The Slow Ache
That’s how I feel sometimes, Lord. I’m going along okay, and I see You at work in my life on a daily basis. Then something happens, and I get that slow ache way down in my soul, the spaces that I seldom visit. The tender spots that cause me to wince when touched.
Spots like the sales of my books. I’m enjoying writing a novel, and then I get the notice—one of my other novels is being taken out of print. So quickly! Oh, the ache, and the fear that it’s true—I’m not really very good at this writing business. It’s the same feeling I had as a kid. I’d spent years playing the flute, and someone younger who had not been at it nearly as long as I had zoomed past me in talent.
I used to feel that way about my French. I wanted so much to be fluent and felt sad and ashamed that I wasn’t nearly as good as I had hoped. And there went all the others zipping past with better accents and vocabulary, and I ached.
These are not life and death matters. But they are soul matters because they touch a part of me that I value. I know You allow these aches, and You teach me even through such small suffering.
I actually believe the ache is a testimony to Your Spirit’s work in my life, the reality that my hopes will not be fully met here on earth. It is me groaning along with all of creation, as it says in Romans 8. Groaning for You to inhabit all: in all and through all and over all. You alone.
But it isn’t yet.
And so I ache.
Admittedly, often the ache is self-centered—I need to see results to know I am doing enough for You. Hmmm, that isn’t exactly scriptural. Or, to put it more biblically, I want to produce much fruit, because that is what You promise to those who abide in You.
Honestly, Lord, I think the problem is once again with my heart and my hearing. My heart sometimes refuses to accept Your over-the-top crazy love for me, so I get caught up in the ‘doing’, the fruit-producing, the trying. And I miss out on the resting in You and letting You do the work.
So I pray today that my heart will simply embrace You and let You embrace me as my Abba Father.
I pray I will practice hearing the truth and shutting out the subtle and insidious lies that whisper ‘not enough’ and ‘failure’ and ‘you’re getting passed over again’. Because in the reality of spiritual mathematics, I have been counting all wrong.
Goodness, if I let myself just relax and listen to You, what I hear is, “Oh, great job, Lizzie! I love how you went out and met with the prostitutes in spite of your fear and the yucky weather. Thanks for showing up.”
And “I know you’re tired today, Lizzie, because all those kids crowded in your home over the weekend, but I just want you to rest in the knowledge that it was so worth it. Memories made, kids coming closer to Christ, fellowship, teaching, and silliness and the house overflowing with you and Paul’s hearts of love. Really good job.”
And even, “Lizzie, I love the stories you tell. I really do. You are using your gift so well. Please just enjoy my praise. Trust me to keep giving you ideas and don’t worry so much about book sales. I know that is so hard for you, but let’s try, you and Me together.”
And finally, “Just rest and enjoy My presence and let Me fill you up again. I love you, Lizzie.”
As I let You love me, the slow ache changes—still a heart-wrenching one, but of joy and anticipation and great thankfulness that You would allow me to be a part of Your plan. I get to live out my faith in faithless France and write stories that point others to You.
What a privilege, what a joy, even as I ache for what is not yet, but will be. Soon.
Elizabeth Musser, a native of Atlanta, Georgia now living in France, is a novelist who writes what she calls ‘entertainment with a soul.’ Elizabeth attended Vanderbilt University in Nashville, Tennessee where she majored in French and English literature, graduated magna cum laude and was a member of Phi Beta Kappa honor society.
Her novels have been acclaimed in the United States and in Europe. The Swan House (Bethany House, c2001), set in Atlanta in the early sixties, was named as one of Amazon’s Top Christian Books of the Year (2001), was an ABA and SEBA bestseller and was recently named one of Georgia’s Top Ten Novels of the past 100 years, right behind Gone with the Wind (from Georgia Backroads, Autumn, 2009). Her French-Algerian trilogy, which takes place during Algeria’s War for Independence from France and also in present day Algeria and France, (Two Crosses, Two Testaments, Two Destinies) has been a bestseller in Europe. Elizabeth’s other novels The Dwelling Place, (Bethany House, c2005), Searching for Eternity (Bethany House, c2007) and Words Unspoken (Bethany House, c2009), all set in the South in the 1960s-1980s, continue to examine themes of brokenness and healing, faith and forgiveness, surrender and sacrifice.
For over 20 years, Elizabeth and her husband, Paul, have been involved in mission work with International Teams. They presently live in Lyon, France. The Mussers have two sons and a brand new daughter-in-law.