds. John Owen notes that in pain, we are 'apt to have very hard thoughts of him [God], —to think he is always angry, yea, implacable; that it is not for poor creatures to draw nigh to him.' Owen goes on to show how these 'hard thoughts' are destructive to us, our relationships with each other, and ultimately our relationship with God:
The Lord take nothing worse at the hands of his [children], than such hard thoughts of him, knowing full well what fruit this bitter root is like to bear, —what alienation of heart, —what drawings back, —what unbelief and tergiversations in our walking with him. How unwilling is a child to come into the presence of an angry father!
It is easy when the pain has subsided to look back and see the folly of my 'hard thoughts' at the time. However, it is so difficult to not have 'hard thoughts' in the moments of pain either my own pain or that of Taryn. Yet, I am reminded again and again in Scripture who God is. He is the one who came down and took on flesh in the person of the Son. He came down and experienced pain and suffering alongside us. He knows all our pains, not in a detached and unsympathetic way, but as one who is fully human. When we are going through the pains of life, we can look to a God who has entered into this world and, as Kelly Kapic says, 'takes possession of our sin, misery, and battle with suffering.' In our pain and suffering, 'when we finally look into the eyes [of Jesus]..., the entire question of our suffering looks and feels different, from our longings and our laments to our nagging hard thoughts about God and our frustrations with the pain we cannot defeat.'
The days have been long but the years have been short. There have been highs. There have been lows. Whatever the next years hold, we can rest in the truth that our God walks with us. So, we walk forward; knowing that he is Emmanuel, 'God with us'.