Saturday, March 14, 2015

A litany of stressful things that turns into a story of faith.


I haven't been posting much for a bit.  Number one, the weather has been amazing, so when I have a free hour I've been taking the dog on long walks and digging in the garden.  Which hasn't always been possible, because I've been so darned busy.  Number two, perhaps because it is tax time, work has felt busy and stressful.  Then as soon as I hit the front door things have been busy and stressful. Between the two, there just hasn't been much left in me to give.  Number three, the last two counseling sessions have brought up really difficult stuff.  I've hardly had time to process it, and I've had an entire week of practically not sleeping at all.  The only way I've been able to fall asleep is by going out to the couch and plugging in a not-very-exciting audiobook read in a soothing voice (Anthony Trollope's The Small House at Allington), then I can trick my mind into relaxing enough to let go and fall sleep. Sort of.  I drift in and out all night, not really awake enough to turn the book off, but it's better than nothing.

I realize that nobody wants to read a post full of excuses.  So, here are some positives, some victories to celebrate, in the midst of all the hard:

Despite all the things that have happened to me, many which were in darkness and shadow until very recently, I'm doing amazingly well.  Many people with these experiences don't make it. They make life-destroying choices, over and over again.  Their relationships, if they have any, are a twisted mess. They hide from life itself behind layers and layers of avoidance and addiction.  How have I escaped that kind of fate?

Even though there was a lot of hidden, underlying stuff in the extended family that wasn't talked about or dealt with, my parents did love me.  Looking back I think they were often overwhelmed by their own struggles. But in significant ways I had their unconditional love and support, and that mattered.

The other thing is, I think I am someone who has always pursued the truth.  Even as a small child, life felt like a struggle.  A continual fight against the darkness, heaviness and sadness that wanted to pull me right under.  But I could see around me that there was also goodness in the world. That darkness was not the last word: There was also happiness, and light.  I could see it out there and around me. And I wanted to experience it, too.  So, I have pursued.  I have kept asking questions, and refused to let go. I have not given in to the darkness, and let it overwhelm me.  This has been a desperate fight at times. And honestly--I feel like not one person around me has ever seen, has ever understood, how dark things have been at times. Except for Jesus.

I was not raised in the Christian religion, or going to church. Which is helpful in the sense that I don't have a lot of religious nonsense to unlearn.  There was a crux point in my life in high school when I prayed:  God, I know you're out there.  There is too much order, too much beauty in life, for all of it to be a meaningless, random accident.  So--here I am.  That was my prayer because I really had no idea how to pray, but it was accepted, heard and answered.  I did not know the name of Jesus, had never read the Bible, did not know about the Cross, did not know anything, really, beyond the fact that logical sense pointed to the existence of a Creator-God out there somewhere.  And the existence of love also had to root back to somewhere, otherwise love made no sense, either. Other religions like Hinduism and Buddhism (at which I took a fairly immature and simplistic look at as a young person) simply did not explain the love part.  So I called out to this God that I knew must be out there, and He answered me.

Slowly, unfoldingly, beautifully and lovingly, over many many years, He answered me, and he is still answering.  The cry of a little girl, broken and unseen by others and horribly used.  The cry of a confused teenager, overwhelmed by darkness and unable to comprehend the differences between her perceptions and those of her friends, so she learns to imitate and pretend, to try and act normal and fit in.  The cry of an engaged young woman, terrorized by panic attacks and severe nightmares that seemed to come out of nowhere.  The cry of a young mother, overwhelmed by the needs of her small children, knowing that there is an emptiness and lack of capacity inside to nurture them, but trying her best to do it anyway, and getting through each day.  The cry of a despairing mother of a teenager who is lashing out, and going through his own dark time.  The cry of a 40+ woman who is finally putting the pieces together, and seeing the terrifying childhood experiences at the root of all the rest. Struggling with migraines and over-busyness and insomnia.  Always struggling, all the way through. But not without moments of peace and comfort and joy, because she has not been alone in all the struggle. Because God Himself, Jesus, has entered in, is walking alongside. Has been gently revealing what is true all along the way.

We are saved by looking at the truth of our lives: The truth about ourselves, our barrenness and emptiness, and the truth about the goodness and love and power of God. As we mature, if we are willing, we see the brokenness and evil that lies at the very heart of our world. In the old stories there is a serpent or dragon who lies at the foot of the world tree, gnawing at its roots.  But there is also a god who sacrifices himself on that world tree, who gives himself for the world.  A profound picture, I think, of the reality of the situation.  If we are willing, if we are seeking, we also begin to see the love of God which will overcome the darkness.  Which has chosen to enter in to our broken-beyond-repair world, to restore and in time, to remake it.  Because He sees something, or someones, that are worth saving.

We are saved little by little, because of the mercy of God. If we are willing, we are rescued and led into these hard and bright and dazzling truths eventually, over the span of our entire life, because God is gentle and kind.  Because dealing with all of it at once would maybe shatter us into pieces. But perhaps the most important thing of all to know is, no matter how hard or difficult life can be sometimes, we are never alone.

And here is something to know if that statement galls you, if it feels fantastical or untrue:  God is gentleman.  Not a bully like so many in our world.  He will not override or overwhelm us. He is there, his love and help is on offer for everyone, but we must reach out for him--sometimes only a little, sometimes with persistence--in order to experience it, because he will not force himself on us. This love and help is something we can only experience directly, not theorize about in our minds, keeping a safe distance, with no personal commitment.  How do we do this?  I think it is a little different for everyone, so I can't necessarily tell you.  You reach out with your heart.  It is abstract and absolutely not-abstract at the same time.  But here is a verse that is true:  "You will seek me and find me when you search for me with all your heart," Jeremiah 29:13. So don't give in to feelings of darkness and despair, distance yourself with intellectual cynicism, or simply avoid ever dealing with your creator God, the source of all life.  This is what life is all about:  Have the courage and hope and faith to keep seeking.