It’s All Wrapped Up In Him

You know what insomnia does? It makes your brain even more unreliable than usual.

And when your brain is already a lying-liar-face because you’re stinkin’ depressed, adding insomnia to that is just… well, a recipe for success, folks.

Lately, falling asleep is the hardest thing I do all day. Which is doubly unfortunate because being alive is pretty hard too.

“Forget everything,” I was instructing myself last night. I heard Arlow snoring, and Madison and the kids breathing deeply in the next room, and the clock ticking. “Forget everything about yourself- your job (or lack thereof), your family (or lack thereof), all of the things that you think make you who you are. Forget your responsibilities and fears and hopes and dreams. Just for now, strip it all away. Forget everything but this: You are His.”

And then I focused on breathing. “Breathe, don’t think. Breathe, don’t think. You are His, you are His, you are His.”

I could hear my breathing, feel my heartbeat, the sensation of the air on my exposed feet, and I noticed that my eyelids felt hot from lack of sleep. And I breathed deep, to the core of me, somewhere in my abdomen, where spirit and soul and the Holy Spirit all seem to collide.

I am His. I am His. I am His. Nothing else matters. At least for this moment, nothing else matters.

And still, I couldn’t sleep. But at least my head, my lying brain, had been silenced for the moment. There were no words, just my own steady inhale and exhale. And my heart, on its knees, looking and listening and waiting.

*

The irony of insomnia is that the harder you try to fall asleep, the less likely it is that you’re going to be able to.

And that made me think- how often in my life do I lament, despair and exasperation written on my face: “I’m trying SO HARD!”

And how often is that the opposite of what I should be doing?

Hear me out.

While I am a fan of naps, and while I’m probably not gonna be the spokesperson for A Hard Day’s Work, I’m not advocating laziness.

I’m advocating surrender.

Rest.

Waiting on the only One who has the power to bring about what it is you’re trying to do on your own.

The harder I try, the less likely it is that I will be able to fall asleep.

Similarly, the harder I try to “have more faith!” or “have more hope!”, the less I’m able to focus on what really matters- my relationship with Him, the God who promises to finish the good work He (HE! Not me!) has begun in me.

I mean, sure, it’s a blow to evil if we testify that God is the author of ALL good things, that we are nothing without Him, and that He has a good plan for us… but if we forget to live like that’s true? If we start trying to measure up or be “better”? If we forget that it’s not about us (even in regards to how much faith or hope or love we have!) but about Him? If we forget the best use of our time is spent at His feet? If we forget that it is He who is making us like Jesus, and that it is not something we can accomplish on our own (or take any credit for!)? Well, if we do that, if we get caught in that trap, our religion becomes more about us than about Him, doesn’t it?

I can’t do it. I can’t make myself have more faith or hope. I can’t make myself want to live. I can’t make myself sleep.

But He can.

In every situation, if anxiety is replacing peace, you’re on the wrong track.

And how incredible is that?! That our God would structure life that way, that He loves us so much that He’d say: “If the voice you hear makes you feel anxious, IT’S NOT MINE.”

*

This life isn’t going to cut it.

I look around me at all of this–houses and people and stores and nature and traffic and all the things that make up this life–and IT ISN’T JESUS.

It’s like I’m dying of thirst and someone gave me a damp rag. And I’m trying to somehow not be thirsty anymore by sucking the water out of the rag, but it’s a joke. I’m still dying of thirst.

My thirst for Jesus is not being met in this life I’m living.

There must be more.

I have to believe that.

I have to believe I’m here in this place, not because I’m screwed up (although I am), but because He is using my thirst and discomfort to draw me deeper.

I felt Him saying to me today, as my heart twisted and ached within me and my head spun with lies and truths and variations of both, “This isn’t a mistake. YOU are not a mistake. You are tenderhearted in a way that is rare. And some might call it wrong, but it isn’t wrong. It isn’t a flaw. It is My design. YOU are MY design.”

Oh, but this heart of mine has me so aching for heaven. There just isn’t enough Jesus here.

But I’m here for a reason. I’m alive for a reason.

I’m thirsty for a reason.

And if I stop believing that, if I chalk it up to “heaven is my real home”, I’ll shut down the part of my heart that is screaming for more of Him. I’ll stop waiting on Him and begging Him to be more real to me. I’ll tell myself this is all there is.

I think well-meaning, God-loving people tell themselves that all the time. They seek and it seems futile and they’re thirsty and they get tired of living with the thirst. So they tell themselves what I’ve been tempted to tell myself- the lie that there is no more of God to be found this side of heaven. And so they start working on themselves rather than seeking the face of God.

They trade in passion and romance (this is, after all, a love story) and WILD HOPE, and instead talk about their relationship with God in terms of their faith- learning to be okay with less than they’d hoped for, practicing peace in the midst of suffering. “This life is a war, but God is GOOD!” they say. And that is true. It is. But it’s not the face of God. It’s theology and a desperate grasping and clinging at some way to make this life bearable. It’s a love for our Savior and a reverence and an awe, yes. But it isn’t letting ourselves be held. It isn’t knowing and loving Him more.

What does the Bible mean when it says we will find Him when we seek Him with all our hearts? What does it REALLY mean?

Does it mean we’ll be able to walk through our lives with scripture in our heads so fully that the lies of the enemy cannot penetrate? Does it mean we will be able to talk our hearts off the ledge with Truth when life gets hard? Does it mean we weep with hope and rejoice in the midst of sorrow?

I don’t know. I don’t have answers. I just can’t believe that’s what Jesus was promising when He said we’d find Him. HIM.

And I refuse to fabricate my God. I refuse to sit here and say it’s okay if all there is of Him this side of heaven is trees and mountains and baby smiles and the promise that He is using my pain to make me more like Jesus. Those things are GOOD. But they aren’t Him.

Sunsets and stars and hugs? GOOD. But they aren’t the Jesus my heart is screaming for.

They are a damp rag when I’m dying of thirst.

Lord, I’m grateful. I’m grateful. But it’s not enough.

Is “I am Yours and You are mine” just something we say? Or does it truly mean something? Because that would suggest a relationship. A relationship that goes beyond theology and sunsets and even hard-earned faith.

All of that is good and important, but THERE HAS TO BE MORE.

We are called to walk by faith, yes. But we are also called to seek His face.

And you know what the most infuriating thing is? I can’t”try harder” to know and love Him more.

It’s a process, something He is doing in me.

All I can do is refuse to stop seeking. I will knock until the door opens. I will continue to live eyes open, in holy anticipation of the God who IS HERE.

And I will refuse to let my lying brain tell me scripture didn’t really mean we’d find Him when we seek Him.

And sure, I could convince myself scripture meant we’d learn to see Him in the good of this life- warm blankets and shared laughs and good books and people who speak life and hope and love. I can tell myself that. And it might even be the partial truth.

But either the promises of God are even better than we can ever hope or dream or imagine, or they are nothing at all.

It’s dangerous when we try to decide scripture means less than what it reads.

It’s dangerous when we take the God who is more loving and powerful and present and real and near and good than we can fathom, and decide He is capable of less than amazing, miraculous things.

*

“You can’t force these things. They only come about through my Spirit…” (Zech. 4:6-7)

 

 

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Saving Grace

There was a deer.

There were pills.

There was alcohol.

There’s a dog, who puts his head under my chin while I sleep, as if standing watch to make sure I keep breathing.

There is not remembering how to breathe, because the sorrow is too big.

There is: “I promise I’ll fast! I will spend days on my knees before You! I will do whatever I have to do to make You be here now.”

And there is: “I will wait. All I can do is wait.”

There is: “I can’t do this anymore. It’s too big for me, this pain. And all the loss. So much loss.”

And there is: “You’re still working this out.”

There is: “I NEED A MIRACLE!”

And there is this moment. I’m still alive. And that’s a miracle in itself.

My continually beating heart is a miracle. It’s a constant, persistent, screaming at heaven that I KNOW there’s a God who saves and loves me.

There’s me, hanging on to the edge of a cliff. And I’m tired, and I’m screaming for help. And I don’t know that there’s anyone around for miles and miles. I don’t know that any help is coming. I don’t know whether this hanging on is futile.

But I know God is with me. And He works miracles. And so I continue to hold on, and I continue to scream.

*

The deer. I didn’t hit it. Nor did the car behind me hit me when I slammed on my brakes. Nor did I hit the car coming towards me when I swerved into oncoming traffic. And Arlow, although he flew forward and hit the dashboard, he wasn’t injured.

And there was God who, in that moment, said to me: “I AM WITH YOU. Always. You are MINE. And you are LOVED. And I AM GOD. You do not get to jump ship.”

“But, tomorrow is coming, Lord. Another day is coming,” I weep.

“I know.”

“And it’s too big for me! I don’t know how to do tomorrow. I don’t know how to contain all this pain within me. I don’t know how to make it be okay.” More tears. Hysterical sobbing. Cannot breathe. Panicked. Trapped. No way out. Nothing that feels like life. No one to reach out to who will make it better. Nothing on my to-do list that I can check off to make my pain smaller. I can’t do anything to fix it. It just is. And it’s so big that I feel like I could scream-cry into a pillow forever.

But He reminds me, gentle as a butterfly perching on my shoulder: “Child, you don’t have to know how to make it be okay. That isn’t your job, it’s Mine.”

*

There’s the dog who sees me stop writing this to put my face into my hands and weep. And he begins to whine. And he jumps up onto the couch with me and licks my tears.

And there is God in that.

And there’s me, looking at him, my sweet pup, and crying harder because he deserves a better mommy than me. He deserves better than a mom who cannot get off the couch or walk or feed him because of the night before. He deserves better than me, a mommy who’s only half here, committed to this life. And half begging for heaven.

*

I was not put together wrong.

“The INFJ personality type is very rare, making up less than one percent of the population,

Because INFJs are such complex people, they may be reluctant to engage with others who might not understand or appreciate them, and can thus be hard to get to know. When they sense that their values are not being respected, or when their intuition tells them that someone’s intentions are not pure, they are likely to withdraw.

They think deeply and often need time to process and evaluate before they are ready to share their ideas. They seek validation and will take the time to appreciate others and their ideas. 

INFJs want to maintain harmony in their relationships and are highly motivated to resolve conflicts. 

INFJs want a high degree of intimacy and emotional engagement, and are happiest when they feel they are sharing their innermost thoughts and feelings. One of the things INFJs find most important is establishing genuine, deep connections with the people they care about. If there’s anything they have a poor tolerance for in relationships, it is inauthenticity.

They tend to believe that nothing would help the world so much as using love and compassion to soften hearts.

INFJs take great care of other’s feelings, and they expect the favor to be returned.

When INFJs find themselves up against conflict and criticism – their sensitivity forces them to do everything they can to evade these seemingly personal attacks, but when the circumstances are unavoidable, they can fight back in highly irrational, unhelpful ways. When someone challenges or criticizes INFJs’ principles or values, they are likely to receive an alarmingly strong response. People with the INFJ personality type are highly vulnerable to criticism and conflict, and questioning their motives is the quickest way to their bad side.

People with this personality type are likely to exhaust themselves in short order if they don’t find a way to balance their ideals with the realities of day-to-day living.”

I am not a mistake. God made me this way. HE MADE ME. And He is sustaining me even now, guarding and protecting my life in spite of myself. He has a plan. He doesn’t make mistakes. I am not a mistake. I don’t have to be understood or treasured or loved or wanted to be not a mistake. Nothing can rob me of the fact that the God of the universe knit me together and gave me this life and body and personality for such a time as this. I am not a mistake. I am not a mistake.

*

I don’t want anyone or anything fake. I don’t want anything I have to try to hold together. I don’t want to beg for love or help. I don’t want anything but You, Jesus. It’s only with You that I am safe. I just want You. Please, God, PLEASE. Somehow… please answer that prayer. Be here. Be what I need.

Don’t forget, Jesus, that I am Yours. And don’t let me forget that I’m beloved. Help me, Jesus. Help me.

*

There is a Jesus who forgives me over and over again. Who weeps for me. Who whispers, against all that I see and feel, that it’s going to be okay. And there’s me, hanging on the cliff edge, who speaks over myself, over all I feel or see or can fathom: “I trust YOU.”

I trust Him, so I hang on as well as I can in spite of the pain and seeming hopelessness of the situation.

And I trust Him, so I cry out for help. Because I cannot save myself.

*

“This is where I belong, held by the arms of love. Love, don’t let me go.”