Wednesday, November 2, 2016

Is God a Puppeteer?

We’ve lived in St. Louis since 1979. That’s 37, almost 38 years. We left Houston to come here, Houston which was a big boom town still riding the oil wave brought on by higher prices and the OPEC oil embargo in 1973. In terms of boom towns, St. Louis, well, wasn’t.

I moved first, in late 1978, and lived in a hotel for six weeks. Our house in Houston sold, and then the buyer was transferred. It sold again, but existing usury laws in Texas kept a lid on mortgage rates, which not only kept a lid on mortgages but also on home sales. The housing market teetered toward collapse for the wrong reason – plenty of home buyers but no mortgages.

Then my wife got pregnant. Apartment rent in St. Louis, a monthly mortgage payment in Houston – we were broke. And stayed broke. It would be more than a year later that our house in Houston finally sold. Times were lean. It was not fun. We still don’t look back and laugh. Or even smile.

I questioned God. I did. Repeatedly. Angrily. Prayer didn’t work. Believing didn’t work. Faith didn’t work. I got caught in depression. And anger. If we were supposed to move to St. Louis, then what happened?

I said more than once that I felt that God was a puppeteer, and I was the puppet.

In Heart Made Whole: Turning Your Unhealed Pain into Your Greatest Strength, Christa Black Gifford says this about her own dark night of the soul: “I realized that at its core, the offended, broken pieces of my heart didn’t believe that God was good.” In my case, I didn’t believe that God was good to me. Broken pieces of my heart refused to accept that God could be good to me, even in the midst of turmoil and pain.

That’s exactly what happened to me way back in 1979 and 1980.

What I couldn’t see then – blinded by pain and anger – was that the experience was the first significant training session in faith, in understanding, and in knowledge. It made me more attuned to the pain of others. It made me hear a word or an expression, and know that behind a smiling face was deep hurt.

It was a lesson that I still apply today. I watched about four minutes of the vice-presidential debates before I had had enough. But it was sufficient for me to see that the Democratic nominee, Tim Kaine, had pain and anger behind his bullying tactics.

I recognized it.

The house in Houston did sell. We were able to move into a house in St. Louis. Gradually the pain subsided. Gradually I understood what had actually happened.

Understanding doesn’t make it any easier. But it does make it bearable.

Led by Jason Stasyszen and Sarah Salter, we’re reading Heart Made Whole. Consider reading along and join in the discussion. To see what others are saying about this chapter, “The Doubting Heart,” please visit Sarah at Living Between the Lines.

Photograph by Kai Stachowiak via Public Domain Pictures. Used with permission.


Martha Jane Orlando said...

The painful lessons, as unbearable as they seem at the time, are so often the ones that teach us the most about God, and enable us to have compassion and empathy for others.
Blessings, Glynn!

JasonS said...

Glynn, I have lived the same scenario. Our house in Juneau took 2 full years to sell. Maintaining households in two states on one income was stressful and maddening, but somehow God carried us through. Lots of questions. Lots of prayers. Lots of heartache... But yes, He is the Healer. Love the lessons you took from this too. Thanks so much.