Thursday, March 23, 2017

Were we made to fight silent battles?

Once upon a time... There was a nice, tidy little grocery store. It had rows upon rows of neatly organized shelves, all items lined up with their own like kind, everything fastidiously labeled, everything in its place. Each morning the lights came on and the doors opened and the people came in and the day began. When items were taken off of shelves new ones were put in their place and the show went on... not a can was dented, not a box was torn, not a seal was broken... the uniformity was especially noteworthy in the soda bottle aisle. Rows upon rows of tall, shapely, proudly capped bottles of sweet drink lined the aisle from top to bottom. Many shoppers came in, selected their bottle or two, took them to the check out, and that evening when the doors were locked and the lights went out new bottles of soda were put in their place so the show could repeat itself the next day. The scene of perfection went on, day after day after day... But one night, when the doors were locked and the lights were out and no one was around to see... one lone bottle of soda that accidentally sat ever so precariously on the edge tipped just so and fell... crashing down, down, down to the floor below and rolling about, spinning in a dizzy circle that got slower and slower until finally the motion stopped. The next morning as the sun came up, the soda bottle was found on the floor, and before the lights came on and the doors opened, in an effort to maintain the status quo of tidiness and perfection, it was quickly picked up and placed back on the shelf with its comrades. A great sigh of relief... everything again looked as it should. If you happen to see the rows and rows of soda bottles sometime... you'd never ever notice that one had once fallen down. There's not a thing to give away it's downward crash. It still stands tall and proud, still has its label neatly in place. The bubbles that had risen crazily in it at first have now settled to a completely imperceptible state of calm. You'll never know what happened that time in the dark when no one was watching. There's nothing to betray the way it was wounded... Is there? As long as you leave it sitting there on the shelf... it's fine. The show can go on. But... what if you take it down and try to open it up? What will happen when it's time for it to be used for what it was made for? The second the lid cracks.... all that shaken up trauma comes rushing to the surface in a completely unexpected eruption.

That soda bottle..? It's me. It's how I feel inside. I've experienced trauma and a crash and devastation I've never imagined walking through, and it's all supposed to be kept private and silent, and now the lights are up and the show carries on... and I can do my best to look just like my normal self and get dressed and curl my hair sometimes and put on a smile and say I'm good. I can keep it all capped deep down inside me and try to go on looking and acting the part so no one has to be bothered by the messiness of what's inside, ready to explode. But the second something unexpected happens or my stress levels get out of control the lid cracks and all the pain and anger and frustration and confusion comes bubbling up and spilling out. It feels like now that the initial crash to the floor is over, the world would want to pick me up, put me back on the shelf, and tell me to just shove the pressure building inside and get over it... to carry on with the parade of perfect happiness that everyone expects and to stay silent. What am I supposed to do with this? Do I pretend to be fine and post about my tulips and the dolls I'm making and the cute things my kids did and carry on with the show like nothing is wrong and everything's perfect and keep my fake plastic label neatly in place? Or do I start to wonder how many other people are out there who have taken hard hits and falls in the dark of night and are barely keeping their lid on too? Are there more of us? Are there a lot of us? Are most of us in pain? Are all of us in pain? Are we supposed to keep it quiet and pretend to be fine? Are we supposed to go on and keep smiling and posting only the happy? Doesn't that just further the illusion that if you're in pain or not ok, then you are clearly alone? And does it feel better to process pain silently, feeling alone? To pretend you're always happy when you're actually heartbroken? It doesn't for me. It feels fake. It feels wrong.

But then there's this fine line... Because not all of us can share exactly WHAT is causing us pain... But does that mean that we have to deny the pain altogether, just because we can't say what it's source is? What if we were gentle with each other? Maybe some people can share the source of their pain. Maybe some people can't. What if we gave each other the protection to admit we're broken and try to heal, but stopped pretending that we are all whole? What if I could just say, "hey, I'm not ok, could you pray for healing and guidance and peace and redemption?" But didn't have to probe down deep into the wounds and open them back up for the world to see that, yes, indeed, I am bleeding and hurting. Can we care for each other like that? Can we put ointment and bandages on each other instead of trying to perform surgery on something we know nothing about? Could we just extend love and kindness and gentleness to people even when we aren't sure if they're in the midst of a battle?

I think we can. This is different, what I'm doing here... This is strange and uncharted for me. To say I'm hurting when there aren't really answers yet? When people might try to pick me apart? When people might not really care about me at all? It doesn't feel safe. It feels crazily vulnerable. I don't like being vulnerable, especially in an already broken place when people can be mean and hurt you even more. But I believe I'm being called to share my brokenness, to say, to whoever else is in pain too... "YOU ARE NOT ALONE. WE CAN FIND JESUS HERE. LET'S LOOK FOR HIM TOGETHER." So I write about my brokenness and my search for Jesus in the midst of this for healing, both for me and for you. For the broken. For the hurting. For anyone else who is also in pain and feels alone. You're not. And Jesus is so good. And He is here. And He promises to never leave us. And He helps us find joy in our tulips, our children, the dolls we sew, or dinner on the table even when the world feels like it's crashing. And He is the strength inside of us when we are falling apart.

I am so, so thankful for my husband, for our marriage, for the safety and security and unity in my relationship with Shaun as we weather this storm together. I am beyond grateful for my four healthy babies who overflow my heart with their preciousness. And I am thankful for those of you who have messaged me... people who are going through their own storms and their own trials and who are also broken... People I can find healing in sharing with... or people who have said they aren't sure what's wrong but they're praying anyway... It means SO much. And I am thankful for the outlet of writing, to process and to share and to be real in the midst of a very vulnerable place.

So to answer the question at the title of this post... I don't know. Were we made to fight silent battles? What do you think? I don't think I am supposed to be silent right now, but maybe you feel differently about the way you're fighting your battle and that's ok. I think I could stay silent, but I don't think that my brokenness could be used to help heal anyone else if I kept it private. That doesn't mean everyone needs to shout their vulnerable places from the rooftops. There's no judgment here. I'm just done with any show in my life that claims perfection. You'll find none of that here. But if you're not looking for perfection, you're looking for connection? For healing? For the way that Jesus takes broken things and puts them back together? I hope you find that in this place.

Sunday, March 12, 2017

On Finding Strength When Your Heart is Broken

When you're surrounded by blazing fire on all sides, and there's no way to go but through it, and you feel like you're about to be consumed, like you're suffocating, like you're not possibly strong enough to take another step, and you can feel yourself about to fall apart... that it's only the weakest thread left that you're using to hold the pieces of you together, and that last tiny thread is smoking and smoldering and about to snap too... where do you go for the strength that you need to just keep going? When you feel like you've already dropped to your knees, searching desperately for that next gasp of oxygen to get to your lungs and propel you to keep moving, but you start to see the cracks taking shape, the pieces falling, and your own two hands just aren't enough to hold all of you in place anymore... is there anything left inside of you that's strong? Some hidden reserve that's just not tapped into yet? What if there's not? But what if there is?

In my brokenness, when the pieces are falling, as I feel myself unable to hold it together... when the tears are avalanching and my soul is crushed and the pain feels more intense than I can bare... as I find myself in the midst of a fire that I never thought I'd survive... when my last thread of strength has snapped clean through and it's all crashing, each piece wilting away like the petals of a dying flower, falling like shards of smashed pottery... I'm finding that there's something left inside of me that's not even part of me, and yet is the very essence of me, and it's stronger than anything I'd ever hoped to be, and it's pulling the breath in and out of my lungs even when I feel incapable, and it's unable to be stopped, unable to be silenced, unable to be broken. It is Christ in me, the hope of glory.

And He is light and He is goodness and He is strength and He is hope and He is almighty and He is faithful and He is true... And He is the FIRE that created fire and no earthly flame can touch him, no earthly flame can shake Him, no earthly flame can hold Him back or keep Him down. And when every piece of me is broken and falling and shattered, He remains at my core, and He will not let one part of me go unaccounted for, and He will hold each sacred piece as we move through the fire together... and it is the very fire we go through together that will forge me back into something whole again, something stronger than I was before. Because He works all things together for my good. 

I am more than flesh and bone. I am more than just a body. I am the temple of the Almighty Creator of the Universe. HE LIVES INSIDE OF ME, and in Him I live and move and have my being, and when the strength of my flesh fails, when my heart is broken beyond recognition, and when the last reserves of my human strength have been poured into the dust, He is the fire that still roars inside of me, the Heavenly fire that overpowers and repels the earthly fires of this world. It is because of Him and Him alone that when I stand in the blazing infernos I thought would overtake me, I do not die. It is because of Him and Him alone that, though the enemy keeps turning up the heat, billowing the fires to five, six, seven times hotter, that instead of death, resurrection takes place. 

Where I'm at right now... I don't see the resurrection yet. I'm still in pieces. But though I am broken I am held together by Him. And the resurrection is coming. I know it. I can feel it in my bones. When all that is left on my lips is a whisper, I will speak the name of Jesus, and all the forces of Hell will bow before the power of the one who makes His home inside of me.

In my weakness, HE IS STRONG. It is in Him I find strength when my heart is broken.

If the last of your strength feels poured into the dust, this song and this song are speaking strength and truth to my spirit. Maybe they will speak it to yours too.