Living in Chicago has been difficult for me. I’m away from my close friendships in Jackson, I’m missing the comforts of a small town, I’m feeling fearful, more than ever. I hear roughly six separate sirens per day from my new job location, and it’s incredibly disheartening. The hurt, pain, and separation of people in this city is real. This is a city that since it’s birth, has been forged in flames and tragedy, over and over. And it’s experiencing that again now, with continued racial division and high homicide rates. This is a city that I was unprepared for.
In addition, my love is in a totally different place from me in an emotional sense. He loves the city. He loves the freedom of public transit and biking options. He loves the feeling of the city, it’s buzz and busyness and array of options to be on any given day – coffee shops and bars and parks and all sorts of things. Chicago has been what he has wanted for a long time.
With these very strange and new challenges, I have fluctuated in my feelings and walk with the Lord. I have experienced so much fear and anxiety here. Incredible fear for my own, and Alec’s, life. Incredible fear of being taken away, of being sexually abused in any given moment, somehow, on my walks between buses and to my job. Incredible fear of losing Alec in some way, and feeling this anxiousness in my chest if he isn’t able to send me a text within a few hours. Hate of not being with him every moment, to somehow ensure his safety and health. Hate of working because of these same reasons. Hate of working ‘too’ far from home, not in our neighborhood. Painful difficulty of trusting the Lord here.
But then, so comes this glimmer of hope in our new church. In the right time, the Lord has so graciously gifted us with a church that loves deeply, encourages vulnerability, and has wonderful teaching and community. And in God blessing my heart further, our church has been teaching through the psalms of lament for several weeks, and perhaps months before we arrived. If you are unfamiliar, the psalms of lament are the sad songs of David and other psalmists. They are the blasphemous psalms of wondering if God is ever good, if He is even compassionate anymore. They are the psalms of grave trouble, both physical and in the heart, convinced of aloneness and a forever experience of sorrow. They are the psalms of “Where are you God?” and “Why have you forsaken me?” They are the psalms of the cross, of it’s pain and torture and, interestingly, trust.
Not interesting in the sense that Jesus obeyed and trusted His Father at His darkest hour, that being a different discussion. How I mean is that in the psalms of lament, where hearts are poured out before God in distress, and near disrespect of God’s character is preserved on the pages of our Bibles forever, there is an abiding trust that is present underneath it all. The audacity with which we see David address God is one that only can communicate the heart of a scared child, a child who is intimately connected with his Father.
If David did not know God well, he would never shout “Has your steadfast love forever ceased? (see Psalm 77, vs. 8)” to God’s face. He would never believe his freedom to question God, to see what He really is all about, to test the waters with confidence that he is loved and known, no matter what he says. The psalms of lament written by David and others prove out a deep friendship with the Lord, not an abandonment. And that is what I am learning.
Bundled in that large lesson are many others, like that the walk of faith includes fear, and that’s normal and okay. And that suffering is never purposeless and only in the Lord’s timing, only to refine and only to shape us like Himself, so that I don’t have to fear for my life or even protection. That I can address all of my fears and hopes and anxieties with the Lord, and that He receives me and hears me (Psalm 55, vs. 17; 116, vs. 1). That God loves me even more than I could love myself, that my name is written in His hand and heart, that I belong to Him, and Him to me.
I am learning about talking with the Lord more freely, more like when I was in Bible school, then guided by classes and consistent time in the Word. I am fearfully, with strain, attempting to trust the Lord with the new, hurting, and scary place in which we now live. I am learning that based on who I am to the Lord, I can address all things with Him, and to not be swayed away from openly bringing my deepest fears to the surface of our conversation, as He hears me and delights just in hearing my voice.
Chicago is intimidating, unknown, and not trustworthy. And it sucks to not be able to trust the place I now call home. But I am learning that God has been preparing an eternal home for me, and that I can look ahead with great hope. Chicago is not my true home, and so it is okay that it causes my many insecurities and fears to arise to the surface. Because one day, I will be home, and will cry no more.