A deep sense that “this is not right” may be the birth of a new vision for our living. It may be that God is not silent, when the walls fall down and the pleasant places seemed ruined, but that God is longing to do a new thing in us and through us. Oh if You might tear open the Heavens and come down through us!
“It’s a crisis” my assistant said, calling me back to the church. A ministry colleague joined us as we walked into my office. A young woman, 18 years old, sat weeping. Without a coat, in cold weather, she had walked in her pajamas over a mile to our church. Made in the image of God, she knew something was not right. Driven by her holy disquiet: a longing pushed her to escape. She came to our church because she had seen children on the playground eating cupcakes and laughing as they played tag. She heard their sing-song playground Odes To Joy. He had taken her cash, her driver’s license, and her keys. She wore the skittishness of his abuse. She needed to regurgitate a theology that kept her depressed, oppressed and perhaps even enslaved. She needed a church to offer some hope, some permission, some voice. We listened. She told how her parents signed away her childhood, letting her marry at 16. He was a man old enough to be her grandfather. She intuitively understood Isaiah’s lament “all our pleasant places have been ruined.” Her childhood church rarely sung Freedom’s song. She did not know that she was made in the very image of God: beloved, beautiful, loved, free, powerful, and worthy. Her soul silently longed for some preacher to release her from her sham vows. I spoke of how violence breaks one’s obligation and that “obey” does not belong in any Christian marriage service. As two pastors listened and prayed, my assistant drove through her tears to the store, by-passing our clothes closet, to buy new jeans, new shoes and Sonic. Together, we called the shelter on the speakerphone. She stood, straighten shouldered, in new clothes and we prayed. The grey-headed sergeant squeezed my bicep, “Preacher, don’t you worry, she is safe with us” The officer gently called her name explaining they would accompany her to the shelter in another county. With kindness he added, “Mary, you can ride in the front seat, the Rookie can take the back” Sitting in my office, our church staff baptized the beauty and heartache of these moments with tears and holy conversation. She held such courage to break free abuse: backed-up by bad theology. Holy Disquiet! Her childhood church offered a false Christianity defined by roles, rules, regulations, obedience, oppression, guilt and shame. The voice of God within her spoke with a prayerful restlessness. The sing-song laughter of children joyously playing on our church’s playground became God’s steeple wooing her towards their songs of faith, hope, love, welcome,acceptance, incarnation, equality, women’s rights, reconciliation, freedom, forgiveness, mercy, compassion, spirituality, and grace.
Listen to Isaiah “If only you would tear open the heavens and come down! Your holy cities have become a wilderness, Zion has become a wilderness, Jerusalem a desolation. Our holy and beautiful house, where our ancestors praised you, has been burned by fire, and all our pleasant places have become ruins. After all this will you hold back oh Lord? Will you keep silent? …. If only you would tear open the heavens and come down!
Do you ever look at the world and feel “this is not right?” Do you look back on your day and feel a holy disquiet with your own actions? Are we longing for something better than this? Do we strive with Jesus to enact the will of God “on earth as in heaven”? Oh if You might tear open the Heavens and come down!
Jerusalem was a mess when Isaiah penned this lamment. The palace gone. The king blinded. King Solomon’s Temple, one of the wonders of the ancient world, burned below the foundations, the stench and grit of ashes everywhere. The best of the college age folks carried off to slavery in Babylon. Isaiah longs for more “If only you would tear open the heavens and come down! Your holy cities have become a wilderness, Zion has become a wilderness…all our pleasant places have become ruins. After all this will you hold back oh Lord? Will you keep silent? …If only you would tear open the heavens and come down!
What are we longing for? What do we work for? What do we do with Holy disquiet? One of the tragic twists in mainstream Christian culture is the notion that our souls can’t be downcast. How strange that we who orient our lives towards the cross feel we must always be happy? The lament is a holy cry to God. “My God, My God… if you would tear open the heavens and come down!” There is a sacredness in Holy Disquiet. The word of the Lord sometimes troubles our souls. The word of the Lord stirs us to repent, return, renew, recreate, reform….
Wendy Miller shares. “Much of our worlds noise and activity seems designed to silence the longings and hunger of our heart. Maybe we are unaware of these deep inner hungers. They are there, but perhaps no one has encouraged us to pay attention. Jesus speaks to the hungers of our heart, to our longings. If we listen to Jesus, we will discover that these longings are the doorways through which we come to God and through which God comes to us.” Learning to Listen taken from “A Guide to Prayer for All Who Seek God”
God spoke Holy Disquiet to Moses. Even the image of an Unconsumed Burning Bush shakes our steady feet, calling us to holier Ground. God brings deep hope but not easy comfort. God speaks words of liberation and of sacrifice, words of freedom and of struggle, words of transformation and of cost. God’s words bring Moses disquiet: “Who am I to go?,” “What shall I say?” “What of they do not listen? “ and “Please, send someone else!”
The prophetic word usually brings Holy disquiet. When King Ahab sees Elijah enter his oval office, the king greets the prophet, “Is that you oh troubler of Israel” ! (1 Kings 18:17) When the Magi journey to worship Jesus with gifts of Gold, frankincense and mire, Matthew tells us that King Herod “and all the city was in turmoil” Matthew 2:2-3. When Paul and Silas came to Thessalonica, the religious leaders cry out “these people who have caused trouble all over the world have now come here saying there is another king, one called Jesus. (Acts 17)
That longing, to “tear open the heavens and come down!” might be the Holy Spirit stirring us to create new lives. If you are feeling disquiet in your soul, that may be God stirring you to change the world. Your deep sense that “this is not right” may be the birth of a new vision for our living. It may be that God is not silent, when the walls fall down and the pleasant places seemed ruined, but that God is longing to do a new thing in us and through us. Oh if You might tear open the Heavens and come down through us!
Jesus did not grab earthly power, nor come to run the government, nor establishing a Christian theocracy. Indeed, Jesus made the civil and religious authorities so nervous they came together in order to crucified him. Holy Disquiet. Jesus teaches us to pray: “Your Kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as in heaven” Matthew 6:10. Oh if You might tear open the Heavens and come down through us! Every time I pray “Creator, Christ, Spirit may your Kingdom come into my life, Let Your will be done through me, order my life on earth with heaven’s patterns…” I feel some Holy disquiet. May that longing for something better- for the patterns of heaven to be my pattern, reset my life. Oh if You might tear open the Heavens and come down through me!
Oh friends, as we long for heaven to come down, may our Holy Disquiet become resolve to live “on earth as in heaven”. “You are the light of the world. A church in the village must not be hidden. Shine your light to all. Let your light shine, so hope-starved people can see the good things you do and praise your Loving Parent who is in heaven. (Matthew 5). Indeed, your warm greeting to that clerk, your prayer over your pie at Fido, your Friday at Room in the Inn, your note to a hurting friend, your invitation to church, your teaching Sunday school, your pledge, your generous song may light someone’s way. Your smiling laughter on our front steps of our church may become a steeple of hope beckoning a dispossessed daughter of Zion into the joy, grace, liberty and love of Jesus. Oh if You might tear open the Heavens and come down through us! Amen