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.”
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.