O Lord, You have searched me and known me.
You know my sitting down and my rising up;
You understand my thought afar off.
You comprehend my path and my lying down,
and are acquainted with all my ways.
For there is not a word on my tongue,
but behold, O Lord, You know it altogether.
You have hedged me behind and before,
and laid Your hand upon me.
Such knowledge is too wonderful for me;
it is high, I cannot attain it.
Where can I go from Your Spirit
or where can I flee from Your presence?
If I ascend into heaven, You are there;
if I make my bed in hell, behold, You are there.
If I take the wings of the morning,
and dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea,
even there Your hand shall lead me,
and Your right hand shall hold me.
If I say, “Surely the darkness shall fall on me,”
even the night shall be light about me;
indeed, the darkness shall not hide from You,
but the night shines as the day;
the darkness and the light are both alike to You.
Scripture taken from the New King James Version®. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson. Used by permission. All rights reserved.
Who makes their bed in hell? Who would make that choice?
I can remember in my younger days thinking I had to make a choice between my faith and my sexuality, even making (being advised to make) the choice to go through aversion therapy to make myself acceptable. What I found was that aversion therapy wasn’t acceptable, left some trauma, and didn’t work.
This hell isn’t so much a place as an extreme feeling of not belonging – particularly with other Christians. I vividly remember the times I sat at Communion and couldn’t take part, couldn’t receive just one small piece of bread & one small sip of wine.
I was judged, and I judged myself, unworthy of being part of one of the core Sacraments and, therefore, assumed God thought I wasn’t worthy. Unlike others who had done some things that were wrong I felt that who I was, my very being, was wrong and therefore unforgivable, unlovable; it was hell. But I’d made my bed, I had to lie in it, alone, because at least if I chose celibacy maybe there was a way back into the Church family.
All through my personal hell, though, I felt drawn to being in God’s presence because over time it felt comfortable, more when I was alone with God than with other Christians. Gradually God poured healing in, prayers felt like a conversation, I had poured out everything to God, and God had heard me, and reached out to me and gently led me home.
So how do we stop people from being in hell?
Maybe by not judging but accepting, not shunning but including, not asking too much, but allowing people to flourish at their own pace.
We can’t assume that our corner of the Christian world in the URC is automatically a safe space, we have to actively and persistently include, invite, welcome, and love – just as we are loved.
God of love, and God of rescue
save us from the hell we can fall into.
Rescue us from the pit
shine your light on our lives so it overwhelms the darkness
bring us safely home. Amen