Monday, December 9, 2013

The harder I try

I never know how to start this. I guess I’ve come to feel like I have to write something philosophical and inspiring every time, and/or I have to spend hours writing it. That is what has kept me from blogging in the past – mostly the thought of, “I don’t have time to spend three hours writing a post that two people are going to read.”

It gets discouraging.

But largely only because I am already discouraged.

And I know, I know, the whole thing about not giving up, not losing heart; I’ll reap a harvest at the proper time if I don’t give up.

Frankly, that is really hard.

I am tired.
I am weary.
My heart hurts.
My stomach hurts.
My hope feels so far removed from me that I don’t know how to get it back.

God feels removed.

And again, I know – “If you feel far away from God, guess who moved?”

That’s cute – until you are in the midst of darkness and are pretty convinced that God left.

I read in a book once that on the whole, a woman’s worst fear is abandonment. At the time, I didn’t really feel that it applied to me.

Heh.

And, yet again, I know – God does not forsake us, does not abandon us.

Yeah, well, what do you do when you FEEL that way? When you feel dropped, left alone to face an onslaught? How do you retrain your mind to view the world in a way that is opposite of how everything looks and feels sometimes? How do I convince myself that God has not left when my heart feels so very abandoned by him? When it truly looks like he got tired of me and just flung me off like poop on his hands that he just realized was poop? (Like that mental picture?)

I am so, so tired of feeling like I have to CONVINCE myself of everything.

I am so tired of manipulating it all. Or feeling like I have to, or else it won’t happen.

Can I just be honest? Raw?

I am a mess. An utter, complete, indecipherable mess. The more I try to figure out my mind, the more I try to determine what I believe (and the elusive why), the more lost I feel.

And I don’t say that looking for someone to be like, “Aw, no, you’re not that bad. You’re not a mess! You’re great!”

Or for someone to be like, “Yeah, I am too! We can be messes together!”

No. I don’t mean it in a trite way, in a mocking way, or in an, “I’m a Christian and I should feel like I am a worm, but I really think I am awesome; I just want someone to reinforce my awesomeness, so I’ll talk about how bad I am!” way.

I am serious.

I. Am. Completely. Screwed. Up.

It is kind of like that line from that David Crowder song: “I want to be holy like you are – but the harder I try, the more clearly can I see the depth of our fall.”

Yeah. Little bit.

The harder I try to be good, the harder I try to do the right things, the harder I try to fix myself, the more clearly can I see the depth of my fall, the hopelessness of my situation, the ravages of sin.

There are literally like fifty things that I feel God might be trying to address in me. Or, rather, I feel like he IS trying to address them – all of them, at once. I am overwhelmed. I am in an ocean of fear, of pain, and the waves just keep coming. I can’t stand up, can’t find solid ground; the sand keeps sucking away from my feet, and the tide keeps drawing me into deeper water.

I want, with all my heart, to climb upon the waves and follow Jesus into the unknown.

I am paralyzed with fear of doing that.

I listen to these songs, and they are all about doing that very thing – trusting God, being still, walking out upon the waters.

There is no fear in me about following Jesus into the unknown – provided that once I’m there, he won’t be like, “Well…see ya!”

And so we come to that. That fear of abandonment. That fear that whispers, oh so subtly, “You can’t really trust God to come through for you. In the moment of your greatest need, he will leave you to face it alone.”

Basically, what I am saying is this: I cannot think right now. I can’t think straight. My mind is flying a million miles an hour, and the more I try to rein it in, the harder it streaks away from me.

I am losing control of myself.

And I have always sought to be so in control.

I have never been in control.

My greatest enemy is not Satan, as much as he’d like to think that. He’s a worm and can go die.

No. My greatest enemy is myself. My own sin. My own pride.

My ungrounded, manipulative, controlling, paralyzing, insidious, ridiculous, scenario-making, self-steeling FEAR.

Dear God, who will rescue me from this body of death?

I have only ever wanted to be rescued. As desperately as I want to fight evil, bear enough weapons to do lots of damage, I want just as desperately to be the princess who is rescued from the tower by her true love.

I am so tired of feeling like the princess who looks out the window day after day and finally sighs, “Well, I guess no one’s coming. Figures. Now how do I get out of here?”

No, God is not slow in keeping his promises. His timing is perfect. Etc., etc. I know all the answers, I’ve rehearsed all the lines; I know the Scriptures, so well. Well enough to twist them. Please kill me. Ugh.

I know the letter. Not the Spirit.

I am a Pharisee – but a failing one. Yay.

I want God to sweep in and save me, fix me. Make me not this way. Rescue me from the things that threaten to completely topple everything about me that I once thought was unshakeable.

And I know, he did save me – 2,000+ years ago when Jesus died and rose again.

I want to say, “That’s not good enough” – but I don’t mean it that way. Ultimately, yes, that’s all I need; it was more than enough. But it feels…not. And I know that is an issue in me. But again, I don’t want to keep trying to fix it. I am TIRED of trying to renew my mind in my own strength.

What I am asking for, aching for, is something new. Fresh. Something that happens in this moment. I am tired of trying to cling to the past. “Yes, God speaks to me. He spoke to me six years ago, and it was great. What? Oh, no, he doesn’t really do that anymore. I actually haven’t seen him move in a while now. But he did six years ago! I cling to THAT.”

I want to cling to HIM.

Instead, out of fear, I cling to lies. To illusions of control. To smoke and mirrors and ashes and fog and sins that seem to keep me safe.

Everything in me aches to live, to burst forth and just explode for him, be light to everyone I come in contact with.

Everything in me just wants to weep.
I can’t even say why. Sometimes I know; sometimes I don’t.

I. Am. Just. So. Tired.

And I am tired of feeling like I need to apologize for that. I am tired of the voice that instantly says, “YOU’RE tired? Pfft, you’ve been through NOTHING in your life, ya big wimp. What about the kids in Africa who have to shoot their parents, and then submit to Kony? What about girls who are trafficked? What about people who have seen every loved one around them succumb to AIDS in the last four months? GET OVER YOURSELF AND YOUR PETTY LITTLE PROBLEMS.”

I’m also tired of the voice that says, “You’re allowed to be tired. I mean, you’ve been fighting on your own for like all of your life. Dang. You are so strong, to have lasted this long. You deserve to feel how you feel. You should be tired.” (In case I’m not capturing that one well, it leads toward pride and only pride. And I hate pride. And I feel prideful for hating it so much; surely only a great person would be so opposed to being prideful.)

I just want to BE.

No more apologizing. No more shame. No more downcast eyes for feeling how I feel.

I am angry. I am hurt. I am frustrated. I am discouraged. I do not see hope. I see only blackness. Light at the end of the tunnel – what light? I am exhausted. I am sick of this battle. I am terrified. I am angry at God. I am angry at myself. I am unforgiving. I don’t want to show grace or mercy. I want to kill people. I want to break things and tear things apart to show how deeply I feel. I want to scream f-words (oh yes, that f-word) at the top of my lungs without giving a single thought to who might hear. I want to give up. I want to keep fighting. I want to feel like people won’t look down on God because I have a nervous breakdown. I want to sob and never stop. I want to go back and never have life take this path. I am beyond terrified – I am utterly paralyzed.

I want to stop feeling so pathetically STUPID.

But instead, I keep it all in. Swallow every negative feeling, every lie; I drink poison, knowing it is poison. Try to figure out how this will all work for my good – a good I cannot begin to see, and believe even less.

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I DO NOT KNOW HOW TO STOP.

My mind creates. That is what it does. CONSTANTLY. I am constantly thinking; but not just thinking – WEAVING. I do not do it on purpose; it just happens. I make up scenarios, weave things together. Things happen, and I immediately think, “Ooh, that could connect to this. And then this would happen, which fits with this right here. I had forgotten about that, but that works so well! And that goes with this too! And if this happens on this date, then that means it is exactly four years after this, and that is a cool connection. And that –”

I don’t.
Know how.
To stop.

And once I think of something, I also think, “No, God won’t do it that way, because I thought of it. So it has to be something else. That won’t happen now. STOP THINKING. Just stop. But that goes with this. And that is the anniversary of this. And so that must be what God is doing – NO. STOP. None of this is going to happen. If you think it up, then God can’t use it anymore. He won’t do what you think. STOP. Today is the four-year anniversary of that, so that must be what he is getting at, bringing all of this stuff up to heal it on the anni–”

Good. Freaking. Grief.

I just realized how long this is. And there is no resolution to it; sorry. I don’t know what is going on in me, orI just don’t know.

Ultimately, my heart is God’s. That was won years ago. Satan cannot fully pull me away; he cannot have me.

But he can immobilize me, kind of like he’s done. Like I’ve allowed him to do. Like God has allowed him to do.

And therein is part of the struggle; I want God to come flying in and rescue me. I want him to break open the skies like I thought he was promising me. And he hasn’t. And I’m not sure it works that way. Does God actually come through hugely like that? Or is that just wishful thinking? Why does it feel like he does that for anyone and everyone else, but when it comes to me – nope, R has to do it all on her own, with only hints of input from God because that is just her lot in life. To always struggle. To never really be free. To never really SEE God move – not like he moves for the drug addict, or the person about to commit suicide. What am I? Not worth fighting THAT much for? Because that is certainly how it feels. And looks. Maybe I am just blind. Maybe I am crazy.

And people will be like, “Just believe! God has already saved you! Fight from victory, not for it! Change how you think! Think positive for once, sheesh, ya Negative Nelly!”

But I need to SEE SOMETHING. FEEL SOMETHING. Be able to truly KNOW something – without me having to manipulate it. Or feeling like I could possibly manipulate it.

Don’t you see? If I am changing how I think, if I am the one fighting, then it’s just all me. Still.

No, God does not “have” to do anything.

But can’t I just be blindsided? Can’t I just be rescued? Just once, can’t God move so clearly, so powerfully, that I cannot begin to tell myself that it was him – I’ll just know that I know that I know that I know that I know?

Why do I feel like I have to get myself out of the tower? Why do I feel like I have to save myself before God will step in to do anything?

I feel like I’ll struggle and get myself out of the tower; and when I land on the ground, I’ll look up and see God standing there clapping. And he’ll be like, “Yay, I knew you could do it!”

And at that thought, my heart whispers back: “Well, yeah, I had to. You didn’t exactly do anything to help, you just stood there and watched and told me NOTHING, and made me figure it out on my own. I think I’ll go this way, by myself, thanks – since I can’t exactly rely on you to have my back.”

And people will say, “But God wants to make you a warrior! He wants you to learn how to stand!”

Can’t I just be a rescued one first? A daughter first?

Can’t I just have a moment where I cry out to him and he delivers me – instead of me crying out and being met with silence until I finally figure out that I have to fight for myself?

My biggest lie is that I will have to fight for myself because no one else will. How exactly does God NOT fighting for me – but making me fight for myself – counter that?

And they’ll say, “But you HAVE been rescued! Walk in the new life!”

But I don’t feel rescued. I don’t feel his presence. I have never felt his love.

And yet again, that is what it comes back to – knowing God loves me.

Oh, I “know” he loves me. He loves everyone. Yay yippee yay.

But my “knowing” – honestly, it is only head knowledge.

My heart still needs to know. Still yearns to see. Still stares out the window, waiting, waiting

Waiting.

I don’t think I can wait much longer.

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Where my trust is without borders

Hi.

I have been struggling. Immensely. I feel like I am in the most intense battle I’ve ever experienced. Maybe I am. All of the stuff I’ve written on this blog – I feel like it’s been fake. I mean, it’s not; it is my true heart. But in this moment, I am holding onto a grand total of none of it. I feel utterly hopeless; I am terrified. I ultimately know that I am being sifted, I am being purified; so all of the crap in me is rising to the surface.

And I do NOT like what I see.

Anger. Manipulation. Terror. Bitterness. Unforgiveness. Extreme distrust.

Rebellion.

The very word sickens me.

Me, rebellious. Rebelling against God.
Shaking my fist in his face and refusing to surrender, to obey.

I have only ever wanted to be good.
Only ever wanted to please God, honor him; do what he wants me to do, be who he wants me to be. (And never mess up at it.)
The Hillsong line, “The cry of my heart is to bring you praise,” makes me weep because it is the deepest truth in me.
And I have been trying all my life to be good enough.

Striving to please a God that I don’t feel I ever please.

I used to think that I viewed God as a controlling, demanding father-type, ready to dole out punishment for any slight misstep.

That is there, definitely. It is part of the fuel behind my perfectionism (as it relates to spiritual things).

But there is more.
Something else, something deeper; something that maybe once was very small, but now it has exploded.

Abusive.

I see God as abusive. Vindictive. Manipulative. Cruel. Malicious. Not merely demanding and hard to please – but impossible to please (while still demanding I do all of these things to please him). Impossible to predict. Not simply doling out too-harsh punishment for mistakes, but attacking for no reason at all. Playing with me. Taunting me. Deceiving me and then laughing about it. Taking away what I want and giving me something awful instead; dangling my desires in front of me, and then snatching them away at the last second. (And I know, I KNOW – I am describing Satan, not God. How I put every aspect of Satan’s personality onto God, I do not know.)

I am fully aware that many people grew up with that kind of influence, and by extension, likely view God in a somewhat similar way. (On the whole.)

I am also aware that that was NOT my upbringing. My father was not perfect, and our relationship (or lack thereof) has definitely impacted how I view God.

But he was not abusive.
In fact, I have never encountered ANYONE in my life – authority figure or not – who is abusive in really any way at all.

So why do I look at God that way?
I truly have no idea.

The greatest lie Satan ever told me is this: “You are not worth fighting for. No one will fight for you; you have to fight for yourself.”

Truth says that God will break open the skies to save me, that he is moved by my prayers, that he will rescue me from the pit. That he will answer whenever I call, that he will fight on my behalf.

Fear whispers, “But what if he doesn’t?” – and then goes and tries to prepare for what it feels is inevitable.

And so I am in this constant state of vacillation – jumping between relying on myself (who I know cannot do anything) and relying on God (who I feel won’t care enough to listen).

I love God.
I am terrified of God.

I cling to control not because I really want it – but because I feel trapped and see no other option.
And so, out of desperation, out of what I feel is necessity, I take control.
I fight for myself.
I keep my guard up, and keep everyone (including God) slightly away from me.
I expect to be disappointed, to be abandoned.
I make up scenarios of the worst things I can imagine happening and steel myself against them, so if it doesn’t happen, I am pleasantly surprised, and if it does, I have already resigned myself to it.

Ultimately, I rely on myself, and myself alone.

For me, my quest for control seems not to be rooted in an actual desire for it but in a deep mistrust of God’s heart, character, and affection. I take the reins reluctantly, and hold onto them out of fear.

Maybe I’m wrong.
Maybe there is more pride involved; maybe I am deluding myself. Maybe I truly DO want to be in control. Maybe I actually think I can do a better job than God.

But here is the thing.
Surrender does not feel hard for me.
And in that, I see something.
See, I WANT to give everything over to God. I feel desperate to surrender; I don’t want these things in my hands, I don’t want to feign control. I don’t want to play God in my own life. I know it’s not right, and I don’t want it.

So what holds me back? What keeps me encaged? What keeps control tight in my chest?

All of this seems to come down to one thing.
As it always has, always does:

I. Do. Not. Actually. Believe. That. God. LOVES. Me.
And so I do not trust his heart toward me.

I know the Bible. I was raised in church. I was raised to follow God. I want to follow him. I know that life exists nowhere else. I know his way is the right way, the best way; and I want that. I want nothing other than to live for him. I know the voice of God, and I know the voice of Satan. I know it all. There is very little in the way of spiritual truths anyone could tell me that I haven’t thought of, read, or heard before.

And I know what I need. Not more head knowledge, not more things to do.

I need a revelation, from God and only God; something that is clearly him. Something that I cannot wonder if I’ve manipulated, twisted, or if I’m just hearing what I want to hear. I don’t want to hear from me and so deceive myself. I want to hear from HIM, and KNOW without a doubt it is him.

I need to KNOW in the depths of my soul that he passionately loves me.

Until then, nothing will change. Nothing will heal.


To end on a slightly more positive note, I refer you to the title of this blog post.
It is from the song “Oceans,” by Hillsong. (Of course Hillsong.)

Since the first time I heard it, I have prayed it every time I hear it.
The bridge is this:

“Spirit, lead me where my trust is without borders;
let me walk upon the waters, wherever you would call me.
Take me deeper than my feet could ever wander,
and my faith would be made stronger
in the presence of my Savior.”

Whatever else is happening in me right now, God IS still working. He is doing something. He is answering that prayer, that plea of my heart. He is taking the tiny amount of trust I have right now and addressing it. He is leading me into places where my trust will become without borders; he is calling me out into the unknown, where my feet may fail – but I will see that he does not.

This WILL make my faith stronger.
It’s just that, right now, in the midst of the struggle, I am not feeling very strong. Or trusting. I don’t know how to hold onto truths that God has shown me over the last few years, months, weeks.

Maybe I need to not hold to those truths so much as just hold to him.
Push everything else aside, and ask him to show me who he IS.
And who I am to him.

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

To you my future is a memory

I have been really bad about writing on this; sorry about that. Lots of personal stuff going on that is taking precedence (as it should).

But I wanted to write about something God is showing me. Something I probably won’t be able to explain.

It comes in the form of, surprise, lyrics:

“When I’m lost in the mystery, to you my future is a memory.”

It is from the song “Already There,” by Casting Crowns.

Now, I am not a big Casting Crowns fan – nothing against them; they’re just not my style – and so I often change the station when a song of theirs comes on. But one day a little while back, that song was on, and for whatever reason, I didn’t flip from it.

And I actually heard that line, for the first time.

I will start by saying this: I have tattoo plans. ;) ;)

God has promised me many things. It is easy to believe them when I am focusing on him, looking at him, seeking him. When I am trusting him, truth is clear, and the lies are ridiculously silly. When I glance away – look at the waves, the darkness, the mountains – I start questioning, wondering if I heard him correctly. I start falling to the lies that start with the whisper, “Did God really say?”

I know that God is the beginning and the end, that he exists outside of time, that time is his creation.

The promises he has given me, he hasn’t promised those in the human way. Human promises, truly, are subject to change. No matter how deeply a human wants to keep a promise, no matter how sincere they are when they give it, humans are fallible.

But God is infallible. Perfect. Incapable of lying, for he doesn’t simply tell the truth, he IS truth.

When God tells me that he is going to restore us, that he is going to heal us, that he is going to create a garden from ruins, he is not merely giving me a hopeful prediction for the future, he is not merely telling me his proposed plan (a plan which may change).

He is telling me what he sees.

He is standing at the end of my earthly life, looking back on it, and giving me a few glimpses of what he sees. What he KNOWS will happen. What he – from where he is – has already brought about.

He is telling me pieces of my future because to him, my future is the past. It is a memory. It has already happened.

Does that make sense? Even remotely?

It’s like, God knows the end of the story (because he wrote it), while I am just starting it. And I am struggling with it, with what is going on in it, with where things look like they are going. I’m not sure I want to turn the page, not sure how I can continue reading the story, because there isn’t much hope here, and I don’t want to read a tragedy. I want something redemptive.

And he is giving me hints of what is to come, promising that I’ll like where it goes, that it will be beautiful. No spoilers, because he isn’t saying HOW, but he is essentially telling me, “Hey, R, it is a happy ending; I can promise you that. It might look dark and hopeless now, might be full of pain right now, but let me tell you, it is a beautiful tale of redemption. The ending isn’t the only thing that’s good – there is a ton of joy along the way. It gets so much better; you can’t even imagine where it goes and what happens. All of the stuff right now – it’s just making it a better story, with a better journey, and a better ending. So buckle your seatbelt and keep reading.”