What good is faith if you live as the faithless live? And where is God when you look beyond right next to you, beyond His very presence, and cannot seem to find Him way out there on the horizon?
It’s tough to admit, but I’ve been living probably more faithlessly since God has decided to work powerfully beyond measure in my life. Since He showed up in undeniable ways and His presence pursues me, something in me has shut off. Rather, something has run for the hills in absolute terror that He could be here, that He could be doing this.
In all my life, I have never stopped running. That doesn’t come as a surprise to just about everyone who has ever known me. There’s always been something that seemingly deserved running from. This fear, this fight through flight response, has been my inspiration. It has been my driving force. My life has been driven by panic. By never being able to be caught. By anything. At any time. For any reason.
With fear, there has been struggle. Struggle that has defined me, at least as far as I have let other people see. It has been perhaps a way to be noticed, a way to find something I thought my life might be lacking. People watching, waiting to see how long I could stand. Watching with the same eyes that watch a car accident, thinking the impact was impressive and arguing with yourself whether you want to see them walk away or if at least an ambulance run would be more satisfying.
I have been very good over the years of talking about the struggle. Whatever it has been at any given point in time, it has been easy to get myself sucked in and take it on as my story, as the very definition of who I have been in any moment.
I’ve been afraid, I suppose, that if my story wasn’t so powerful, if the fight wasn’t so obvious, if every second of every day was not a struggle – and oh a very public one at that – if my story did not trump everything you could ever possibly think about, you would never notice I existed.
Maybe I would never notice I existed.
Yet it has been this mentality that has led to my most silent secret – how very lonely this life has been. How lonely it continues to be. I don’t know that there is any place I could go where a single person would even know me. Truly know me. Not for the trouble I put before them. Not for the striving and the effort to prove myself. Not for the demanding cries that yearn to be acknowledged. Just truly known.
I don’t know that there’s anywhere I could go where I would encounter my truest self. It seems so stuck behind this wall of habit and this deep fear of being nothing and being something at the same time. This fear that is powered by wanting to be noticed, afraid that perhaps I’ll never matter. And this fear that it doesn’t matter anyway and everything is truly as beautiful as it seems.
So I’m an ass. I know it. I’m kind of stuck there, and it absolutely kills me.
So I run into the arms of my God, who has come and answered so many questions of my heart and burns with the aching for me to live it.
And I live the life of the faithless. Listening to God, hearing His promises, understanding His word that is just for me. And oh, the beautiful words He has whispered to me over the past several months, years, perhaps even a lifetime had I been listening. Falling asleep in buoyant hope, telling Him I understand, that I trust what He is doing. Knowing in the depths of my heart that what He says is Truth, knowing life could never be the same, that a new day dawns with the morning and then being impatient for morning and demanding a new day in the dusk. Pushing myself, yearning out of my heart for that authentic existence that is so powerfully present in those quiet, down moments with just me and Him.
Then waking to the same world and having that same depth of flight in my heart, living the faithless life and waiting on God to move then standing in His way so He couldn’t possibly answer. Telling Him I trust Him on the one hand and turning away with the other, making contingency plans in case it just isn’t meant to be. Always having a way out. Refusing to close the door behind me. Just in case.
Just in case…
In case God is a liar? In case the forces that long for my captivity are stronger than the call of my freedom? In case the burden of that freedom is more crushing ever than any struggle?
In case I am not worthy? In case I am not beautiful? In case I am nothing? In case I come face-to-face with something in me beyond what I could handle?
I have found that. I stand face-to-face with that heart of me every day. That piece of me that is absolutely unbearable, and I find it an ass even within myself. That part of me that can’t give up fighting. That can’t relax. That can’t rest. That can’t embrace what God is so longing to give me – and what my heart so painfully longs for.
That part of me that’s…less. And living faithless.
Knowing what God is doing, knowing what He is calling in me, knowing my freedom, knowing His presence…and then when the moment comes and it’s time to trust in a big way in a big moment in a big time, backing out and tucking tail and saying I’m just not feeling it right now and something must have gotten crossed in translation because I don’t sense that He’s done it yet. It comes time for that moment, that test of faith and that instance where His power is promised to show up…and I start to wonder if I could really do it, how long it would last, how long I would last, and what unexpected event I haven’t foreseen that will throw the whole thing into turmoil.
Then understanding, as I write and as a heavy weight settles on my heart, that He has completely done it. Only my lack of faith holds me back.
It’s not that I believe He isn’t capable. It’s not that I believe He’d lie or that He’d sit and watch me suffer, that He’d let these things continue to hold me. After all He’s done, all He’s healed, all He’s been in me…it’s not possible that He could be any other than that purity. It’s that…I don’t know.
I want to say maybe the struggle is stronger, but I wonder if it’s the fight in me that has its hold on my heart.
The struggle itself can’t be stronger. That mocks the presence of God and even His word; it would be foolish to think there was some darkness where His light could never reach. And I know this to be true. For in the darkest of nights in the refuge of His arms, where I encounter that authenticity I have so been longing for, I have prayed many earnest prayers. Particularly lately. And with each prayer, each understanding, each admission and confession and plea, He has answered. Undeniably. Powerfully. Perfectly. Answered. There’s no denying there is Power where He is.
And He is here.
Then where am I? I honestly don’t know the answer to that question. I am torn between what was and what is. Not even what will be, for what will be is what is now if only I was setting myself free to experience it. I haven’t the power to create any of it, but I have the power to pull the weeds from around what God is growing, to make new decisions, to choose to live by the heart He is given me. That’s my job – to set myself free, pull the weeds, and live by Him.
I just can’t seem to do it.
There’s a point where all these words are meaningless. I’m way beyond that point. They are words I have rolled over and over again in my mind as I have fallen asleep praying for night after night. They are words that have been so confident, so sure in those moments between just He and I when everything makes sense and it all seems so pure and simple. It really does seem simple.
Unless I’m in it. Then, it’s the furthest thing from my mind until it drives a stake through my heart later that there was another missed moment, another missed presence because I was too busy, too worried, too afraid to even have a passing thought as to His perfect Presence there.
I’m tired of living with God just at night. Just locked away.
Interesting...as I write that, I know that I am locked away only when I am removed from God. During the day, when those moments and those chances come, when I know He is calling me to something more, and when I know what I’m about to do, say, not do, excuse, procrastinate, or mess up is not authentically me, not authentically His child. That is when I am most locked away.
Alone with Him, though…life is beautiful. It makes sense.
I’ve said He is steadily bringing me about to the place where I make sense. That is true. He is revealing those pieces of false self that have perhaps always been, that continue to rear their ugly head, but He is also blessing me with glimpses of what should have been, what should be now, and what will be. What is, actually, I understand. If only I got out of my own way.
That is perhaps the most painful tearing of my heart. It’s not that God is showing me what will be. Or what could have been. Or what the redemption would have looked like in this or that moment of my past. It’s that He is showing and inviting me to what IS. What is NOW. What is HERE. What is HE. What is HE in ME.
That’s the part I have trouble swallowing. That it is HE in ME. It doesn’t blow my mind that He could be who He is, that He could do what He’s doing, even that He could speak the words He whispers to my heart. It leaves me absolutely speechless that He could…no, that’s not right. It’s not that He could do it in me. It’s that He chooses to.
That’s what blows my mind. That’s what keeps me hesitant. Afraid.
Afraid because I guess I don’t feel worthy. Afraid because I guess I don’t think it’s possible. Not that it’s not possible to live without the pain…I feel like I’m starting to almost get a handle on beginning to process the concept of that. Just that…I don’t know if I can do it. I don’t know if I can ever give up fighting.
Then I look at what He’s done.
I look at a body once racked with pain and illness, a mysterious attack that doctors could not even identify for more than five years. I look at a body that laid in a bed, alone and afraid, yet for some reason refusing to die in the same breath it prayed for an end. I look at a body that could do nothing but tell the story of its sickness, a cry for companionship and for that noticing that we all so long for. A body that believed somehow the sickness kept it relevant, kept people remembering it even existed, even as it laid wasting away.
I look at that body today…that runs ten minutes every morning, about a mile. Well, five mornings a week. And has been for months. Slowly building strength. …that works hard, throwing itself into long-dormant but much-needed projects like hanging drywall, painting, tending the garden, cleaning the house. …that understands its sickness now, diagnosed two years ago, and knows the balance of tenderness and trust required to take care of itself.
…a body that hasn’t been telling that story. That has spent precious little, almost no time at all, telling of its healing. By word or by deed. Because it continues cursing itself in its weakness, shadowing its power. For the power is the real fear.
And oh, there are days its curses are loud. There are days it’s too easy to look at this “healing” and wonder if it’s been anything at all. Days sitting next to other candidates for jobs, watching this body twitch and feeling like Michael J. Fox from the toxicity of medications that never helped anyway. Days where strength vanishes somewhere between the parking lot and the front door, then panics to think it could fall into its weakness anywhere, crying and begging and pleading with God to not bear illness in front of others. Days where these hands shake and there’s not a clear thought in this mind. Days where that tickle of remembrance catches this throat and interrupts the clarity of speech this body so once depended on.
Yet as I force myself to think about it, to look through the eyes of His grace and with a little mercy toward myself, this is beautiful healing. This body should not curse itself for the lingering effects of what was beyond its control and what remains to this day just out of reach. Jacob hobbled the rest of his life after one powerful night with God; should I walk away clean from years of wrestling? Then it makes me smile. Because even through the things that other people look at – people who are meeting me for the first time and those who knew what I was like before – through those things that seem to erect a barrier between us, that for too long have caused me to continue cursing myself and to drive myself to put more effort into fixing what is obviously beyond my control, it is through and in spite of that…that God just makes me smile. This body…is healed.
And I keep looking at what He’s done.
I look at a heart tormented by its brokenness, silent in shame and heavy with burden for years. I look at the way that heart locked itself away, shut out the world, accepted its role as something less. I look at the way it continually degraded itself, echoing the words it had heard too many times. I look at the way it cried out through anger, hatred, even manipulation, looking for someone to know it and then turning its back on any who tried. I look at a heart that could tell only one story – that there’s nothing here to see, nothing here worth noticing, nothing here worth saving. I look at that heart that longed to tell its story to keep itself somewhere connected to a world it would never dare touch…but at the same time hid in fear that the answer might be the confirmation that those echoes were right all along. That there was nothing there worth anything.
I look at that heart today…that embraces its vulnerability but finds more in its strength. That holds more praise than it can handle and longs to dance in the rain. That is broken not by its own brokenness but by the stories all around it where too little is being done. That loves with the fullness of its capability. That seeks relationship. That sings and speaks with a new tone, casting out its desperation and neediness in favor of just being.
…a heart that hasn’t been telling its story of healing, either. By word or by deed. Because the words fall short, and the deeds seem hollow when the heart realizes the pain it has wrought in this world and the lingering questions of whether it can ever be forgiven remain.
Yet I look at that heart and I know that it is still. It is quieted. There is peace. There is this understanding that was never there before, that knows God draws near and even nearer and that there is beauty even in the brokenness. It dares, in the quiet of night, to forgive itself for a few moments and breathe in that freedom, and it yearns for the courage to forgive itself by day. It longs to be known, to find relationship, to build something new on its foundation of unshakenness. This heart…is healed.
And I keep looking at what He’s done.
I look at a woman too afraid to look at herself. Who would never have admitted looking in the mirror but who couldn’t look away, horrified by what she saw and wondering if she was ever to be loved. Who questioned everything about herself but cried deep tears when anyone suggested there was anything there but ugliness. Who dreamt big dreams but never held a flicker of hope for her own capabilities. Who turned away every kind word, every gentle touch, and every encounter for fear that someone only wanted something in return. Who told the story of her unworthiness as often as she could, begging those to come who might have a powerful enough word to break its hold on her and in the meantime knowing that at the least, her words were loud enough to be heard, if never answered.
I look at that woman today…who stands in front of the mirror and cries at the beauty before her. Who holds dear to herself the little girl she neglected, the one she tried to kill off, who was stronger and more striking than either of them had ever imagined. Who knows she is loved, maybe not by the world as a whole but by the Father who created her and whispers in her ear. Who believes in herself not in the arrogant, know-it-all, better-than-everybody way that protected her fragile ego for two decades but in the grounded humility of believing in the gift of God within her, which He continues to reveal each moment. Who speaks to herself, and longs to with others, in a soft and gentle voice, one of mercy and tenderness, knowing the promise and the presence of God.
…a woman who hasn’t been telling her story of healing, either. By word or by deed. Because she lacks the words for understanding it all, drawing on a hallowed vocabulary still forming in a once-hostile environment, and trying perhaps too hard to force the grace of womanhood that somehow might define it all.
Yet I look at that woman, and I know what she’s still hiding. Those moments she dares to stand up straight, to look into the world boldly and feels that sense of power rise up within herself. Those times she senses that dignity and refuses to spend one more moment beating herself up. Those times she still falls short and wonders if things will ever change only to hear that quiet voice that tells her they already have. Those times she forgives herself for not being perfect, then laughs off whatever it is because she knows God would be laughing, too. Those times that she hits the ground hard and bounces instead of breaks. Those little smiles that cross her face just because. Just because. This woman…is healed.
All healed, all the power of God. But not living it as powerfully as I would like. Then, what stands between us?
It is fear. Fear of falling apart. Fear of being more than I ever imagined. Fear of losing control and living in surrender. Fear of…I don’t know. Fear of…freedom.
It’s the fear of not having to run any more. It’s the fear of finding rest. I have said to a few close friends in the past month or two, that I am exhausted. I absolutely am exhausted. Physically, emotionally, spiritually, mentally – I am exhausted. There was a job I really wanted, that I felt like I had a good shot at. I wore my interview shirt inside-out. Two days later, I wore a different shirt backward. I have forgotten my watch, my cell phone. Just left them at home. I’m so exhausted that I just can’t think. And I am not getting much rest. There are moments when it all seems so simple, so wonderful, and I know it’s going well…only to find myself falling in His arms yet again and realizing how much I have still been running, how hard I’ve been pushing, and how weary I still am.
I don’t know how to live without the fighting. I don’t know how to live without the running and the struggle, without something to battle against. Oddly right now, I’ve replaced everything He’s healed in me…with a battle against myself. Just for the sake of the battle. Because I wouldn’t know what to do without it.
Yet the more I struggle, the more I curse it. I don’t want to live that way any more. I don’t need to, for He has redeemed me. His presence, His power is more real than any struggle I have ever known, and the fight just isn’t worth it. It is nothing; it is chaff.
He’s been calling me to give up a lot of myself, too. More chaff. To let some things die, even some longstanding dreams, hard-held beliefs. Many things. Just dying. Because they aren’t authentic. They aren’t me. They aren’t Him in me. A few weeks ago, I wrote out a prayer in my blog and published it, even though I’m the only one who reads my blog. I look at it every morning. The first words are this: “Lord, I humble my competence and my exceptionality before you…” Truer words have never been written. And every morning as I read them, they hit my heart again and again. It is just one more thing He’s calling me to let go of, something that has to die. If you know me at all or have ever thought you’ve known me, you know that I’ve tried to thrive on being able to do anything and being the exception to the rule. Those are hard to give up.
But they aren’t me. They aren’t authentic. What I’m longing for is the freedom to live authentic, a freedom Christ has granted me that I now must learn to give myself. I am a body, a heart, and a woman healed and beautiful, capable but not proud, honest and humbled, tender and loving…with praise on my heart, a song in my voice, and a furious longing for God and an authentic life. That is how I yearn to live. That is the story I long to tell – by word and by deed. Because His power is incredible, His presence undeniable, and His mercy…
How could I live another story? How could I let habit hold me down? How can I hold His presence and assurance so dear in my heart and yet continue to live as the faithless live? How could I ever continue to question…?
God is not a liar. He is faithful, and He is true. He is merciful and loving. His power is beyond anything I could ever have imagined or dared to pray for. He has come. He has brought the fullness of Himself, the fullness of His promise. He is come. He is here.
Why…would I ever tell a story other than this one?
It pains me to write this, as I have written similar words for what seems like so long, longing to hear them and for them to be heard. They are just words. They mean something, of course, but they are worthless if I cannot let my heart live them out. So it pains me to write them because I know as true as they are in the solitude of my dwelling, in the silence of night when it is just my God and myself, they mean little to the world that still sees me as I longed for them to see me.
Do they see me at all? The authentic me?
Do I see me at all?