A week ago, I was in a really lousy place.
It’s funny to me how easy it is to start believing your entire life is crumbling down around you. And how do you do battle against that lie when you don’t know for sure whether or not it even is a lie?
And so you leave teary voicemails on people’s phones, and you send long e-mails to people who will process with you, and you close your office door because you can’t stop crying, and you inwardly curl yourself into a ball and beg God to hold you.
And when you can’t cry anymore because you’re too exhausted, and the energy drink you bought isn’t working, and your mind is awake but you eyes feel like they belong on the body of a ninety-year-old–swollen and heavy and perpetually ready for a nap–you breathe. Because there’s nothing left to do. And you WWJD yourself through the intensity and swirling emotions and confusion and anger. You, unwillingly but out of desperation, choose to rise above yourself and ask Jesus to live and think and make decisions through you.
And it works. Miraculously, against all evidence to the contrary, the storm doesn’t last forever.
And it was awful, the storm. It wasn’t an illusion. It wasn’t all in my head. The sky was black, and the trees were bending as the wind blew, and thunder crackled across the sky and reached downward toward the earth threateningly. And there I stood, soaked from the rain and bruised from the hail, trying not to let the cold wind steal the breath from my lungs.
I chose to hold on. I chose to wait for Jesus to calm the crazy rather than taking matters into my own hands.
I refused to act on the lie that Satan was whispering to me that the storm was going to last forever, and that when it did eventually end, the trees would be blown down and my house uprooted, and that I might as well run now because running will hurt less than watching what I used to have and love come crumbling down around me.
I chose instead to say, “He will rescue me. But even if He doesn’t…” And I held on.
And then, without any warning or indication that I was right to hope, the storm suddenly stops. Not gradually, but all at once. And I hear a bird chirp. Confirmation- “You were right to trust in Me.” And I lift my head and the once-gray sky is dissipating, and the only reminder of the rain is the wet pavement beneath my feet. And above my head there’s a rainbow.
I could’ve bought into the lie. I could’ve made what I was feeling and let it grow and grow within me until I couldn’t breathe and panic was flooding my mind. I could’ve acted out of my fears and anger. But instead, I forced myself to breathe and wait. Even as the wind whipped and whirled around me, sucking the air out of my lungs, I looked to Jesus to provide my breath. And I waited.
And He turned it around. The pavement is still wet. The sky is still speckled with dark clouds. But there are birds and rainbows. And I’ll take the wet pavement in exchange for a rainbow.
And in the midst of the storm, I wrote the following:
Communicating is hard.
Or I’m crazy.
Or maybe both.
I swear I repeat back what I hear people say, word for word. And then they look at me like they are equal parts baffled and frustrated. And usually they are gentle with me, but their response is essentially: “How did you get that from what I said!? What’s the point in even talking to you when you don’t listen?!”
But I do!
But it seems like they think everything’s getting filtered incorrectly through my brain. Which, for the record, makes me feel crazy and ashamed and so frustrated, because I don’t understand what the communication problem is- and now maybe they think I’m crazy and I’m not!
So they’ll repeat themselves, trying to be more clear. And I’ll repeat what they said, also trying to be clearer. And again they’ll say I’m not understanding. And how is that even possible?!
And it works the other way as well. I already feel insecure about my ability to verbally communicate, and lately when I try, things get so twisted so quickly. People will repeat back what they heard me say, that that’s NOT what I said! Or if it was, it wasn’t what I meant. And they’ll say I’m contradicting myself or lying and WHAT!?? HOW?! Why is NO ONE HEARING ME!?
I feel like they speak Spanish and I speak Italian and we KIND OF understand each other because our languages are similar, but mostly there is this incredible disconnect. And everyone on the planet speaks Spanish except for me.
And when I feel this way, misunderstood and ashamed and labeled as a problem to be solved, it makes me want to run. It hurts when it seems like the people I thought loved me and thought highly of me do, indeed, love me, but also see me as someone with whom relationship is hard and with whom they have to guard their heart.
I feel sometimes like everything is going to be used against me, to reaffirm in everyone’s minds that I shouldn’t have left treatment, that I should’ve gotten prayer, that I’m not okay. It makes me furious and ashamed and it makes me feel hopeless and defeated and completely overwhelmed. And it makes me feel haunted- like my identity and value and worth and how people see me will be forever marred because of this last season of my life. Any progress I make undermined because now I carry this label of being mentally unwell.
I laid in bed last Tuesday night, staring out the window at the trees blowing in the dark and focused on breathing slow and deep, and I asked God: “What do I do?”
“Do I leave? Run? Hide?
Continue to show up?
Stop sharing my heart? Feel ashamed?
Call and sob and beg them to tell me they still love me and that I’m completely wrong about what I feel?
Get angry? Be firm about what I think is wrong and right, even if people call it rebellion and turn away from me?”
And I knew, as all those questions swirled in my brain, and my heart beat wildly and threatened to steal the breath from my lungs, I knew God was whispering, “Shhh, child. Don’t do anything. Not yet. Wait. Breathe. Let me be the one to do something. You just tend to your precious heart and try to model Jesus.”
And maybe that’s all I ever need to do when things are confusing and unclear- not find answers or solutions or make sense of the crazy (either the crazy in my own head or that swirls about in conversations and distorts everything), but breathe and trust and wait, and in every second, model Jesus.
Let’s pretend for a moment that Jesus was able of doing something imperfect, okay? (I know, I know. You’re about to call blasphemy on me. Just go with me for a minute here. Because really, the WWJD question doesn’t work unless we momentarily abandon our belief that Jesus is perfect. Otherwise, He’d never find Himself in many of the situations we have to WWJD ourselves through in the first place!)
So here’s what I concluded last night as I wrestled with whether to fight, flight, or freeze.
(And really, making decisions in the middle of intense emotions? That’s never a good idea. The decisions made always tend to be extreme:
“LEAVE! RUN! MOVE TO FLORIDA! NO ONE GETS YOU! YOU CAN’T TRUST ANYONE! NEVER TALK TO ANYONE EVER AGAIN!”
“CALL THEM SOBBING EVEN THOUGH IT’S MIDNIGHT! MAKE THEM TELL YOU IT’S ALL GOING TO BE OKAY!”
“NEVER GET OUT OF BED AGAIN! NEVER! TURN YOUR PHONE OFF NOW!”
And it’s funny because sometimes making decisions, even big, extreme ones, can feel like coming up with a solution- a way to ease the intense pain. But that’s a trick. It might feel good or satisfying in the moment to say you’re going to tell everyone to shut their faces, or cancel your phone service, or quit your job and look into moving across the country, but the outcome of making decisions when everything feels like fire and panic? Usually more fire. More panic.)
Ahem. Anyway, as I was saying. WWJD?
Jesus would be loving. He wouldn’t care about arguing His point or knowing who’s wrong or who’s right, because He’d think it’s more important to show up and love people, to not abandon the people and situations where He believes God has placed Him.
And He wouldn’t feel ashamed or embarrassed about His opinions or decisions. He wouldn’t let His beliefs be stolen from Him. He wouldn’t write them in stone, but He’d not blow them away like smoke either, desperately exchanging them for others’ beliefs just because that’s more comfortable. He wouldn’t turn red with embarrassment and try to pretend like their beliefs were His all along and wonder, “Who am I to think I could have a differing opinion than WASN’T wrong!?”
And He’d trust that while He went on with His life–continuing to love people, listen to them, offer grace–God would sort it all out. He’d trust that God would reveal what’s true and what isn’t. He’d listen to others’ perspectives and opinions, He’d check in with His heart, and then He’d bring it all to God to unravel. He’d set it at His feet and walk back into His life, confident that God would work it all out.
He would walk back into His life as fully Himself- strengths, joys, sorrows, opinions, flaws, failures, snot and tears. He’d refuse to hide or be ashamed because He’d be confident that God made Him who He was for a reason- and that even if others don’t understand, even if He felt marginalized and alone and like He’s the only one who speaks Italian; even if He was wrong, even if His viewpoints were skewed, and He needed to ask for forgiveness, that wouldn’t change how He saw Himself or make Him want to shrink up in shame. He would extend grace to Himself. Because He’d know we’re all in process. God isn’t done with a single one of us. No one is better or worse than someone else. Grace, grace, grace.
And if He felt angry, it would be at the enemy for distorting things and lying, for trying to break up relationships, for trying to break down the ability for people God placed together to communicate openly and trust each other. He wouldn’t be angry at people. Or Himself. Our fight isn’t against flesh and blood.
And He wouldn’t give the enemy a victory by saying, “Fine, I’ll never share my heart again.” Although maybe He’d realize that people, even well-meaning ones–kind, generous, loving, admirable, beautiful ones–are no substitute for God. And maybe He’d share His heart with people a little less and trust that it was enough to share it with God. Even if it felt like God wasn’t listening. Even if sharing it with God and not with people felt lonely and isolating.
But He wouldn’t hold back the sharing of His heart out of shame or fear. He would simply be more conscientious about being gentle with others’ hearts and about protecting His own- because probably the miscommunication couldn’t occur with such intensity, the pain and emotions and opinions so charged, if He and the other person/people didn’t deeply love each other. And when someone loves you, your pain can sometimes become their pain. And maybe it isn’t fair to that person’s heart to give them all of what’s on your heart, even if you’re not expecting help or answers.
And He’d trust, 150% that God would draw near. That He didn’t have to turn from God in search of someone tangible to hug or look at Him with love. He’d trust that, somehow, someway, God can meet those needs. He’d continue to seek and pour out His heart and wait with holy expectation for God to show up, to help Him see He’s never once sent up a prayer that bounced off the ceiling and returned to Him while He sat there, lonely and un-thought of and unheard, within the four walls of His house.
And I know something can’t be 150% because 100% is as high as percentages can go. But when it comes to the spiritual? The supernatural? I think that extra 50% is necessary. Because it says, “I know it’s not possible. But I’m going to hope against all odds. I’m going to look at the not possible and say, ‘With God, all things are possible.'”
A little wild hope. A little crazy believing. A little irrational trust.
Maybe sometimes being a little crazy isn’t a bad thing at all.