A teacher I work with stopped me on my way out of class this morning and offered me a hug. “You didn’t seem yourself when you sang at church on Sunday, and I just wanted to make sure you’re okay.” The truth is, I’m not.
Friends, I’ll preface this by saying it’s not the most positive post from me you’ll ever read, (though it does end well.) It reflects how I’m feeling in this moment and though I know I’ll probably feel differently next week, there’s something about marking the valley that makes the peaks worth the climb. I’m kind of counting on that being so.
It feels like I’ve been climbing a long, long time. I am so, so tired.
Here is something that’s not true but feels true: Jesus has it out for me. He’s swinging a bat at my guts and my head and my knees. He’s aiming at hollowing me out so much that I begin to resemble Him in His meekness and service for others. And as I pour out and become more and more depleted, He’s standing back, refining me, and thinking, “ah, progress.”
Friends, I know this isn’t true. And yet.
Annie F. Downs wrote a whole book on this one simple question: Is God kind? And as it turned out, it wasn’t simple at all. She asked a smattering of friends who said of course He’s kind because He’s God, but she was left with a boatload of heartfelt, unanswered prayers and a lot of loneliness and some increasingly desperate wondering about where she had put her hope. I get it. Annie came to the conclusion that God is kind, that He does see and care for us, and most days I feel that way, too. But lately, it feels like continual stretching, testing, and growing and it doesn’t feel like my prayers are ever answered in a way that feels good for me anymore. Like, it may be for my good, but it doesn’t feel like joy or blessings in that beloved daughter kind of way. You know what I mean?
It feels like in the midst of this hard, hard season, I’m continuing to serve His people well, and I feel like that’s a big deal. Like I’m so tired and even in the midst, I’m praising and helping and directing and serving. I’m telling people about God in the best ways I know: speaking, writing, connection in teaching, singing, leadership, listening, acts of kindness. Last week, I told a church full of people that I trust God, albeit with a shaking hand, and though that wasn’t always true, it is true today. I do trust Him. I believe that God has a plan for my life, but lately it kind of feels like the plan is to bless other people through me without me getting any residual benefit, like I’m a stainless steel conduit of grace: efficient, slippery, and non-absorbent.
Ah friends, I feel pretty hollowed out today and that’s probably not something so super fun to read, but it’s true. There’s a cloud over me and like my mother used to say, this too shall pass. It’s true. But I miss those magical days when it felt like the Father was holding my hand and we walked through life just noticing the many ways He works. That was so fun. I miss it.
I was distracted last week through yoga and had a bit of trepidation as we got closer to the end of practice and savasana. It’s always a time in which I feel the Holy Spirit or my Mom or Mary or a combination of all three leading me with some symbol or encouragement or help about my life right in that moment. I knew that life felt dark right then, so as I settled in on the mat and wrapped my sweater around me, I took a deep breath and asked God to show me what I needed to know. And it was like I was looking through trembling fingers at a horror movie and in my mind’s eye, I saw
my grave. I’m not kidding. I wish I were.
And Mary and my Mom were anointing me and I was choking on handfuls of dirt and I heard the voice of God say, “How can I bring you back to life when you won’t die?”
It’s a dying to self that needs to happen, finally, and I know it. If I can finally die to expectation, comparison, and striving, then I can be brought back to life in gratitude, joy, and peace. That requires acceptance, hope, and trust, and the thing is, I don’t feel completely strong enough to take these last few steps towards where I need to go. I need a supernatural breaking in, some replenishment or help or movement or activity that shows me that God is truly in the details of my life, that He is steering, that He does care about me not as a vessel but as a living, breathing, super-needy daughter. I need help that comes from beyond myself. In this cold winter, I’m like the kids in Narnia when it seems like all is lost, but really it’s just a few minutes before Father Christmas comes in on his sleigh with the undeserved, unexpected gifts they most need to keep moving forward.
One half-hour later…
And friends, I want you to know that’s precisely what happened. Santa, I mean. In the form of my twenty-one year old son who just sat next to me as I typed the last few words of that last paragraph with my eyes brimming with tears. Seriously. In his patient, encouraging, sometimes-way-wiser-than-his-years way, he listened and helped me through this dark day in an unexpected way. He was sent, just like that teacher who hugged me in the hallway this morning, and in this moment there is grace to see that I am known, seen, and loved. Jesus is not at bat. He’s Santa, and He’s my kid, and He’s for me, again. I know the truth is: He always was, and He will be tomorrow, too.
It’s grace, and it’s just what I needed today. In this time of refinement, the road is not always clear, but He’s equipping me, raising my eyes, and He’s bringing me back to fine.