The Nobility of Crickets

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Aloneness. A bench. Sunrise. Winter. Beauty. So many metaphors for a heart that longs to hear from Him.

I was sitting with a friend over some amazing enchiladas and creamy jalapeño dip, and doing what we do when we get together – eating Mexican food and catching each other up on our lives and hearts. And inevitably we began talking about our pain. Because, if you are having an honest conversation with someone you love and trust, how can this not come up? Whatever we walk through becomes part of who we are – and if we show up authentically in relationship with another, our pain tags along. Every time.  And it was one of those moments when, as soon as I spoke the words meant for her, I realized that they for me also.

We were talking about the experience of God disappearing on us. Of feeling like He is nowhere near. Of feeling abandoned by Him.

First off, let us not dismiss the holiness of this conversation by feeling like we need to defend God or a particular theology. He is a big boy who isn’t threatened by our honest exploration of His identity and His ways – or our experience of His identity and His ways. Not to fear, accurate theology has a way of surfacing among open and seeking hearts. However, when we are uncomfortable with what we don’t understand, many of us have tendencies to offer pat, dismissive answers. (God is good, all the time…The Bible says so…It’s not about what you feel…If you just had more faith…You should…read more, pray more, work more, etc.) In other words, we sometimes attempt to ease our own surfacing anxiety with people who ask challenging questions, or questions we haven’t wrestled with just yet by shutting them down. The time to break open the Bible and discuss the theology that underlies our experiences will eventually come around – but only if we are open to this part of the process. When someone shares their heart (especially if it is messy), the first response should be compassion. Grace. Maybe a few questions to get the full meaning of what they are saying. The people of God, who are His hands, feet, ears to listen to, and shoulders to cry on here, should be safe places for people to bring their broken hearts… in all their messy glory because…

God cares deeply when our hearts are broken. And He wants us to bring our broken hearts fully to Him. If we hide the places that actually hurt (usually because of shame or fear of rejection – see paragraph above)… the experience can be sort of like having a very painful sore throat, yet when the doctor asks you what the problem is, you tell her it is your knee instead. The complication is that, a sore throat will often, eventually resolve itself. A broken heart…well, those don’t heal nearly as neatly or predictably. Why would we go to a doctor, and yet not seek help for the part of us that is actually wounded? 

We do this with God all the time.

In this evening of being together with my friend, how we were, where we were… letting it be ok to not be ok, to not have all the answers, to have questions and emotions that didn’t fit neatly in a box or that made us sound more put-together than we were… she said,

“When I pray, all I hear is crickets.”

Silence. Aloneness. Doubts about His love. Worries about being in His will or pleasing to Him. Wondering ‘what am I doing wrong’…or ‘what is wrong with me’? What follower of Jesus hasn’t had this heartbreaking, disorienting, at times terrifying experience? And somewhere in the conversation, after relating and empathizing, I said, in words I realize now were not entirely my own,

“What if some of the noblest work of God is found in the crickets?”

I’ve been sitting with this question for a while now.

What if learning to wait on Him, and trust Him in uncertainty is THE work He has called us to? Not a peripheral lesson of the faith, but a central one?

What if learning to be still and silent before Him is the royal road to deep satisfaction in Him? 

What if some seasons of silence actually contain amazing amounts of God-communication to us, but our skills with silence are so underdeveloped, that we have no idea how to understand or process it properly?

What if our incomplete knowledge of Him severely limits our experience of Him? 

What if the most loving thing He can do is to break our destructive theological paradigms by defying them? And what if silence is one way to do that? 

What if the crickets we may hear in certain seasons of our relationship with Him are not a sign of His distance from or displeasure in us, but instead a sign of His nearness, of His desire for us to have More, and of His transforming power at work in the deepest, most tender places in our heart? 

Psalm 27:14 Wait for the LORD; be strong and take heart and wait for the LORD.

Eccl. 3:7 A time to tear apart and a time to sew together; A time to be silent and a time to speak.

 

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When “Doing” And “Being” Converge

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For one of the sessions, I got to speak in the main worship center of Eagle’s Landing First Baptist Church.

In my relationship with God, my heart’s default position is to be a “do-er” for Him. Historically, I prefer task to love. Which, of course, is completely unsatisfactory to Him and destructive to me. Which, of course, is why much of my adult spiritual life has been about unwinding this soul-killing, task-oriented twisted-ness of mine. Which, of course, is why, His calling on my life is to learn to do the long, hard, painful and at times crushingly lonely work of learning to become a better and more complete “be-er” in Him. Which, of course, both breaks and re-makes my heart, all at the same time.

Recently, I was invited to speak at Confluence – the fall conference for the Georgia Baptist Campus Ministries. (If you go to the website, under Conference Details, you can see my photo and bio:)  It actually was quite a convergence of meaningful events for me…the chance to share with hundreds of university students some of what God has been teaching me along the way, an opportunity to reconnect with special friends who do student ministry across the state, and a time for me to be reminded of something of who I am and who God has made me to be. Because there have been moments in this last season of life, as God has been sowing the deep “being” lessons in my heart, when I’ve pretty much lost sight of how I might ever “do” for Him again. deanna teaching

Humorously enough, the topic I was asked to speak to was A Heart For Christ: longing to know Him more. The very same thing God has been talking with me about for the last season of life. And further adding to the chuckles, the only concrete instruction from the conference organizers about what to address was, “We don’t want to add to the students’ to-do lists, by piling on suggestions of disciplines for them to do.” Hmmm. They wanted me to speak on the dynamic of “being” with God, not just “doing” for Him. The very thing I’ve exhausted so much time and energy on gaining for myself. Confluence, indeed.

I am including a link to the talk, for those who might want to hear how it went.

A Heart For Christ – longing to know Him more, Deanna Davis, 9.26.15.

“Somebody Give Me A Xanax And Knock My @ss Out” –

Context: It was on a Friday night and Jeff and I were in the emergency room. He had been out of the hospital for just one week after our month-long ordeal there with Jeff’s cancer, surgeries, ICU stay and many, many complications. It was traumatic for us both to be back so soon. We didn’t know what was wrong yet, how serious things were or how long we would be there. We were tired. Not just physically, but emotionally. Spiritually. We were just done.

Into this moment, and I won’t reveal which one of us said it, these immortal Davis words were uttered…”Somebody give me a Xanax and knock my @ss out!” (Xanax is an anti-anxiety medication) To which the other said, “Can I have one too?”

The Davis comedy tour was rolling through the ER that night. Because sometimes things are just so bad, all you can do is laugh. That or go crazy. And they order the Xanax and a padded room for you whether you want it or not.

While Jeff was in the ICU, he had a tube down his throat that prevented him from speaking. So when he was awake, he wrote on a dry erase board. While watching one particularly disappointing Ga Tech football game, he proved his sense of humor was intact by writing this. There is no medication strong enough to take away the pain of rooting for the Yellow Jackets.

If you have kept up with our story (links at bottom)…well…we’ve had quite a few intense months here in the Davis household. We were in pain – of the prolonged sort that leaves you exhausted. Afraid. And so discouraged.  All we wanted at that moment was for it to end.

Pain relief. This is a such a universal desire, isn’t it? One which with we are all familiar. Some days we just want to get off the roller coaster – cause the fun has gone out of the ride and we are about to hurl.

Life can be quite painful. I know you know this. Things don’t work out. Something is lost. We get used. Stolen from. Wounded. Relationships nosedive and end. Hearts break. Guilt and regret follow us mercilessly. Dreams die. Sleep disappears. Uncertainty lives with us front and center. We want something, probably something good and God says no. Sometimes your husband’s health and life are threatened suddenly and you spend months in survival and crisis mode until something in your body or heart breaks. Or so I’ve heard.

In response, many, many choose to live their lives in ‘pain-relief’ mode. Pursuing whatever makes whatever is hurting so bad, not hurt so bad. Even if only for a little while. We sleep or eat too much. We drink or pop some sort of anesthetic. We search for another person to comfort us. We over-entertain ourselves, filling up those quiet moments so that we don’t have to hear our hearts crying. There are as many ways to do this as there are people. (My preferred methods? Buffalo wings, Phineas and Ferb, too much time on Facebook and going to bed as early as I can. I am a multi-level medicator.)

Let me tread carefully because I am not saying that all pain relief is bad. If I have a headache, I take an aspirin. If I injure my foot, I ice and rest it. If I am sick, I go to the doctor. Often, pain relief is a good thing. It can provide some of the space we need to begin healing. Maybe it is necessary for us to function normally. And it is crazy for there to be an easy and sensible solution to pain, to improving the quality of life, to allowing one to function normally when one really, really needs to be able to function normally – and to dismiss it.

Yet…

Sometimes, in the spiritual realm, pain has a work to do. And sometimes, our single-minded pursuit of pain relief can actually preempt the work of God in our lives.

Sometimes our pain can act like a light on the dashboard, alerting us to serious trouble with the engine. It can happen physically and definitely spiritually. Uncontrollable anger erupting at relatively small things. Deep heart sobbing that seemingly comes out of nowhere. Depression that lingers and won’t go away. These can be examples of pain that needs to be explored, to be felt. Because there is a cause for it. And treating the symptom without getting to the root of it is like putting a band aid on a cancer. It might cosmetically hide things for a while, but the problem is not going anywhere. Not until you rip off the band aid, look at it full on and truthfully diagnose the real issue.

Sometimes God chooses to speak to us through pain. He either causes or allows things in our lives that are leading us to something. To Him. To more of Him. To wholeness. To relational restoration. To character development. He leads us into the dark so we can learn to follow His voice, to grow our faith, to strengthen us from the inside out. Pain can focus our attention in a way nothing else can. Numbing it without listening to it can rob you of the chance to hear from God Himself.

And sometimes…and I don’t fully understand this… pain stirs something in our humanity. It awakens in us this deep desire for our healer, for things to be made right and Jesus to come back. It can act like a magnet, pulling us to the only One who can truly ease our pain and heal our wounds. It can change our terribly broken hearts.

Pain is this universal thing that every person walks through. It is one of the common experiences that unites everyone on the planet. Therefore, sometimes it is time for a real or metaphorical Xanax. For rest. For a chance to catch our breath and to create some space to begin recovering from whatever it is that is hurting. And sometimes our pain has a work to do. When this happens, it is in our best interests to lean into it, to listen to it, to feel it fully and to let it do its thing in us. Learning to discern the role of pain in our lives and how we should respond can be a powerful spiritual lesson, leading to a deepening of our faith. To more of Jesus. To healing. To wholeness.

Normal Is So Fragile

The Text Message That Saved Me

Jesus Leads Me Along Unfamiliar Paths

The Emotions Of ICU

While Jeff Has Been Sleeping

My Heart Is Showing

A Long Slow Fall Down A Winding Spiral Staircase

Jeff Is Finally Home

A Long, Slow Fall Down A Winding Spiral Staircase

When people ask me, “So, how are you doing?”, if it is a safe person and they are really asking, I tell them, “It has been a long slow fall down a winding spiral staircase.”

Although I am describing something of what my last few weeks have looked like with Jeff so sick in the hospital, I am also talking about our last 2 years. That word picture encompasses not only the emotion of the quick decline of Jeff’s health and how it has affected our family, but of our disappointment at not returning overseas, of the sad realization that our lives will look different than we had ever planned, of a difficult move to a new place that was not anywhere on our radar a few years ago, of the grief of several years of loss demanding expression and of my resulting depression.

A long, slow fall down a winding spiral staircase.

Just when I thought we had surely reached bottom, oh no…we weren’t even close. It has just kept going on and on and I have just kept tumbling down and down. The promised end has continued to stretch further and further out of reach until one day, weeks in to our recent experiences, I woke up and thought to myself, “How on earth did we get here?” And tangentially, “Where did all these bruises come from?”

I suspect many personal crises play out in a similar way.

Something happens. Reaction. Survival mode. Denial. Awakening to reality. Periodic gut-wrenching sobs accompanied by bouts of nausea. Asking, “What the heck just happened?”

At least that has been my experience.

In light of all this, a spiritual/theological question is rolling around in my heart these days…(and let me preface this with the full realization that many others have encountered much steeper, much longer and more painful falls than I)

Why the fall?

Sometimes life takes these odd twisting descents that lead us to places we never imagined we would have to go. Sometimes there is quite fall. And sometimes it takes a long time to get the ground back under us.

I say “sometimes”, but if you’ve walked in this world long enough, then I’m sure you have had a season where the road has disappeared. You’ve fallen. And I bet it all took longer than you hoped it would or thought it should. And I bet the sheer distance of the fall not only took your breath away, but it probably left some pretty decent bruises. Probably in some awkward and private places.

Is. 40:4 says, “Every valley shall be raised up, every mountain and hill made low; the rough ground shall become level, the rugged places a plain.” The idea of God leveling out the rough ground is common imagery in scripture. (Ps. 26:12, Ps. 143: 10, Is. 26:7, Is. 45:2, Heb. 12:13) And no doubt, Jesus shows up and smiles on each of us with kind mercies, making our way sweeter and more joyful than it could be. He sometimes, but not always, buffers and takes the edge off. But honestly, my experience with God seems to involve quite a bit of rough ground. Leveling? Well, my perspective will be different in a few months, but right now? Not so much.

Because I live in a world where sin and its destructive power have roughed up just about every corner of creation. And Jesus doesn’t always fix things. Not right now, anyway. Not always in the way we had hoped.

The pathway to more of Jesus is often a descent. It can involve a fall through our direst fears, past our greatest weaknesses, filled with loss of the things we were sure we could never live without. It can be bruising. Yet…He goes with us. Making sure we are never alone. Accompanying us as we tumble. Showing us that it isn’t the fall that will kill us. It is a life without Him.  A life ruled by our fears, defined by our weaknesses and filled with shallow imitations of what our hearts truly long for is far more dangerous than anything we might encounter on the way down.

A jarring tumble can be quite eye-opening, showing us things we just cannot see when blinded by good times. And a significant fall can crack open our hearts in a most beautiful way, making room for Him to join us in the dark places inside of us we may not even know are there.

And…I am learning to open myself up to the possibility that maybe, just maybe, He levels a different type of ground than what I expect or prefer. Maybe He isn’t always talking about the ground that makes my shoes so dirty.

Maybe, the level ground He is talking about involves the terrain of the heart. I know He makes the ground my heart walks on very stable indeed, regardless of what is under my feet. How else to describe how people endure horrible, devastating external circumstances, but manage to eventually recover and thrive? Just how DID Paul write so much of the New Testament from prison? How did Corrie Ten Boom survive years in concentration camps and come out loving Jesus even more than before? How do believers today walk with Jesus in some pretty dark places and still sing in worship and gratitude?

Jesus did something amazing in their hearts, that’s how. He healed what was broken. He filled up the holes. He smoothed rough ground. He was with them through the worst seasons of life. And He was enough. Even with the fall. Even with the resulting bruising.

And while I write about those who are much more deeply in love with Jesus, who bear His image so much clearer than I, He has also done this for me.

He has allowed me to glimpse something of how sweet it is to know Him in the midst of the fall.

(Update on Jeff’s condition: Jeff has made an amazing turnaround. He left the ICU this past weekend and is now walking around, eating solid food, smiling and chatting with his family and should come home hopefully this weekend. And for a while there, we weren’t sure he would. The best part of all this? I get more of Jesus…and I get my husband back too. We are so very grateful for the prayers lifted up on his behalf around the world. More of our story to come…please stay tuned!)

The Dilemma of Saddling A Horse


While I am not a regular horse rider, I have on occasion over the years found myself on a horse’s back. And I’ve learned something that I think even horses know.

A horse reaches its true potential only when it is saddled properly – when it is capable of carrying someone – who knows, loves and wants to go places with him/her.

Getting a horse to wear his saddle properly can be a bit of a challenge, however. I know this because one time I rode a horse whose saddle was too loose. Let’s just say, it didn’t end well for me. I began tilting to the side till I was almost parallel to the ground and then…well, at least the ground stopped the tilting.

I’ve seen a number of folks attempt to saddle a horse and evidently this is a common problem. Most horses don’t want a saddle to fit as tightly as it needs to in order to support the rider. And who can blame them? It squeezes. Evidently, the smart ones  (which, I’ve found, is most of them…) will hold their breath to spread their gut. Then, as they walk away and can relax, the saddle fits looser.

How to solve this dilemma? I’ve seen two strategies. A saddler can repeatedly ram his knee into the horse’s side, forcing them to exhale, while they tighten the straps. The first time I saw this done, it looked exactly like it sounds – harsh. The horse and the person did not appear to have a very personal relationship. It was definitely a working one.

There is another way though.

The saddler can tighten up the saddle as much as it will go…and then stay close and wait. When they hear and see the horse exhale, they pull the straps a bit. Then they repeat this until the saddle fits properly. This method takes a bit more time. It requires the person to be attentive, patient…compassionate. In touch with the horse’s natural rhythms. To be willing to wait till the time is right and not force the issue. And the horse must learn to trust the saddler, that he has her best interests at heart.

Of course I’m painting a picture here of something of how God works in our lives. We, like horses, are created beings with great potential. And that potential must be harnessed. Saddled. For us to go places, we need a rider. And the rider needs a place to sit, a place to be close and in sync with us.

Discipleship is the process where we learn to wear our saddle properly. The spiritual disciplines are ways in which we give God a place to ‘sit’ in our lives. To lead us, to speak to us, to be present with us, to empower us to go places and do things we couldn’t or wouldn’t on our own. When done well, it enables us to become who we were created to be. It brings joy and relationship.

And yet, our first response to the process is usually resistance. We spread our gut and stubbornly refuse to cooperate. We don’t naturally like the squeezing that is required.

Which presents two options to God and the spiritual leaders in our lives, whose responsibility it is to help us learn to wear our saddle. A swift kick in the gut…or a relationship based on proximity, trust, affection and common purpose. In my experience, God almost always uses the gentle method. He even assures us that His yoke is easy and that He is gentle.

I’ve worked in discipleship ministries for a number of years and I’ve seen His people use both strategies. I’ve been the recipient of both. In my experience, banging on people may work for a little while, but it only breeds more resistance. Distrust. And this usually prefaces some sliding and an eventual crash of some sort.

And I’ve had a number of older women come alongside me for a season and love me. Encouraged me to trust them. Our relationship wasn’t always easy, but it always had an element of affection to it. I knew they had my best interest at heart and I was willing to go along with them because of that. They have been some of the most profound influences in my life – they are the reason God sits in my life like He does today.

Discipleship works best from a place of relationship, proximity, trust, affection, gentleness. For both the disciples and the disciple. 

“Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.” Matt. 11:29