My Love-Hate Relationship with the Word of God

Lesa Engelthaler is a fellow member of the Redbud Writers Guild, and her warmth and wisdom were apparent from the very first time we interacted on Facebook. When I got to meet her and her wonderful sister Beth in person earlier this year, I realized afresh – it really is possible to get a true impression of people online sometimes – for her warmth and wisdom overwhelmed me once again. I’m thrilled she’s sharing this today. Thanks, Lesa. And enjoy, friends!

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In junior high school I learned how to have a “quiet time” with God. I brought pen and paper with me to meet with Him. An English geek, in high school I diagramed the bible in my quiet time. I’d copy down a word I found intriguing then madly draw lines to other beautiful words discovered. I felt a kinship with the author of Psalm 119 who declared his love for the word of God, over and over again.

 “I will delight in your statutes; I will not forget your word.”

“I rejoice at your word like one who finds great spoil.”

“My tongue will sing of your word, for all your commandments are right.”

Into adulthood, my relationship with God continued through the written word. His words recorded in the Bible – it seemed just for me. Stories of misfits and screw-ups gave me hope. God’s sarcastic wit cracked me up. His blunt questions stripped my soul naked. A lovely turn of phrase or line of poetry took my breath away. In response, I wrote words, a lot of them, to God.

For years, my grown-up version of a quiet time was to plop down in the old chair in front of the window that looks out on to our backyard. After a few sips of coffee I’d open the bible and drink in its words of life to me.

Things Changed

“’Is not my word like fire,’ declares the Lord, ‘and like a hammer that breaks a rock in pieces?’” – the Prophet Jeremiah

Not too long ago, things changed. I could hardly read the bible much less enjoy it. No words circled, mostly sighing.

For three years I went through an experience some describe as a “Dark Night of the Soul.” For me it meant that God said no to most of my requests and then went silent (not the quiet time one hopes for from the Almighty). During that horrific time I became uncomfortable reading God’s words.

At the beginning I continued to read the Bible. It was as much a part of my morning routine as looking at my face in the mirror. Unfortunately, rather than being life giving, the words were deadly. It added new meaning to the bible’s own description of itself, “the word of God is…sharper that any two-edged sword.” It pierced my already wounded soul. The New Testament’s Apostle Paul felt unbearably accusing and I could not stomach God’s harshness in the Old Testament. Eventually I read it less. I remember wondering if I would be okay with never reading it again. I knew people who were.

Things Got Better

 After a few years of darkness, my relationship with God got better. And yet, one of the side effects was a lingering fear of the Bible. My friend Sharon gave me the little book, Jesus Calling by Sarah Young. I started there. It seemed safer to read God, filtered.

No bright lights, and yet with time instead of avoiding it I noticed that I was restless when I stayed away from the Bible. For me, that was a miracle.

This summer, I started reading the book of Acts. Around the third morning I looked down at my scribbled word “chosen” then at the many lines drawn to words like “gift” and “restore.” It was as if I had never before seen such gorgeous words. And I began to cry.

Smack dab in the middle of Acts the desire to want to read the Bible, even more so, to delight in it’s words, was a grace. I told my sister Beth about the experience and she said, “Do you remember that old hymn Wonderful Words of Life?” I said I did.

PS

If you are in a dark place spiritually right now I am so sorry. You are not alone. I wrote about my experience for Leadership Journal, “Growing in the Dark.” I hope it helps.

 I’ve been asked if there were any Scriptures that comforted in the Dark Night. Here are two:

1.) King David’s psalms were safe. One whole summer I camped out in the Psalms of Ascent with the companionship of Eugene Peterson and his grace-filled classic A Long Obedience in the Same Direction.

2.) I stayed awhile when I discovered expressions of honest disappointment with God. I found a home in Lamentations: “You have made me to walk in darkness. Even when I call out for help, he shuts out my prayers. You have covered yourself with a cloud so that no prayer can get through” (Lam. 3:8)

 

Lesa Engelthaler is a Senior Associate for Victory Search Group, assisting nonprofits to recruit executive leaders. Lesa is also a writer for such publications as The Dallas Morning News, Christianity Today, Gifted for Leadership, Relevant, Today’s Christian Woman and Prism. Recently, Lesa started blogging at Faith Village.  Her friends would say that Lesa is passionate about empowering women. For the past several years, she has lead a trip to partner with the House of Hope a nonprofit in Nicaragua helping women escape prostitution. Today, Lesa finds herself completely taken by one small girl — her first grandchild Lucy. You can connect with Lesa (and I heartily recommend that you do!) on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram (@lesaengelthaler).

My Passage to India

Please welcome Teri Black to the Words That Changed my World series today!

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I’ve been on lots of short term mission trips. Medical trips to Guatemala, women’s conference trips to Mexico, and some amazing trips to Nicaragua working at a home for women coming out of the sex trade. They’ve had their challenges, I’ve had to do some difficult tasks, and they’ve all taken me away from family and comfort. But really, I have loved every minute and have never really taken any risks I wasn’t immediately comfortable taking. It’s not like I had ever had to lead a trip or anything.

A couple years ago, I was at a reunion dinner for our recent trip to Nicaragua. It had been a great trip. My friend Lesa had led the trip, and we had become good friends through these trips to Nicaragua. The dinner was over and everyone had gone home. I stood lingering in the front yard talking to Lesa.

“I was talking to Scott (our missions pastor),” she said, “about how we need more people to lead mission trips. And your name came up.”

“You could do it,” Lesa said.

I had been feeling restless for a year or so. Like God wanted me to do something, but I didn’t know what. I had already decided to quit leading women’s Bible study after eight years, and to quit working with the youth. And I had no idea why, other than I felt God leading me to. When Lesa uttered these words I knew instantly that this is what God wanted me to do.

My heart fluttered in my chest and my mind raced. Maybe I could do it. Lead or find a new trip for women at our church. It had never even crossed my mind before. And to have my dear friend whom I greatly respected say those words to me…it filled me with such joy and hope and confidence. I will never forget that moment under the yellow street light on that Spring night.

Over the next year I got busy. I had never led a trip before and had no connections. But I found myself emailing missionaries and organizations all over the world, and meeting with several of them. And eighteen months later I found myself on a plane to India.

The trip to India was incredible…other-worldly. And really it is the many months leading up to the trip that have changed me. For the first time in my life, I had had to depend completely on God for strength, guidance and confidence. I had no clue what I was doing and yet He supplied everything I needed every step of the way.

I would have never taken my first step on that amazing path if my dear friend Lesa had not planted the seed. I am so thankful for God’s provision, for my friend, and for her continual encouragement every step of the way.

A note from Teri Black: Hi! I am a 41 year old mother and pharmacist. My kids are 18, 14, and 11 and my husband is a stay-at-home dad. I am also a bit of a travel junkie. I grew up in a non-Christian home. We attend Woodcreek Church, a non-denominational church in Richardson, Texas.