Have you ever had a situation with a friend or family member in which you hit a point in the conversation where one or both of you just needs to hit “pause” and get some space. You need to go to another room and continue the chat at another time. This could be in good situations, but often these things pop up in conflict or hard seasons.
The hope is not to walk away forever, but just for a moment, to take a break, maybe to calm down, to regroup your thoughts before engaging again.
A couple weeks ago I had one of these situations, except it was with God. I had a conversation with a mentor that afternoon that involved some conversations about and with God that were good, but hard. Then, I went to church in the evening and the conversations with God continued as His Word was spoken and we responded in prayer as a group. Individually, the dialogue continued as a I wrestled with what God was up to in a few areas of my life.
As I walked to my car to drive the 40 minutes home, I have to admit, I was at a point like I described above where I just needed to “go to another room” and revisit the conversation with God at another time. We’d been talking for hours at this point and I felt my soul just needed a break. Yet, as soon as that thought crossed my mind, some other words came to mind as well… words from Psalm 139… a psalm filled with words that I’ve been working all year to memorize, to hide in my heart. In this moment though, I stubbornly wished they would have stayed hidden…
Where shall I go from your Spirit?Psalm 139:7-8
Or where shall I flee from your presence?
If I ascend to heaven, you are there!
If I make my bed in the depths, you are there!
Not quite what I wanted to hear in that moment.
You can’t really “go to another room” with the God of the Universe. While I do think God is gracious to give us space when we need it, the other truth is He’s always there whether we like it or not. He can’t not be there. He’s God.
Just like in the situations I described in the first paragraph, even with God I think there are times when some space is good and healthy. Time away can provide opportunity to come back to a conversation refreshed, it calms emotions, and helps us think and communicate more clearly. But in this situation with God, and in some conversations with humans, the desire for space may also be us running away at the first sign of discomfort.
I fully believe God would have been okay with me finding some completely unrelated podcast, distracting myself, and ignoring Him for a while. And later on that night I did give myself some space, but in that moment as I started my drive, I also sensed an invitation before me.
I didn’t like what I was hearing or what my heart was feeling. I didn’t like seeing my sin and struggle. I didn’t like hearing myself name the ways I was feeling disappointed or hurt by God. Even the good parts I just didn’t want to talk about anymore.
Again, I think God would have graciously let me return to the conversation later, but His Spirit also brought those verses to mind as a way of inviting me to stay in that messy hard place. It was a reminder that I didn’t have to get myself together or have my thoughts all figured out before I journeyed further in the conversation with Him.
He was offering to sit with me as I drove home and listen to it all.
He gave a different kind of space. Instead of distance, He provided a safe space to be real and honest and vulnerable. He brought other psalms to mind where the authors were way more confused and scared and upset than I was in that night. He showed me, that even in moments when I wanted to walk away, even if just for a moment, He never would.
In a world where we are quick to dismiss others when the slightest hint of conflict appears…
In a culture where any slight misstep gets you cancelled…
In environments where tension is avoided at all costs and we’d rather write off relationships instead of staying in the hard conversations and sticking in it through to the other side…
In those places, we realize the stark contrast of a God who stays and says, “I will never leave you. I’m not afraid of conflict. I’m not afraid of your anger. I’m not worried by tension. I’m with you. Always. I will see you through to the other side.”
He’ll never push Himself on us, yet, He also won’t give up easily. He’ll show up, again and again.
Whether the fact that God is ever-present feels like a gift or an annoyance today, may it lead your heart into a place of peace. In that space, may you know His hand is leading you, holding you. Always. Forever.
Where can I go from your Spirit?
Where can I flee from your presence?
If I go up to the heavens, you are there;
if I make my bed in the depths, you are there.
If I rise on the wings of the dawn,
if I settle on the far side of the sea,
even there your hand will guide me,
your right hand will hold me fast. (Psalm 139:7-10)