"They shall call His name Immanuel - which means God with us." - Matt 1.23
"He was never known to desert other people if they had trouble. When women were in tears, he stayed by their side. When old folks were lonely, he sat with them quietly. It was nothing miraculous, but the sunken eyes overflowed with love more profound than a miracle... " - Shusaku Endo
Today it's exactly a year since i finished my epilepsy medication. I am still not seizure-free, but i trust God understands what's going on. This last fortnight i have spent two periods in hospital, having numerous seizures. I don't really know what to say about it, except i realised again how amazingly grateful i am for the friends and family i have and for the fact that God never leaves us. Last night i was looking through my old diaries and found something i wrote this week, exactly three years ago. It echos what often still goes through my mind - especially on weeks like these. I feel pretty vulnerable and exposed posting it - infact, it may be the most open i have ever been on here, but i will post it anyway, as it helps express the point i want to make:
"Tell me why? Why should they help? I am embarrassment to all who come near. I who scream and kick and shout. Unsightly, unruly, unlovely, unseemly. I who break the rules of social conduct. Why should they help? I don't know why. Why spend time with one like this? I have nothing anymore to give. I who's brain is like a sieve. I just salvage words from this oil slick. Incoherent, inappropriate, intense. Why spend time with such a thing? I don't know why. Some do look and judge by sight: "She's crazy, weird and demonized." "She belongs to the occult." "What are her family's sins?" "She's just sensing spiritual things." "Send her to a psychologist." So they say. And the say it to my face. At least they look me in the eyes. I don't blame them for what they say. For sometimes i wonder the same. Other's just pretend: "We don't know her." "She's no longer our friend." Just walk on by like they'd never seen. I don't blame them. If i saw me, i fear i might do the same. I am embarrassment. I'd bring them shame. Why should they help? I don't know why. But some still they do. Like angels in disguise, they help and care. They hold my head, protect my frame ,watch over me, spend time with me, talk to me, laugh with me, love me. Why should they care? I don't know why. But still they do. It's a mystery i just can't comprehend - I do not understand. Not only am i nothing, with nothing to give back. I am, in fact, worse than that. I am embarrassment. I am shame. Why should they help? I don't know why. I don't take it for granted. I don't presume it should be so. When help and care and love is shown, it is to me the face of grace. The face of mercy. The face of kindness. The face of love. It is in those who sacrifice their time and pride for me, that i see the face of Him. The face of Jesus, the humble King."
I guess the truth is that even when we can't clearly discern God with us, He is still true to His name... and it says His name is Immanuel, which means God with us. Even when i was having seizures, even when i was simply lying there crying in-between, even when i didn't understand what on earth was going on... even then, it must have been true that God was with me.. and still is.... It never ceases to amaze me, and i am so grateful that He isn't with us because of what we are, or what we have to give, but He is with us simply because He is. But i guess i realised too, that sometimes the way He is with us is through the people He puts around us. I had friends who just sat with me for hours in hospital, even when i know they were tired out themselves... friends and family who have sat with me and prayed for me, for years on end now. And i can't express how grateful i am for them and how much i love them. But through them sitting with me, i realised too that in many ways, Jesus was sitting with me. I know it's also true that if no-one had been there, as is sometimes the case in life, then God still would have been... but still i felt this week like i was more aware of His presence through other people, than when i was left alone.
I also just came across a quote by Shusako Endo, which i've included at the top of this post. In his writing he emphasizes a lot how Jesus came to those who were most outcast and most rejected.. how he never avoided "dis-grace" but was "a man of sorrows, familiar with suffering..." the Jesus who is not ashamed to walk amongst the people who society may be ashamed of. I've been thinking about the phrase Endo uses which says "love more profound than a miracle".... miracles are incredible and show us so much of God's power.... but i realised that there are times when actually we may see just as much, if not more, of God through the persistant and faithful love He shows us over years, than from an instant miracle...... don't get me wrong, i'm all for instant restoration when it's real and God chooses to work that way... in fact, i'm desperate for it.... i'd MUCH rather be instantly healed than have it drag on for years... not just for my sake, but for the sake of others... it grieves me to know how much i put them through, and i long not to be such a burden and disruption..... Also, i don't think there is anything wrong with a desire to see people healed instantly in healing meetings and so on.... but sometimes i wonder whether people prefer that simply because it's easier than investing hours and weeks and years of time and love and prayer into someone's life... But in the weirdest kind of way, maybe God sometimes allows things to last months or years in order to show us something of what love really is... the love that doesn't give up, but persists... the love that sacrifices pride and waits patiently with a person until God has completed His work in them.... the love that shows what it really means for God to be with us through everything.... and for us to let Him be with others through letting Him live in us.... to be with us in health, and in sickness, in good and in bad, in the night or in the day..... I know that my family and friends have shown me a lot of God through the gracious and merciful ways they have cared for me and haven't given up on me over the years.. even when i really don't deserve it... and God Himself has remained faithful and true to His name. I praise Him for that. I praise Him for the reality that He is with us. I praise Him because He took on human flesh and walked amongst us, suffering like us, being rejected and mocked and beaten and killed... in order to truly be 'God with us.' And I praise Him because He rose again and gave His Spirit to us, so that even though He no longer walks on earth in the flesh He once did, He walks on earth and remains with us through His Spirit which lives in each of His children.