Foggy mornings and spiritual truths
I just got back from Guatemala last night. I left for the trip a week ago with a new depth of emptiness laid heavy on my heart. I feared for my soul, I had never felt so empty, so void, so hopeless. In the days leading up to my departure, I realized for the first time in my life the true depth of sin and ugliness in my own heart. I searched and could not find a single good thing inside me. I was apart from God, wayward, wandering. The day before my trip I wrapped my mind around the reality that no good thing exists inside of me apart from God. That was a humbling and gut wrenching reality to grasp. I got on the plane to Guatemala thinking, simple, “Change me." Because I finally saw myself and who I saw staring back at me was not who I wanted to be, but I also finally saw my weakness, and knew that I was not the one who could change me.
But the problem with all of these realizations was that God did not feel near. It’s incredibly hard to realize undesirable qualities in yourself but not to feel or sense the One who desires you still. Thus was the place I was in when I arrived in Guatemala. Empty, lonely, disgusted and disappointed with myself, aware of my need for Jesus, unsure of everything else.
Now is the part in the story where I tell you that God showed up, that I had an encounter with Him just like I had wanted, and that my heart is reassured again in my salvation and my hope in Jesus thanks to all the miraculous and supernatural ways that God spoke to me on my trip.
But that’s not what happened. At least, not the way I wanted or expected or thought I needed.
Instead, I wrestled with my limits. I wrestled with my need. I wrestled with not “feeling" God. I wrestled with frustration and anger and exhaustion. I wrestled with self condemnation. I wrestled with doubt and despair and comparison and fear and uncertainty.
But in the middle of all those thoughts swirling around in my head, I felt peace. I realized and believed wholeheartedly that I would not wrestle with my sin nature (or even see it or sense the weight of it!) if not for the Holy Spirit at work within me. I realized that my feelings of closeness (or lack of) with God were still only feelings. I realized that He is unmovable, and what I am experiencing is the reality that I am not unmovable, but, instead, I am by my very nature wayward in my emotions and perceptions. But this does not change Him.
My present inability to feel God’s presence does not change the reality of His presence.
My present inability to believe God’s love and acceptance does not change His opinion of me.
My present inability to trust my salvation through Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross does not, can not, will not change what has been done for me.
So I had no radical encounter with the God of the universe in Guatemala. I had no sweet sense of His whispers in my ear. I just had the bible, the encouraging words of the those I confided in, and a God-given stubborn disposition to believe anyway.
The pictures above are of the view from our window where we stayed in Santa Lucia. Often, there is a big old mountain in our view (I’m from the flatlands of Florida, so the mountain is big to me). As long as you have eyes, you can’t miss the mountain. It’s many times taller and wider and more permanent than I am, and it’s been there for longer than many times my lifetime.
But some days, a fog surrounds the mountain. And if you didn’t know better, if you had not seen it before the fog, you would not, could not, know that there’s a mountain right there.
But there is.
And such is our way with God. He is more permanent, more immovable, infinitely deeper, infinitely bigger than we are. The fog, like my uncertainty and doubt and depression, is wayward and wispy. It does not, cannot, last. Whereas God does not, cannot end.
And I have encountered God before this fog, that I know for sure. So while the fog is here, I will remember that He is here too. He does not move, just as this mountain does not move. The fog cannot change Him, so if I cannot see Him, it is no reflection on His character or substance. He is still the same.
I’m not sure how that all translates to you. But this foggy morning view was my breakthrough reality in Guatemala. Not that the spiritual fog and haze has retreated from my life, but that I feel confident that neither has God retreated from my life. In that truth, I find peace.