Belting out the “Ballad of the Murky Middle”

Two years. That’s how long it’s been since our “yes” to God led us to take an overseas position and how long we’ve been here working, learning and training for our job. On the one hand, it’s barely any time at all. On the other hand, when I think about how long it’s been since I spent time with some of my most precious people, it’s seems like forever. But trust me: I’m not at all complaining.

Before moving we did our best to properly pack and prepare. In hindsight, some things we should have done more of and others were completely unnecessary. For instance, I brought things I thought would be useful and I’m only now getting around to pulling them out and considering how to use them. Other things have gathered an embarrassing amount of dust because they’re just stupid. I’ve sold or given away a quite a bit with still more to go.

This change has been huge. Mostly subtle, almost imperceptible, degree by degree and with thankfully only a few seismic situations that left us rocking and reeling for short periods of time. When you say yes to change and God‘s plan for your life, you expect this. Everyone tells you to, and it’s not like you don’t believe them, it’s only that you honestly don’t know how to define what to expect

It’s like other life changes, even the good and healthy ones such as marriage and parenthood. I mean, can you really know what to expect? You simply do your best to prepare and get sound advice– but you still can’t know how much of the quiet, behind the scenes, deep down and dirty work must often done in the dark and mostly alone.

Praise God, it’s never without hope!
Never without faith.
And hopefully, never without purpose.
This is when everything you have learned about God, everything you say you believe and everything you want to believe gets put to the test and into action.

Part of our preparation was official, but even that was the skipping of a stone along the surface of a very large body of water. I told someone this past week that one of the most surprising things about living this life is that you constantly feel like you are making it up as you go while praying and hoping you are doing it “right“. Graciously, the Spirit of God goes before us and if we can stand to be quiet and cautious and careful to listen…things gradually become ever so clear.  Moving slowly is really the best posture in this situation.

No area of my life has gone untouched. Definitions and understandings, gifts and talents, worship and work have all had to be inspected carefully and ever so slightly redefined. The energy and excitement that used to go into these sorts of things with confidence is now scaled way back and always laced with a bit of uncertainty and anxiousness – even hesitancy because some things just don’t happen the same way in this different context.

Things I used to be good at, things that used to be part of my identity, really can’t be anymore– it’s all got to be new. Brings a bit of light to the passage in Revelation “behold I am making all things new”. God doesn’t say that He is making “all new things” — He’s making those old things- ideals, ideas and identities, relationships and realities, heaven, earth and creation….everything, restored and new. It’s the already and the not yet…the then and now of working out our salvation with fear and trembling because… we are His and we are being made new.

Change hurts.
Change is exciting.
Change is a free-fall of faith with God that can’t be experienced any other way.
God is constantly making all things new.
Because He sees what needs changing even though we don’t.

One of the changed things I miss a lot right now is my previous role in worship. Gathering with my friends and sometimes family in a collective situation, singing loud, hard and long and striking chords from deep inside my heart — sometimes until tears came from my eyes. Feeling truth from every word sung and pressing my praise of God into the throne room of heaven.

I’ve really grieved this change. I miss being immersed and fully engaged and purposely leading and guiding others into this place before God. Honestly, I will not have that place here, if even ever again, for a long time.

I knew I’d be laying it down but.. somehow must have still thought in my heart I’d find a way to get there again. And maybe that’s what God wanted me to see about my own worship. As someone famous one sung, maybe I needed to remember the heart of worship. To have all “stripped away and simply…. come.”

It came to a peak just before Easter and there, I gave God my grief and the tears for the things I miss, whether it’s studying the Bible in my own language with people who understand, or singing songs in a room full of people in my own heart language. Because it’s been harder to do by myself. It’s harder to constantly be a “self feeder”.

I like to imagine Him just listening and nodding His head and waiting for me to finish. Because very soon after my little boo-hoodle (which really only lasted a few days), I could sense the Spirit speaking into my heart and asking, “I hear what’s grieving you, what you miss and wish you could participate in and give…so, where is it? Lorretta, where is your worship?” Ouch.

In other words, it’s good that I can see now how some of the things I thought were really important — really aren’t. It’s good to feel the pinches from the change and recognize that the deep down, one on one place of praise has not changed even while my circumstances have. After all, things are supposed to get redefined in the light of the truth and saying yes to Him.

Because God is making all things new.

So, where is my worship?
Honestly, I’m still working on it. Some of it’s right here- in these honest words about my honest struggles and in praise of our great God. It’s also in the kitchen, alone and by myself singing songs truly now for an “audience of One” (and my very confused cat!). Oh – as a side note: the “laying it down”? I’m so glad for the privilege. I’m changed and it’s been worth it.

All of it.

Yesterday, a friend shared this song and all I can say is WOW. It’s the kind of song that melts your soul and pours it back out in liquid worship. I can’t get over it. I’ve been completely undone by the truth of these lyrics since the first listen, and have been singing and wringing them back out to God from my heart all day.

So….Here is my worship. May it be yours too. This.

“I was a wretch… I remember who I was. I was lost… I was blind and running out of time.”

8 thoughts on “Belting out the “Ballad of the Murky Middle”

  1. Loretta, you have let go of many things, but God has increased your ability to write beautifully. Your post blessed my heart beyond words. Our lives here have not changed that much as Billy and I tend to be hermits any way.

    We are attending First Presbyterian. Such a simple place with sound teaching and no pretense. We feel more and more at home there.

    I am still teaching high school English, and before spring break we had been one month without a sick student or quarantined because of exposure. But “just when you thought it was safe to go back in the water” (Jaws 2 reference) COVID rears its head again. We continue to do what we can and learn to lean a bit harder on the One Who holds us dearly.

    Please give our love to David and give yourself a hug.

    Joy,

    Carol

    1. Hi Carol! How wonderful to hear from you and to “feel” your love today. Miss seeing you around the fringes of my life- you are one of my “precious people” spoken of here.
      I don’t blame you at all for finding a sound and simple place to lay your heart before the throne of God. 1st Pres is a good place to do this. I passed along your love and hugs to David and received one in the same instant from him! Blessings to you both from us, Love Lorretta

  2. Oh, my dear sister, how I long to sit with you in the same room sharing tea! But meeting you at the throne of grace will suffice for now. What a beautiful vessel I see God continually making of you, always seeking, always learning, always growing, always inspiring! I love you and pray for you to continue to bloom where you are planted.

    1. Beth… Yes, I hope we can do that eventually and I’m so glad there are still ways to communicate and focus on what is good, true, noble and good with one another. You have no idea how often D. and I are in conversation and remember how close we used to live to each other and wishing we’d spent more time together. The brokenness that was still being “cleansed”, for some reason, prevented it. God is sovereign and good so I know we can trust Him to cover, guide and provide for time in the future. Love you!

  3. Ah, good words friend. Soothing yet honest. True but gentle. May the Lord continue to bless you with His presence as you walk through the change. And keep singing, even if no one is there to listen!

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