Monday, August 1, 2016

Through the Valley of the Shadow

"So" seems to be the way to start a conversation these days. As in, "and so..." because every little tidbit of experience stacks onto the next, till the details of life start to feel like a 2-ton truck hitting you on full speed and then sitting there on your chest. And you can't take any more details, or lists, or complaints, from your life or anyone else's. 

Is life too much? For me, not typically. But, here and there, the weeks catch up and the speed of my thoughts won't parallel the time to process them out. And even praying feels somehow exhausting.

Your computer won't work. No big deal. 
Your pantry is suddenly infested with ants of unknown entry. Handled.
Your eye somehow gets something in it and burns like hell. Water.  Pain solved.
You jab the other eye with a mascara wand. At least they're evenly red now.
Your potty-trained son decides to poop in his pants.
Your other son screams "I hate you!" and slams the door.
Your daughter laments from her bed because you won't let her bake anymore sweets. 
You read a book for a class you are supposed to teach and the words seem like gibberish. Amidst the nominalizations and academic jargon, you wonder how you would summarize such nonsensical syntax, let alone explain it.
Your child throws a major tantrum during Sunday morning worship.
Your new class seems to be falling apart before it's even started.
Your daughter refuses to do anything with arguing.

And those are the minor infractions. Hardly suffering. Speedbumps, really. But, not major wreckage.

But, there's the head-on collisions too. All around me, impacting those I love.
Depression, suicide attempts, broken hearts, broken marriages, suffering children, abuse, neglect, and more besides.

Sometimes the "and so" can feel like one too many. The weight of all that isn't right seems to shatter all that is. My spirit crumples and for a few hours (maybe days), I am undone. Unguarded. Unmotivated. Tired and angry but not angry enough to fight--to fight the right enemy. 

I blame myself, I blame other people, I blame this crappy life.

Even so, this life here on this broken earth isn't meant to feed that which aches and craves. Our deepest satisfaction will be fulfilled in another place and with the Ultimate Person, but for now, everything is a bit hazy (I Cor. 13:12). Although we may taste morsels now (Ps. 34:8), the rich reward for our souls will come later (2 Timothy 4:8,)

For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I have been fully known. I Cor. 13:12

That "seeing dimly" part can get rather discouraging at times. Although I'm legally blind (I couldn't drive without glasses, let alone see to make my children breakfast or type on a computer), I'm thankful to live in a day with corrective lenses. Sometimes I misplace my glasses and have to walk to another room to find them. Even those few short steps feel longer than usual because I can't see everything that's around me. I have to reach out a hand to keep from banging into obstacles. I feel out of control and a little vulnerable. 

In a similar theme, we stride on this earth for just a few brief steps. We can't see everything that is taking place around us (both the good and the bad--Ephesians 6:12), but we've been told very clearly who our enemy is (I Peter 5:8). 
For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places. Eph. 6:12

Two Sundays back we watched a short video clip that talked about the Enemy's tactics. He hates us; He hates all the God has created and redeemed and wants nothing more than to pulverize it. He wont' give you a break. He won't let you catch your breath. He is no gentleman. And if he can't tempt you into immorality and apathy, he'll try to get you so busy, you are distracted from the best thing you could be doing.  And if that doesn't work, He'll discourage you. He'll saturate your mind with thoughts like, "What does it matter?" "Who cares anyway?" "Why am I even here?" "It's all just too much to hold together?" "I can't do it."  And if he manages to keep you discouraged long enough and gets you to that darkness, he can destroy you. 

That's where I was Sunday afternoon. I'd laid down my offensive weapon and had a meltdown. At times, our emotions need release; if we don't let some pressure off at vital moments, the dam will eventually rupture. And then, what a flooded mess it leaves in its wake.

Do tears exhibit a lack of strength? No. Sometimes, we have to allow ourselves enough vulnerability to recognize our need and where our dependence lies. If we see that our dependence has been leaning against our own "do-it-yourself" attitude, than we've lost sight of our purpose and our energy source. And nothing succeeds on an eternal level when we declare ourselves capable within our own strength. 

It's His story and we are here for Him. So whether the season feels like one of struggle, or drought, or confusion, or just good ol' fatigue, perhaps it's time to allow what's deeper access to the light. What is it that is anchoring us? Are we anchored at all? If our anchor is ourselves we're in for a major wind-whipping--exhaustion will be quick to follow. 

Take John 16:33 to heart: Christ told us we'd have it tough here. It won't be easy but hold out hope (our steadfast anchor), He will bring us in. He will bring us to the shores of Heaven. He told us so, so that when we get shaken by tumultuous seas, we'd hold on and rest in His peace.

And so, my dear, if you are in Him, you are not alone. 

John 14:27
Peace I leave with you; My peace I give to you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled; do not be afraid.

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