Editor’s note: FMS missioner Becky Kreidler reflects on the different sides of God she’s encountered through recent trials and tribulations in her life. 

I’ve been abruptly learning that my soul has some rasp to it. Despite my resistance, it has kept coming up, begging for me to acknowledge its existence, and making it known that it is of God.

Let me start with a bit of personal context: I tend to look for the positive, the joy in everything and every person I encounter, always wanting to see the best in those around me and direct others eyes to that goodness that I can’t help but see overflowing. I almost always suppress anger if it ever comes. I tend to romanticize old memories and relationships to make myself believe that they were utterly good and beautiful…even if that wasn’t fully the case. And I oh so often pride myself on being a calm and peaceful person. “It takes a lot to get me angry. You likely won’t see it; it just doesn’t happen in me,” I too often say. I think that, because this is how I see myself, I’ve always been drawn into the gentle, peaceful images of God…that is, until recently. 

If I had to trace it back and name a starting point, it would be that Wednesday morning when my chronic pain started. I fought it for months with information, doctor’s appointments, the tools of modern technology: the X Ray, MRIs, surgery. I never let my soul approach the pain; I just told myself that I had a capable body that would fight for me; I would be healed. 

And then, through my continued circumstances God slowly taught me this truth: I don’t handle pain, the pain handles me. 

And so I began to try to sit down, be still, and truly seep into the physical pain that would not cease, despite all the medical attention I received. I could not yet see it, but that roughness started bleeding into my soul. And not a roughness as in hardness of heart, but a grittiness that has introduced me to new depths within. The tension, the aching, the throbbing that originates in my knees has now become my most trusted avenue to the Divine. 

In true, relentless love, God has only continued moving me in this same direction. One recent day, I found myself with tears pouring out of me while praying the rosary for a friend who’s hurt I knew I would never be able to heal. The tears caused a closed-off, gasping-for-air tension in my throat. I usually dart for a kleenex whenever I start to cry. I immediately use it to wipe the water from my face, to try to pull myself back to a state of calm and normal breathing. But in that moment, I recognized God begging me to allow God to hear my cries and weep with me. So I sat there with tears making a mess of my face in no rush to pull myself together or recreate a sense of calm. And then God made it known: No, you can’t heal him, but I know you desire to. Your pain for him is real, let it handle you. 

Another day I felt the pulsing starting in my head. Ear pain and an unrelenting headache turned into day after day lying on the couch with a cold cloth over my face. While I typically dread the aching and beg God to allow the cup of pain to pass from me, there were moments of rough stillness amidst the discomfort this time and I wasn’t in such a rush to be rid of it all. I felt my heartbeat pronounced in the throbbing, unable to ignore a God in complete control of my breath and heartbeat: not a God ignoring the pain or saying “everything will be ok,” but a God who shows up in the thick of it and asks me to feel everything.

I am slowly coming to understand with my heart that what God reveals to my soul, God is revealing about Godself. In the honest emotion, in my imperfect body, in the aches of this human life, I have felt a God who bends down and locks eyes with me. With labored hands, color in his tone of voice, and an understanding of my pain, God leads me deeper and deeper into grace and authenticity. 

I have a raspy soul and am coming to know a raspy God. Today I say I’m done pushing away hard and once foreign emotions but If I’m honest, I know tomorrow I still might. Yet the consolation lies in this: God is expansive and unknowing and still longs to show me new sides of Godself. He is the keeper of all: not just all of us, but every possible emotion, too. How could I live my life in denial that both He and I are raspy?

Reflection: What sides of Godself have you been shown?