A Little More Wonder

I read recently: “God must be a pretty big fan of today, because you keep waking up to it.”

God’s perspective on today–the day as a whole, and the day that I am individually going to live–is positive.

My perspective is not. Even when I engage in mental gymnastics, trying to will my insides to cooperate, there’s something inside of me that is dead to life. Life doesn’t resonate with me anymore.

*

I was kayaking with my friend today. Good company. Nothing heavy on my heart. Sunny sky. Cool water. All was well. And yet, I looked around me, I took in the lily pads and the cottonwood floating through the air to land on the water around me, and I looked into the face of my friend, and I still could not understand how anyone chooses to live. How is anyone doing it?

And I paddled my kayak and silently willed the dead part of me to come back to life. I reminded myself that GOD HIMSELF CREATED THIS LIFE; there is goodness all around me. There are reasons to live all around me.

The bad doesn’t negate the good. The good is still here. And my inability to commit to living this gift? It isn’t because life isn’t worth it, it’s because something inside of me can no longer register the miracle of simply existing.

I can make a list of bad things and good things about life, but you know what? Neither of those lists carry much weight with me right now. My problem isn’t that life has too much bad or not enough good, my problem is that I can’t feel any desire to be here. I am disconnected from it all.

I need the Lord to teach me how to live. To take me back through a childhood and adolescence and young adulthood. To teach me about wonder and curiosity and awe, about what family and love and security should look like, to create in me a desire to use my life for something that will outlast me.

*

I was watching a medical show tonight, and I found myself wondering if it was fair for the medical team to treat a person’s body if they suspected brain damage. Is it fair to fight for a person’s body to live if their brain is dead? I don’t know. I don’t have the answer for that. But I know what I’d want for myself, or for someone I loved.

Something inside of me is dead. And still, I am daily choosing life.

I am daily facing my giants of depression and dysthymia and panic and screaming aloneness and fear and grief and the desire to sleep forever. Every day I am choosing.

Every day, I show up for the battle, even though I don’t want to anymore. Neither I nor the giants have any desire to be looking each other in the eyes, and yet there I am, back for round two or twenty or two thousand.

But how do I fight for life when something inside of me isn’t even alive anymore?

I don’t know. You just choose, I guess. You choose and just hope you’re able to keep choosing well.

And today I chose to meet my friend to go kayaking. I chose to preach goodness to my soul by engaging in some of the best that life has to offer, even though I can’t feel it right now.

I laughed with my friend and I breathed deeply. I floated on the lake, dragging my hand through the water, and listening to the rustle of nearby trees.

And I prayed, “Lord, teach me how to live.”

All The Living Things

There’s a man sleeping on the sidewalk outside my office window.

Yesterday I watched a woman eat a sandwich, mayonnaise and saliva oozing down her chin.

Five days a week, I look into hollow eyes and watch people take pills and I wonder about life. I wonder about the significance of any of it. I wonder why some people sleep outside and numb their pain with needles and I wonder how they do it, how they keep doing life when it’s cold outside and they have no bed and all their friends are unshowered and swearing. And I wonder why them and why not me. And I wonder what if it was me? What if that became me?

*

Yesterday, under the fading sun, I played lacrosse with him. We laughed and ran through the grass barefoot and I thought, “THIS is why people live. For moments like this.”

I watched my friend play guitar, his pain and heart and perspective on life becoming art. And I marveled at that, at how some people can take this life, the bigness of it, and not be consumed by it, but rather use their voice to encourage and comfort and inspire others, putting truth on display in a way that isn’t scary but that reminds us we’re all in this together.

She looked into my eyes and kissed my head and hugged me and I thought, “I’d choose this moment over any moment with my biological family.” Moments like those? That, too, is why people choose to do life. The people in my life right now, they are the family of my heart. I lost my biological family, sure, but I didn’t really lose anything because, in exchange, God gave me so much more- people who see me and know me and look at me with love and promise they won’t leave.

*

I wonder if they’re catching on to me at work.

The RN was talking about a client the other day, and he said the client is taking more than the recommend amount of Advil. Then he told the team that he advised the client not to do that because “that will kill you.”

Reflexively, I said, “It will?”

A couple days later he was talking about a client with diabetes and how if his blood sugars get down to 40, he could go into a diabetic coma.

“Can anyone have such low blood sugar, or just diabetics?” I asked.

Even though I’m in a better place, my mind automatically goes there.

*

“You’re adorable,” she said to me, this stranger. And I wondered what people see when they see me.

Would I give up on this person I am? I am the only one who will ever have this voice and this heart and this smile. Would I give up on this person that God created with so much love and detail? Would I lay to rest forever these hands that have cuddled babies and lovingly stroked Arlow’s face and typed out words that resonated with others? Would I chose to put a “the end” in the middle of the story God is still scripting?

What if they left me? What if no one loved me or thought I was “adorable”. Would I give up then?

*

“I’m sad,” I told her. “I’m sad because I’m scared and I’m sad because I hurt and I’m sad because life is hard.”

In response, she said the only thing there is to say: “I don’t want you to be sad. I love you.”

And I thought about that. There are worse things to be than sad, I suppose. Like mean. I’d rather be tender-hearted and sad than cold-hearted and mean. Maybe there’s a blessing in the sadness.

*

“I feel like Cinderella,” I told her. “I feel like my carriage is going to turn back into a pumpkin.”

I’m scared.

But maybe the fear is a lesson. Maybe God is teaching me how to let love be what it is, to trust in it even when it feels uncomfortable.

I can’t grab on to people like I hold tight to my blanket. Life doesn’t work like that. Which means, until I learn to be a person apart from other people, and until I learn to trust people when they say they love me, I’m going to spend a lot of time feeling uncomfortable.

Uncomfortable is a gift, though. At least if we use it well. Uncomfortable is always the first step to growth.

You can’t define love. You can’t label it and pin it down and put it in a box or a chart or a graph or something tangible that keeps it permanent and immobilized and for sure. Love is a living thing, not a thing to be controlled. A thing to surrender to, to be swept up in, to let breathe. You can’t control it; you just have to let it be.

 

The Battle Continues. And So Does The Laughter.

“Your eyes aren’t smiling today,” my coworker said. Which surprised me because that means my eyes are smiley most days.

*

I keep having to remind myself that life is a gift. Life was God’s idea- the same God I desperately want to be held by. This life is a reflection of Him. It IS Him holding us. We are here, breathing in the stuff of miracles, surrounded by the work of His hands. His fingerprints are everywhere.

The suffering of life wasn’t part of His plan, of course, but the good? The good can reveal to us the heart of our Father, if only we have eyes to see.

*

The dysthymia precedes the panic, every time. Suddenly the world goes dark- black. I try desperately, fiercely to keep my head above water, but I can’t. The current is pulling me down to a place where there is no oxygen or light.

How many nights have ended with me squeezing my eyes closed in bed, my throat tight, my heart racing, repeating: “What I’m feeling right now is a lie. I am alive. I am alive. This life is a gift. I am alive.”

There are moments when suddenly I see and feel about life the way I used to. And those moments are like desperately needed oxygen, loosening the tightness in my chest, lessening the weight on my shoulders, showing me how, even in my best moments, I am weighed down by this fight. And but suddenly these moments of clarity hit me and there’s lightness and relief and something like joy, and I think, “Ah, yes, there you are, Life! I knew it wasn’t supposed to be so hard! I knew you were worth it! I knew you were, at your core, good!”

But the moments are fleeting. Like a blink. And suddenly I’m back in this life where every single decision I make throughout the day is a response to the question: “How can I keep from having a panic attack?”

It’s the panic I can’t do anymore. It is hell. And always, in every moment, I am running as hard as I can away from that, that place that feels like hell, that place that makes me feel certain this is a fight I won’t win.

*

There are moments that make me want to weep with relief because I forget I’m fighting. I’m surrounded by the best kind of chaos, and belonging, and love. And I forget that the sun is setting and that nighttime is hard for me.

God is holding me. He is the breath in my lungs. My throat is tight, but He is my breath. And so I close my eyes and remember I am alive and this life was His idea.

*

And it won’t end. The best parts of this life will continue in heaven.

So when I can’t feel any pleasure in the good of this life, when everything feels empty and meaningless and my heart starts to beat with the wildness I’ve become accustomed to before a panic attack, I can tell myself, without a doubt, that my brain is lying to me. Because even if not all of life is good, some of it is good. And that good has His fingerprints all over it. Life was His idea. And death is an illusion. Those of us to love Him will live forever.

Life is a gift.

*

Here are some things I know:
1. Not everyone feels this way. My brain is sick. Life isn’t this hard for everyone. Which means there’s hope for me. There’s hope that my brain will get healthier. There is hope that the life I knew for 20-something years will return to me.
2. God doesn’t blame me. He knows how I’m fighting. He knows my thoughts and my heart. And there is no condemnation in His eyes. Only love.
3. I am human. I am flawed and weak and sinful, and I vacillate constantly between thoughts and emotions, lies and truths, fears and desires. And that’s okay. It’s okay to be human because God’s grace is bigger than the width and depth of my need and depravity.
4. I am never alone.

*

I don’t know if it’s going to be okay this side of heaven. When I ask myself that question, my response is always, “It HAS to be.” It has to get better or I don’t know if I’ll survive. My desire to fight? It’s huge. But the panic is bigger.

And so I surrender. I embrace not knowing. I accept that this is my fight right now. I breathe. And I say, “I don’t know. I don’t know how or when or why or what’s next. But thank You.”

And I do. I thank God for air, for breath and belonging and moments where life feels real to me and worth it. I thank Him for love and family, laughter and sun, Arlow and the moments before sleep when all feels okay.

I thank Him that He holds me.

And I thank Him that whether my head is above water or below, He is there.

Where Hope And Exhaustion Meet

Every day feels like a series of hard and/or scary things that I have to do alone.

And what do I get at the end of the day as a reward? Just the satisfaction of having to do it all over again tomorrow.

And I pray, constantly, to see God in my day.

And I do. I see Him when I reflexively reach out and place my hand on my client’s unwashed head after she bumps it getting into my car. “Are you okay?!” I ask. And I know that simple love and concern for her is less me than it is Jesus.

I see Him in the sheer awe I feel at the way the mountain looks as the sun is coming up in the morning.

I see Him in how I can’t help but cry during worship, watching my church family, arms raised towards heaven, proclaiming over their pain that our God is GOOD.

And I feel Him, like electricity, running through my veins. It’s like being hugged from the inside.

And yet, somehow it’s still not enough.

I told my new therapist all of that this week.

Yes, I have a new therapist. Because the last one fired me. Which seems like the opposite of therapeutic when my primary source of pain is that everyone gives up on me and walks out of my life.

I had poured my heart out to my former therapist, and yes, in her defense, I’ll admit I’m a mess, but isn’t that sort of to be expected when someone comes into therapy because they can’t make themselves want to be alive?

And this former therapist of mine looked me in the eyes, bi-weekly, and made me feel secure and safe with her…

Only to decide that actually, she was going to contribute to that theme of abandonment in my life.

This new therapist of mine met me for the first time last week. I sat down on her couch, pointed at myself, and said after a brief introduction, “So, good luck with this one.”

We talked and she look at me, expressionless. Then she said she isn’t sure what to do with me. She said she feels like I’m doing everything right.

I’m practicing coping skills and reaching out and guarding my thoughts and trying to pave a future for myself that feels like hope. I can list twenty reasons I’m grateful, and at least half as many times today that I felt joy.

And I can still say, I’d rather be dead.

I can look forward to things, I can laugh, and I am still, every single second, having to battle the constant thought, and resulting emotion sitting heavy on my chest, that this life isn’t worth it.

“Why can’t I make myself want to be alive?!” I asked her. “What am I doing wrong?” And then: “I’m so, so tired.” And then I wept.

She said she doesn’t think I’m doing anything wrong, and that it’s a mystery to her why I can’t feel any desire to live.

“I think,” she said, “this has more to do with how your brain has tried to cope with all the trauma. I don’t think this has anything to do with you not trying hard enough, or being ‘weak’, or ‘not having enough faith’. I think this is about your brain.”

I don’t know if that feels like hope to me or not, but it does help me feel compassionate with myself.

I told Camilla, who asked me that same question, that I wasn’t sure I felt more hope, but that I felt more compelled to give everyone the middle finger every time they look at me with judgment or harbor the belief that, if there wasn’t something wrong with me, something I could control, then I wouldn’t feel this way.

“The human desire to survive is very, very strong,” my new therapist said. “And if you truly can’t feel that, then something is wrong. And I don’t think it’s your fault.”

I’ve been trying to think of a metaphor for what it’s like to live this way, and all I can come up with is that it’s kind of like when you have a cough- not a deep cough that earns sympathy and maybe time off of work and a doctor’s prescription, but a constant tickle in your throat.

And you know everyone around you is annoyed because you can’t stop coughing, and you’re annoyed with yourself too. So you try to tell yourself you don’t need to cough. And all day long, you are fighting against what your body naturally wants to do. All day long, you’re trying not to cough, and the pressure in your head just keeps building from the never-abating tickle, which endlessly reminds you that something isn’t right.

All day long, I am fighting against what my body naturally wants to do- die. All day long, I am battling a part of myself that I have no real control over.

I wonder how much of this is spiritual.

“Look for reasons to laugh!” I tell myself.
“Look for Jesus!”
“Smile at strangers!”
“Don’t let yourself, even for a minute, think hopeless thoughts!”
And so I do.

Last week, on two separate days, I almost left work without telling anyone. I almost just drove away from the building, picked Arlow up, and went home.

And what would I do when I got home? I wasn’t sure. Would I kill myself? Run away? Did it matter?

It scares me to see myself so close to doing something that would so completely derail my life.

I drive across the bridge my client jumped off and I have to tell my brain to STOP. I have to force myself not to think.

I hear in a training about the most deadly combination of pills and alcohol. I hear how alcohol thins your blood and makes you bleed out faster. And I have to yell at my brain to STOP.

I hug the ones I love and look into their eyes and tell myself, “They need you.”

I text Camilla every single night something true. Like, “God has a good plan for my life. This fight is worth it. I have so much to be grateful for.”

I mentally make a list of goals, (getting my LICSW, finding a place to live in Gig Harbor…), and things to look forward to, (Madison coming over, spending Thanksgiving with the Sarnos…).

I count down the days until I can see my therapist again, not because I think she’ll be able to help me, as we’ve both confessed not knowing what to do with me, but because it gives me an hour in which I can stop fighting my brain. An hour of rest. I can lay all my cards out before her and weep over the confusion I feel- all the loss; the so, so much good in my present; the desire to die.

I laugh. I reach out to people and tell them I love them. I force myself to stay present with my clients, letting them know I see them, I hear them, I care.

And I beg God to show up. To supernaturally get me from 6:30 a.m. until I finally pull into my driveway at the end of the day.

And at the end of the day, I arrive home. I take a long shower. I cuddle Arlow. And I crawl into bed.

“This moment is good,” I think.

“I like my job,” I think.

And yet why, if both of those things are true, do I feel so compelled to give up on living?

And so I lay in bed, and breathe deeply, and think of things that are good, even when my emotions don’t recognize them as such. I try to talk myself into looking forward to tomorrow. But it doesn’t work. I just feel panic.

So instead, I soothe myself with all the good in this moment: my snoring dog, his head underneath my chin; being warm in my bed; the gentle hum of the heater.

And I try not to think about the fact that tomorrow is coming.

Tuesday

“Do you have family around here?” my coworker asks.

“In theory,” I tell her, and then elaborate just enough for her to understand.

“So, you’re all alone?” she asks.

“Well, aside from my dog,” I say. “And my church.”

She looks thoughtful for a minute. “Well, you have a new family now.”

*

“He killed his mom,” I’m told after leaving a client’s house.

“What?”

“Stabbed her to death,” my coworker tells me. “Not to scare you or anything. But you should know.”

“I’m not scared,” I say. And I mean it.

*

I took my client grocery shopping this afternoon. I trailed behind her and smiled as she got three cartons of eggnog. She grabbed grape jelly, orange juice, and eggs as well, but put them back when we got to the register and she realized she was over budget. The eggnog, however, was a non-negotiable item.

“So!” I said as we climbed back into my car and headed toward her home. “Now that you have all this yummy food, what’s on the menu for dinner!?”

She smiled, not looking at me. “Meatloaf,” she said.

When we got back to her house, I helped her carry her groceries inside. “Here,” I said to her as I set stuff down on the counter. “Why don’t you stay inside and put these away, and I’ll run back out to the car to bring the rest of the groceries in?”

She accepts that and I head back into the rain. And I wonder how often she has people do kind things for her.

*

“He had a great day!” they tell me when I pick Arlow up from daycare this evening. “He played all day long with a Husky.”

I smile and tell them how in the morning before we leave home, he knows where we’re headed, and he gets so excited that he grabs a hold of my purse with his teeth and tries to pull me towards the front door.

“It makes me feel good,” I say, “to know he’s spending his day so happy.”

When he sees me, I caution him against jumping up in his excitement. He tries to control himself, but it’s a work in process. I smile again at the woman behind the counter. “He’s crazy,” I say, “but I love him.”

And I wonder as we head out to the car, if I so passionately desire happiness for Arlow, how much more does God desire that for me? How much more does He desire that I excitedly grab His hand at the start of a new day and pull Him towards the door?

And how much more does He love me, exactly as I am?

I don’t have to try to love Arlow. I don’t have to talk myself into loving him. Nothing he does, even when it’s naughty, makes me love him less. I don’t wish he was different. I love him just as he is because he’s mine. His place in my heart is permanent.

And through that, that effortless, unconditional, present, selfless, “walk through fire” love, I know God is speaking to me of how He loves me.

*

I finally get home after driving through off-and-on rain, in stop-and-go traffic.

My car was too hot, but if I turned the heat off, the windows would fog. So I drove with the heat on and the window down, the rain pelting my face.

As I drove, I saw an ambulance and, like a reflex, I found myself wondering when the next time would be that I’d be in the back of one. I can’t decide if I hope that day never comes, or if I don’t care.

I make my way inside and set my purse on the coffee table. I can’t wait to shower and climb into bed.

When I go into the bathroom, I see bird feathers all over my bathroom. The cats have had a busy day.

With more than a little trepidation, I scan the whole house, hoping I don’t find a dead bird anywhere. I don’t.

*

The smell of shampoo fills the air and I close my eyes and let the warm water soothe me.

“I don’t know how I’m going to work forty hours a week for the rest of my life,” I pray.

And like the shower water, the words fall all around me: “Let’s not worry about that right now. Let’s take it a day at a time.”

Life

I wept behind my sunglasses as I drove home Sunday.

“Why am I crying?!” I asked myself. And I didn’t know. But my body did. On some level, the tears were important. And so I let them fall.

And I prayed in the Spirit because I knew I needed words other than my own to communicate to heaven what was happening inside of me.

But these tears weren’t the same as ones I would’ve cried a couple weeks ago because at no point did my brain decide it no longer wanted to be alive.

I feel like the me that has been hijacked by depression for so long is slowly resurfacing. And it’s a holy and tender thing. My body and mind and heart have been through a lot over these last months, and I am somehow exhausted and full of life at the same time.

“I’m proud of you,” my therapist said to me. “I’m so proud of you.”

She said she knew all along it was just a matter of finding the right medication. It wasn’t that I am “lacking faith” or “sick”. I wasn’t doing anything “wrong”. My brain had been hijacked. And it was real and dark and horrible and lonely. And I survived.

“Please promise me I’m feeling better because the medication is working,” I said to my doctor. “Please promise me this isn’t just a fluke. I don’t want to be afraid that I might wake up tomorrow and suddenly not be able to feel joy or life or gladness anymore.”

And he said he could almost guarantee that it’s the medication and that I’m only going to start feeling even better.

And I want to cry with the relief of it. I want to cry because there is life blooming inside of me again. I am not having to spend my entire day trying to stay alive, and that is enough to make me want to fall to my knees and weep tears of gratitude and praise.

I want to cry because God never let go of my hand. He always, always had a plan. The God who whispered to me for so long to just hang on, who watched me drink myself stupid and never once shamed me for it. The God who knew all along the battle I was fighting was real and fierce. The God who tasked me with one thing only: to keep breathing.

I want to cry because my therapist said she’s proud of me. And God is proud of me. And I’m kind of proud of me too.

I want to cry for sad reasons too, because change is scary and relationships are hard. I want to cry when I feel out of place or lonely.

And I want to cry because I am loved. I am so loved. And I feel loved.

I want to cry because I am LOOKING FORWARD to my life again. I’m excited for Christmas and moving across the bridge and continuing to surrender who I am to God. I am excited to watch my life unfold according to His design and plan.

I am excited about the thought of someday being a mama- whether because I marry or because I adopt. And I think maybe I’m okay with either.

I am excited about having people in my life who wrap their arms around me and kiss the top of my head.

I am excited about being able to be a good friend again.

I am excited about this family that God is knitting me into.

I am excited about the book I’m someday going to write.

I am excited for beauty in all its forms- beauty in nature and laughter and hugs and even tears. Beauty in all the things that tell of a God who is Love.

And I want to cry because… it’s me. I can see me.

And this isn’t something I’m doing or forcing. I am not trying to make myself feel excited about life or grateful for the good. This isn’t by my effort; it’s God. (And Celexa. ;))

I am not “making myself feel better”. It’s real; not forced. It’s bigger than me and beyond me and I don’t have to hold anything together or sustain anything; I just get to be here for the holy and miraculous unfolding of it all. I get to watch my life return to me.

My life over the last year and a half has been like trying to see something in a steamed-up mirror. And for so long, nothing looked real or important or worth it. But now I can see.

And there, in that mirror, I see me.

I see this excitement in my chest, and a desire to throw my arms out wide and scream a “HALLELUJAH!” for the life that is springing back up in me.

And I see my eyes. And they are tired, because it has been hard.

But there, in my tired eyes, there’s something else too. Life, sure. But not just life in the “has a pulse” sense. I see there, flickering like flame behind my eyes, the Holy Spirit within me.

I see, in my smile and freckles and slope of my nose, the fingerprints of the God who created me.

And deep, deep in my heart, I see and feel the smile of the Jesus who saw me through the darkest season of my life.

There is breath in my lungs. But it’s not my own; it’s His.

And I am so grateful.

Hallelujah, hallelujah, hallelujah.

The Holder Of Every Second

I was crying in the car after dinner. I tried not to cry. I tried to focus on the raindrops running down my windshield and the way my headlights were bouncing off the license plate in front of me. I focused on the porch light that seemed to be flickering because of the tree branches waving back and forth in front of it. I scanned the bushes for deer.

My head was empty of thoughts, but the tears still came, flowing from some place in the center of me where all my pain is built up as pressure and poison.

*

People ask how I am and it’s always the same thing: I still can’t feel any connection to this life that I know is a gift.

I look at my therapist and say, “I have nothing to say.” Because it’s all been said already. I just keep saying the same thing. And what’s the point? Speaking my pain, my gratitude, my hopes and fears, joys, needs, and the overriding goodness of the God who loves me, none of it changes anything. It all still just hurts.

Sometimes when I’m not with her, I imagine myself going into my therapy session, sitting on her couch, putting my face in my hands, and sobbing the entire hour. That I could do. I have no words, just pain. But when I am actually there, I never have the guts to just devote an entire hour to weeping. And I still have nothing to say. So instead, I spend the hour avoiding looking her in the eyes and I fidgeting uncomfortably.

I still showed up, though. I got in my car and I drove there. I’m a mess and I have nothing to offer, but I’m still alive to sit on a couch and blink back tears. I’m still showing up, the best way I know how, for this life that I can’t seem to make myself want.

But with His eyes full of promise and love, I can hear my Jesus say: “Don’t give up. Keep your eyes on Me. Just wait, child. Just wait and trust.”

And so I’m trying. I can’t make myself want to live, but I can trust that He is doing something, even when I can’t perceive it. He is working things together even when I hurt.

*

I’ve been watching a survival show lately. It’s the voice of God to me over and over again.

There’s the father who crawls across the ground, his back and legs broken, to reach his child who is calling for him. After the rescue, the doctor says it’s impossible that he could’ve done that with the injuries he sustained. And then they interview the father, his eyes moist with tears, who shrugs lightly and says: “Love is stronger than anything. It’s stronger than pain. It’s the strongest force on earth. My baby was calling for me. Nothing was going to stop me from getting to her.”
And the message to me: Love wins. Love is powerful. God is Love. I am His child. He fights for me. He comes when I call. Nothing will stop Him from running to me.

There’s the woman who is quoted as having worried, in the midst of her crisis: “What must they (onlookers) think of this person I am right now?” And then she paused a moment, thoughtfully, and said: “I don’t care what they think. I am SURVIVING here. They are just going to have to deal with it.”
The message? Sometimes it’s enough just to survive. The opinions of others, if harsh, are from a place of ignorance, a lack of understanding what it means to be looking death in the face and saying no.

There’s the woman whose son survived because she had told him his entire life that, no matter what situation he finds himself in, never to panic because “panic kills more people than whatever the incident is.”
The message? Truth. My experience, too, is that it’s the panic that tries to kill me even more than the pain.

There’s the man who pushed past his child to protect her from a bear. He couldn’t see the bear initially, he didn’t know what he was going to see when he stepped around the corner where she was, but he knew “[his] kid was in danger.” Nothing else mattered. He had to protect her.
The message? My God protects me. Life is full of pain, yes, but there’s the pain meant to grow us, and there’s the pain that will destroy us. The latter pain, the bear-like pain, He jumps in front of and tells it to go. He won’t let it touch me.

In every story of survival, the victims rarely did the “right” thing. Their rescue was never the result of their effort or wisdom or even their begging. They were completely powerless to save themselves. All they could do was wait and hope. And make mistakes. And keep breathing. And pray.

And the most incredible thing to me is how everything had to come together perfectly or their rescue never would’ve happened. And there was no way all those things should’ve been able to connect at the precise moments they did. It was impossible. But then again, nothing is impossible where God is at work.

There was no denying God’s hand in each of their stories. And that makes me feel so safe, so completely assured that nothing will happen to me that He doesn’t allow.

He holds every single second.

*

The people in that show who were rescued, they all said they wanted to give up at a point during their suffering, but then they thought of their families. They thought of their parents or spouses or children, the people whose lives were inseparably connected to their own, bound by fierce love, and sometimes blood. That was why they fought- for their families. For love.

“None of it matters unless you have your family by your side,” one survivor said.

And I agree.

And it hurts.

But then I remember the God who IS my family. The God who has blessed me with family, even though it doesn’t look or feel the way I wish it did. The God whose love heals. The God who is jealous for me.

And I remember the God whose ways are beyond our ability to understand. The God whose love is also beyond what we could comprehend.

And I know that somehow, even when it hurts, I’m held. Every single second.

*

God, where are You in this moment? Where are You when it hurts and I can’t script for myself an ending that makes this feel worth it?

Where are You when I can’t feed myself promises of the “better” to come or of a suffering that has an expiration date?

Where are You when there’s no air to breathe? When no one can make it better and the walls are closing in on me because: “Time keeps passing and how do I do this life that is causing me so much grief?!”

Where are You when my chest fills with panic and help cannot be found?

Where are You when I have no idea how to make anything – my life, my relationships, my heart – better?

Where are You when I’m powerless and desperate and screwing up constantly and terrified of things getting worse? Where are You?

And I don’t say that as an accusation, but as a prayer: “Teach me to see You.”

And He knows. He sees my heart. He hears words even when I have none to say. And in response, He offers a gentle smile. And then: “Trust Me, child.”

And it’s not an answer to all of my questions. It’s not a solution with steps that I can follow, outlined and numbered and clear. It’s not an instantaneous healing. Just a reminder to trust.

Trust- not in a plan or method or clearly marked path.
Trust- not in my ability to see how it’s going to be okay.
Trust- not in someone to swoop in with answers or love.
Trust- not in my efforts to fight this battle, or think all the right things, or pray without ceasing.
But trust in Him. In the character and power of the God of hope and promise.

There is nothing to trust in but Him. Everything else has been stripped away. I have nothing to offer and I can’t fix it.

I’ve tried taking my life in my hands and molding it in such a way that it doesn’t hurt. But that doesn’t work. My life just becomes this fragile, teetering thing. And I have moments of happiness, sure, but I’m also exhausting myself constantly, trying to keep what I’ve built from toppling.

I’ve tried to manipulate people and situations so that they’d fit into the broken, screaming places in my heart. But people aren’t meant to be manipulated. And love can’t be forced. And our hearts are much too reflective of Him to be made whole by being patched with only things of this world.

I’ve tried to make it be better. I’ve tried radical acceptance. I’ve tried not wanting anything but God. Nothing I try works. And maybe that’s the realization I’ve been supposed to come to all along: I can’t problem-solve or analyze my way out of this. I don’t have to have a solution. I don’t even have to have anything to offer. Because it isn’t my job to be the solution-seer. That job belongs to the One who whispers: “Trust Me.”

My job isn’t to take and mold and force and beg and decided how this story is going to go; my job is to let it be written. He writes, I trust. He writes, I stay alive.

And He smiles because I’m giving up trying to script and build and sustain and fix, which means that finally things are going to be built right- by capable, all-knowing, infinitely-loving hands.

No more teetering or wobbling. No more desperate pleading and scrambling to keep things from falling apart.

I don’t have a plan. All I have is the kind eyes and tender leading of my Father.

But isn’t that what I’ve been praying for? “I don’t know what I want anymore. I don’t know how to fix it. I just want You. Teach me to see You.” And so now here I am, where everything hurts and I am, every single second, needing to seek His face because it’s the only thing keeping me in this fight.

Oh, for His perspective. How much less would all this hurt if only I could see the beauty woven through all of the pain?

And so, I pray: “Lord, teach me not to base my truth on what I feel or see. Protect me from anything untrue. Help me to guard my heart and mind so that only Your voice, the voice of Truth, will resound within me.”

I pray.

And I go for walks.

I cry in cars.

I read books that stir hope within me.

I want to give up.

But most days, I don’t let myself.

And I watch night fade into day. Over and over and over again.