Wednesday, August 6, 2014

From the Pit

This post is for those of you in the hard times. It's for those days when the hardest thing you do all day is breathe. It's for those of you who find yourselves falling. You're not alone. And most of us are more afraid of falling than hitting rock bottom. Here's what I offer, take it for what you will:

1. Be honest. Admit that you're falling. Not necessarily to anyone else, but to yourself. To your God. Acknowledge the place you're in and what's going on. No need to trace it back to its roots, although in some situations, that might come naturally. One of the hardest things about falling is the loss of control. When you admit what's going on, you assert some dominance over it. This is no strange thing - you know what's going on. You're falling. It is what it is. Repeat to yourself over and over until falling is just a thing. It happens. The sun rises and sets. The tides move in and out. Mist rises and rain falls. Things fall. You fall. Recognize it. Acknowledge it. Affirm it. This happens.

2. Don't look down. Our first instinct when we're falling is to look down. We want to see how far we have to go, what we're going to hit, whether there's any landing at all. If you're falling, don't look down. You will see only darkness. You will see no end, no comfort. No landing. The pit looks bottomless in the dark. Overwhelming. You'll start to wonder all sorts of things about yourself, about your God. And now is not the time. There is a very good place for all of that, but right now, if you're falling, you don't need more questions. What you need right now are answers, and if not answers, then hope. 

If you can't look up, hold steady. Fix your eyes on something. And hold out your hand. Either God will send someone to take it or He will take it Himself. Hold out your empty, trembling hand. If that's the least you can do, at least do that much.

3. Don't stop talking. In dark times, it's easy to lose track of your voice. Suddenly, it's the darkness that has the only right to speak and whatever trouble says, goes. Your inner dialogue isn't yours any more, and your outer dialogue is sure to follow. If you can find the strength to speak at all once your voice has been quieted. Keep talking. Think out loud. Even if you don't physically speak, write. Even if no one will ever read your words, keep writing. String together as many honest words as you can until you can't see through the tears any more, and then cry out to God. You're falling. You're not a victim. This is not passively happening to sort of you - you're actively involved in the process. That's what step 2 is all about: engaging the fall so you're present to it. When you're present to it, you have the chance to deal with it from your real self.

4. Don't hurt yourself. These are the easiest times to think, "Oh, what does it matter?" You know you're falling and you want whatever seems to help before you hit bottom and shatter into a million little pieces. You're feeling every bit of the hurt, and it's hard. It sucks. I'm sorry. But when you turn your hurt on yourself, you set yourself up for the break. Fall tender - in honesty, in hope, in voice - and you may find it's not such a hard landing after all. It will still hurt. It will still sting. But bones break; flesh only bruises. Let yourself feel the hurt and don't mask it with pain; you will soften your heart for impact. It's worth it. Trust me.

5. Don't disengage. The fall is real. The battle is real. Most of us, if we're honest, we're falling toward a moment. One moment when something inside of us is going to surface and we'll be standing face-to-face with a part of ourselves we never hoped we'd have to deal with. Our questions, our insecurities, our wounds...something about us is about to come out and it doesn't feel like we're ready. We don't know how to deal with it. We don't want to deal with it. It's easy to think, "I'll deal with this later, when I'm more ready." You're afraid. Admit it, you're scared. But here's the hard truth: you will never be less afraid than you are right now. You won't. There's not a 'better time' to deal with things. There's not a good day for darkness. You can't schedule it in when you're feeling stronger. You are scared now. You will always be scared. The question is - does fear stop you?

I don't know about you, but I've live enough of my life with fear stopping me to decide I don't want to do it any more. Which means, I guess, that I want to do the dark days with style. These are kind of the steps to doing that.

From being honest, I gain confidence. Darkness isn't about me; it happens to everybody. I'm not special. I'm not targeted. I might even be normal. This gives me a chance to be a human among humans, and a man before God. That's pretty cool, even when it feels like it sucks.

From not looking down, I gain hope. And if I'm lucky, maybe I gain a friend, or a community. Darkness isn't all I have to look forward to. I don't have to look at it at all. There are other things going on. More is happening here than my falling. If I don't look at the darkness, I can see that. Clearly. And if I hold out a hand, someone takes it. Now, it's not just me. I'm not alone. That's an incredible blessing.

From talking, I gain a voice. I get to speak into my darkness; it does not speak into me. I get to decide what gets said and what gets quieted. I get to decide what the truth is. That's powerful. The truth is I am falling, but that's not the whole truth. There's always something else at play. When I gain my voice, I get to say what that is.

From staying tender, I invite my brokenness. I think too many of us are afraid of brokenness. We're afraid to be wounded. That's understandable, but there is beauty in brokenness. That's where we start to crack and all the good stuff starts to pour in. Good stuff like mercy. And faith. And trust. And hope. And peace. And redemption. Good stuff like God. If you live your life whole as a man, there's no place for God to come in. Open up a few cracks, and there He is to mend your wounded flesh. It's beautiful, and, although I spent a lot of years fighting this very thing, I wouldn't trade brokenness for all the world. 

From staying engaged, I get to set my time. I decide that the time is now. I decide there's no turning back. I decide I'm doing this thing, whatever this thing happens to be. It's not happening to me; I am doing it. I am not falling; I stepped off the ledge. I took one bold, courageous, fearful step toward beautiful and it is happening.

You're not falling; you've stepped off the ledge. Take one bold, courageous, fearful step toward beautiful.

Oh, and dark days rarely come by the ones. They also cover many dark nights. Give yourself to God every night. Open your hands and let go. You'll sleep better.

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