Unplugged has become synonymous with anything that is acoustic, authentic, without pretense, real. A musician sits on a stool on a small stage surrounded by a handful of people, with simply a guitar in hand and sings into the microphone without any additional instruments or sound amplification. The music slows down and the atmosphere is markedly subdued compared with the usual tempo and decibel level of a typical concert.
It also means turning off, cutting off all access to energy, removing something’s connection from the life force it normally taps into. As in a lamp, a phone charger…life support.
Yesterday I learned about a person I attended college with who suddenly and inexplicably fell into a coma several weeks ago. His body simply began shutting down. No one could figure out why he fell into the coma nor why he would not wake up. Yesterday, his wife was forced to make the worst possible decision one could ever have to make: they had to let him go. They had to unhook him from all life support systems. And he became unplugged.
Being unplugged is devastating–emotionally, spiritually and physically. It doesn’t really matter what you are coming unplugged from, because once the connection ends, and there is no more energy running between source and recipient, the fact remains: it is finished.
The finality of being unplugged is almost too horrible to bear. I have prayed and sought God’s answer in whether or not I need to become unplugged from things in my life. I have struggled, cried, questioned, raised my fist in anger, begged, pleaded and bargained. I have always wanted to know one thing: Why? God has not given me that answer. Instead, I began asking, “Yes or No?” For the longest time, God did not give me that answer either. It has been during these times that I have felt totally disconnected from God, unplugged from his life force and love and energy.
I felt cold and lifeless, like a broken lamp stuffed in an attic behind Christmas decorations and camping equipment. I felt discarded, packed in a box and delivered to a second-hand store to be left on a shelf for possibly years, gathering dust, occasionally picked up, but always placed back, never to be used again.
I felt alone.
These past few weeks have taught me something pretty amazing, however: It isn’t true. None of it. While I am broken and unplugged, I have not been shoved anywhere, forgotten, or discarded. The truth is, God has always been plugged into me. I just did not (or refused to) see it and know it.
I asked a friend to pray for me last night. His response touched the corners of my seemingly unplugged heart and created a spark. He told me he had just seen “the coolest thing” in the Old Testament book of Kings. He recounted the story of Elijah, a prophet of Israel, who was directed by God to go from place to place to place, always relying on God for sustenance, shelter and safety. At each location, the Bible states, “after awhile,…” followed by descriptions of Elijah’s next move. Elijah never knew where his next meal was coming from, where his next bed would be located, or whether he would be in safety or danger. My friend pointed out that these “after awhiles” were all steps preparing the prophet for learning to rely completely on God to provide. Completely.
My friend suggested that perhaps I have been experiencing my own set of “after awhiles” as God works in my life, preparing me for the next step, and the next, and the next. Alexander MacLaren wrote these words:
Each of us may be sure that if God sends us on stony paths, he will provide us with strong shoes, and He will not send us out on any journey for which He does not equip us well.
I think I’ve already run through several pairs of “strong shoes” to this point. I think I’m going to need more pairs.
When I started writing this post two days ago, I was full of hope and ready to embrace my next “after awhile.” But for some reason, the ending was just not there. I couldn’t seem to close the post. Now I know why. Since I began writing this, I have been faced with certain finality. God finally answered my yes or no question. He said “No” and has given me the nudge to move on. This particular “after awhile” is over.
God’s “No” answer was exactly what I’d been praying for (an answer of any sort), and as I entered the place where I knew the answer would be, I even prayed, “God give me peace. Help me be open to your answer, yes or no. Help me hear you.” I heard a clear No almost immediately. While I’d love to say I handled it with grace, beauty and inner peace, the truth is, I was covered in tears, snot and lint from soggy, make-up covered tissues.
After getting my answer, I sat in a parking lot at a national historic monument, waiting to meet a friend, and I sobbed. I went through so many tissues, my nose was raw from blowing it, my eyes were red and inflamed from wiping them, and the snot…oh my word, the snot! It doesn’t help when you have a moment like this right on the heals of a month-long battle with bronchitis. So I sat in my car, surrounded by gooey, used tissues, and turned on my Christian radio station.
Remember the part where I said God never stops being plugged in to me?
The song on the radio was “Healing Begins” by Tenth Avenue North. This priceless gem was followed by “Oh My Soul” by Casting Crowns, “Find You Here” by Ellie Holcomb and the last song in my parade of snot-filled sobs? “Tell Your Heart to Beat Again” with my favorite line: Yesterday’s a closing door; You don’t live there anymore.
Okay, so God’s voice didn’t literally fill my car, but let me tell you this:
I Heard God!
I am so human, however, that I am still sad, and you may find the occasional soggy tissue (or 12) near me. I fight jealousy, anger, hurt, and shame. I fight bone-breaking sorrow and despair. And I cry. A lot.
But one of the many promises I have is this…God will never unplug his life force, his energy, his love from me, no matter how taut my doubts and fears stretch my cord to God. When I feel God is silent, I just cling to this verse in Romans,
And we know that for those who love God, all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.
Some translations say “in all things” and others say “everything.” Regardless. God is working for my good, which is just exactly as he planned.
Unplugged? Nope. Never.