Return to Your Rest, O My Soul

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tina osterhouse -return to rest, o my soul3

It wasn’t like I stopped loving God. It was more like I stopped liking God.

God had disappointed me, and I didn’t know how to make it all straight in my head. I continued to pray and seek God’s will. To obey. And it was honest. There was nothing false about it. A lot had happened, things I had no control over, things that rent my heart in two, and despite how much we talk about free will and humankind’s responsibility for the way things are, I was still pissed—at God.

The problem was I had loved God in the truest sense of the word. I talk a lot about how I held God to specific outcomes, that I expected things of God that weren’t always up to God, free will and all, and how when the white-picket-fence-life I had built came to ruins, I didn’t know what to do with God anymore. I didn’t know how to categorize God or where to hang my spiritual coat. God was quite beyond me and I no longer felt safe. All that is true, of course. But it’s way more complicated than that.

I make it sound as if my faith was stilted and fake in some way. It wasn’t. My faith was everything to me. The most real thing about me. But it was naïve. Innocent. Young. When innocence crumbles, you need time to build a different kind of faith.

The wilderness becomes a time of reconstruction.

When everything fell apart, as things tend to do when we hold specific outcomes as little gods, I fell apart. That is no exaggeration. I fragmented and frayed. I couldn’t make it through a dinner party without going into the bathroom to sit on the toilet and shake. To wipe my eyes and talk to myself. “Pull yourself together, Tina,” I’d whisper. But I didn’t know how. I was too sad to pull myself anywhere. At the worst of it, I couldn’t hold a thought for longer than ten minutes without getting confused. I couldn’t make it through two hours without crying.

I called my counselor and told her I needed anti-depressants, something, anything to help me make it through the damn day. She said, “What you have is situational depression. If you medicate for it, it will still be there when you go off the meds. Instead, you might consider just feeling the pain. Let it work its way through you.”

Feel. The. Pain.

I did make it through my situational depression*. All the way through the cold, dry bitter desert of my particular wilderness. The faith crisis. The life crisis. I made it through by feeling the pain, by yelling at God, journaling until my hand cramped, writing novels, reading books, hot yoga, and sitting in the back of church.

I made it through by becoming comfortable, at home with weakness. By admitting I was not all that put together, after all. By being honest that at the core of my truest self, lived a normal woman who was desperately disappointed with how it had all turned out.

I made it through my wilderness season by wandering aimlessly and talking to God about it, all the time. I made it through by reading the Psalms morning and night. When everything else in Scripture felt too heavy, too overwhelming, I made do with the Psalter—the prayer book of the Jews. I liked the imprecatory Psalms.

Then one day, I woke, as if from a long dream, and noticed I wasn’t mad at God anymore. I wasn’t confused or pissed off. The tumultuous inner rage had subsided. I was content and deeply humbled. I was still grieved, but had made my peace with it, somehow.

I had settled into the mystery of my life and had made my amends with God, like a slow sunrise after a long, dark night.

It was there, in the quiet of accepted mystery, when I finally heard God’s voice again. The still small voice. The voice that had gone silent for so long. The voice I had long given up on ever hearing again. The voice that had guided my youth and fanned the flame of ardent faith. The voice that had made me, Tina.

You can fall in love with me again.

The shame. The pain. A failed life. The shattered dreams. Without realizing it, I had convinced myself I wasn’t allowed to be in love with God anymore. I was supposed to follow God out of duty. Sheer grit. I was no longer the amazing example, the breaker of generational sins, the hero of the Christian life, and therefore, no longer allowed to enjoy God for the simple joy of being with God. That had been snuffed out.

But there it was, an invitation … You can fall in love with me again. It took my breath away.

The invitation comes to each of us, over and over, throughout our lives, in a kaleidoscope of ways. The Psalmist says it another way. “Return to your rest, Oh my soul, for the Lord has been good to you.”

And so it is. We return, again and again, to the One who bids us come.

 

***

*Sometimes medication is needed to treat depression, so every individual should meet with a doctor to determine if medication would be helpful.

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Tina Osterhouse
Tina Osterhouse is passionate about living deeply and authentically. Through fiction, blog posts, and creative essays, she writes about ordinary life and the way God meets us in our everyday circumstances and creatively weaves the sacred into them. She studied ministry and theology at Northwest University, most recently lived on thirty acres in Southern Chile, and finally returned to the Seattle area in June of 2015.
Tina Osterhouse
Tina Osterhouse

Latest posts by Tina Osterhouse (see all)

  • Wow, wise counselor — and you’re a brave traveler, Tina. We self-medicate in so many ways when what we really need is to wrestle with the hard. Guilty, here.
    So thankful for God’s ever-new invitation to return.

    • Thank you, Michele! Yes, the invitation to return is one we’re thankful for, isn’t it? Hugs to you…

  • Olivia Butz

    The Psalter has been a life raft for me in many different seasons also. Thank you for sharing, I always appreciate your words.

    • I like the imagery of the Psalter as a raft … so visceral. Thank you, very much. xox

  • Sue Hay

    I had settled into the mystery of my life – beautiful words describing a powerful seismic shift in our inner beings. Love how you have articulated truth so we can see it too

    • It took me a long time to settle into the tension of mystery. I’m thankful to finally be at a place where I can sort of write about it. Thank you for your encouragement. xox

  • Jody Ohlsen Collins

    This is the line that spoke to me…. “The wilderness becomes a time of reconstruction.” I’ve found that true as well, Tina.
    What an encouraging post; thank you for your honesty.

    • It’s so good to see you here! Thank you for finding it. Love to you,
      Tina

  • “When innocence crumbles, you need time to build a different kind of faith.” What a true statement and an important journey for all of us. Been there, still a little broken, and, gosh, better for it. You’ve articulated it so well.

    • I feel like I’m still building, trying to figure out how faith feels on the other side, too. I ask a lot more questions than I used to.
      Hugs to you,

      Tina

  • Accepting the mystery and feeling the pain are dark, twisting roads to travel. You’ve shown there is a still a light, sometimes faint, that guides us through to our return to love. Sitting with your words and feeling their healing beauty.

    • Oh thank you. Blessings to you as you grapple toward light and life, and love. We are certainly in this together.

      Hugs to you,

      Tina

  • Tina, the story you share is so familiar to me. I too came from a place “where my faith was everything to me. The most real thing about me.” Then I found myself in a place where I knew that I didn’t know God loved me. I couldn’t feel that love. When I started asking: “Do you love me, God?’ and started praying that my heart would wake to God’s love, I found a deep and resounding yes–even though my “faith” was still in shambles. That verse in Hosea: “I will allure her into the wilderness and speak tenderly to her,” I think that happened to us.

    • That is so beautiful. I love that verse. I’m so glad God showed that God’s love is stronger than your faith. That is the bedrock of truth, isn’t it? God is Love. Thank you for writing. Love to you,

      Tina