Battle Royal

What brings us to tears will lead us to grace. Our pain is never wasted. – B.G.

Here’s the thing about prayer. The answers never come in the way you want. I prayed for clarity, and that’s what I got. Did it hurt like hell? Yes, it really really did.

The human condition has never been anything but a great messy battle. A war within yourself and against yourself. I would say that for the last 8 months or so, all I’ve done is charge into battle and get my ass kicked. BEATEN. BLOODY. BROKEN. And I did it again and again. Every single day. Now…. I want to be angry. I want to blame them. I know the struggle was always mine, but I’m justified to say that I was left alone to fight when my battle was no secret. I want to be bitter, and hardened, and angry. But I cannot. Because I know God’s heart… Because I don’t want my own heart to turn dark. Even though it would be easier. It would be soooo much easier. I want to say that they don’t deserve me caring at all.

“Screw them. You do you. If you have to make them the villain to get over it, then do it!” That’s the advice I’ve gotten. It’s a tempting option. Soooo, of this world… That’s not what God wants. I know that much. And I HAVE to choose the road less traveled.

All I’ve ever wanted was to love them correctly. Love them the way that God intended for me to love them, even in the muck and sin and struggle. All I wanted to do is be the friend they want and need. That when they need an ear, I’m there as a FRIEND. That when they need another’s opinion, I give them my thoughts and advice as a friend, ignoring what I feel and what I want. Because they are important and precious to me. Their happiness is important to me. Their well being is important to me. Not because I get butterflies in my stomach, but because I don’t believe that my relationship with them is a mere delusion I’m trying to force into reality. I DON’T want that reality.

Loving sacrificially is the hardest thing I’ve ever attempted. If I could ignore the Holy Spirit, I would not wish to love anybody this way. How did Jesus do it….

Guilt. The thoughts came swarming: I am beyond redemption. Everything is always my fault. I can’t do anything right. I’m so selfish that I can only choose my sin. Every person I meet is better off not having met me. I am condemned and bound to my dark thoughts. I WILL LOSE EVERYONE. God will take everybody away from me. I am not worth anybody’s love. I am not pretty enough. I am not smart enough. I am not godly enough. I cannot lead anybody to Christ. Maybe I’m not really a Christian at all. If I really loved God with all my heart, the choice would have been easy and clear.

I don’t want to be there again. I don’t want to stand on top of a building waiting for the fall because I can’t shut out my thoughts. I don’t want to think about swerving my car off the road every time I’m behind the wheel. I out of control. I don’t trust myself. I’m so terrified. So terrified that my thoughts will get the best of me…. “Jesus take the wheel” have never felt so real.

HOPE. My first reaction was that I have to leave and that this is the end of a wonderful thing. As hard and painful as the whole process has been and will be, there has to be HOPE. I have to believe that God is able to reconcile anything and anyone. To say that any situation is beyond God’s reach and power is to put God in a box. And God doesn’t simply get stored away like that. He is the Almighty on High.

I am scared, and I want to run away, but the voice in my ear keeps whispering that this friendship is still salvageable. That honest, genuine friendship is still possible. That you don’t have to excommunicate yourself or anybody… It keeps whispering hope. But… what if it’s false?

Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted.

Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth.

Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied.

Blessed are the merciful, for they shall receive mercy.

Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.

Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God. – Matthew 5:3-9

When there’s no relief.

There’s a difference between feeling like your circumstances are hopeless and allowing the delusion to consume you. It’s not just a feeling anymore. It becomes your reality. And whenever this happens, I’m ready to give anything to escape. I don’t want to deal. I can’t. I’d give everything I have (even if I once believed it was good) to not feel, to not care, to NOT HURT. I’ll be stubborn if I want. I’ll shut people out because I feel defensive like there’s something I have to protect from them. I’ll morph into a whole different being.

A friend called me a Punk. It’s probably a good word for it. I get difficult and cryptic and I talk back a lot, lot more. And honestly, it kind of sucks to be my friend. Maybe it’s the cynic side that wants to show them how hard it is to care for someone. I make it hard for them almost instinctively. And there’s the part of not wanting to sound crazy. I rather they see the logical me, the side that has something figure out that makes sense. They can’t handle the messiness. They won’t know what to do with the me that only feels but can’t connect those feelings to thoughts. So let’s shut them all out, my head says. It’s much easier.

The Wrestle. I haven’t slept for days?… a week, maybe? I lost track of time. I have naps. An hour or two. But that’s not sleeping. I wouldn’t even consider it rest. I twisted in my blanket and banged my head against the bed frame. I prayed for hours. I begged. I cried. I called out to Him night after night. I read chapters and chapters of scripture. I worshiped and sang. I asked for brothers/sisters to preach me truth. I repented. I laid it all down. And I was met with silence.

Everything hurt. My chest, my head, my eyes, my soul. Everything. And I wished it made sense. But it didn’t. I curled up and wallowed for a while before the weight on my chest got so heavy I had to run. So I did. I ran outside for a long, long time but the physical exertion only gave me dehydration. I ran away in my mind, but nothing could distract me for more than a few minutes. The poking and prodding only got more painful. As Augustus Waters kept saying before he died in that sad, sad book, “Pain. It demands to be felt.”

“He has broken my teeth with gravel;

he has trampled me in the dust.

I have been deprived of peace;

I have forgotten what prosperity is.

So I say, ‘My splendor is gone

And all that I had hoped from the Lord.’ ” – Lamentations 3:16-18

Then it was Sunday and I found myself making a long journey in the heat again, blasting praise music through my earphones, the lyrics contradictory to the stirrings in my head and in my heart. As I trudged along, I wept and pleaded. I begged him to cut me off. Please, please, PLEASE oh God. Why me, WHY ME? Why did you choose me?! Why save me? Why put these stirrings in my heart?! It was better when you were far! It was better when I felt nothing. It was better when I was empty.

My feet hurt. My head throbbed. My throat was croaky and dry. I was done. Done with it all. Take me out of community. Take me out of this journey. I don’t want to walk the walk of faith. Take me out of my drowning.

By evening, I was laying in bed again and making the same decision over and over. I’M LEAVING ALL THIS! I’M DONE! And yet, as I kept making the decision to leave, I couldn’t actually let anything go. The weight got heavier and I was trapped. Then suddenly, I was in the car with Maurice and Greg, pouring it all out. So much for “take me out of community”…

“I don’t want it. I don’t want it. I don’t want it! If I could, I would tear open my chest and rip my heart out and stomp on it! I want it gone. Cut me off. Cut me off. CUT ME OFF!”

Greg: “You know it wouldn’t be better if he did because there’s a place with more suffering than this.”

 Head Knowledge. My mind, to some degree, can wrap around the idea that “it’s okay to not be okay”. That in the mist of not okay-ness is where we find God. That it seems like God is far and that, in the end, will lead us to lay everything, all our sin and hurt, down at his feet.

Lessons: God never said you wouldn’t suffer in this life. God doesn’t promise to lift every ailment, boo boo, or affliction you have (even if you cry to him a million times over). Sometimes, you have to suffer. He needs you to wrestle. He needs you to endure. He’s needs you to go through the trials and the pain so you can be molded.

“See I have refined you, though not as silver; I have tested you in the furnace of affliction” – Isaiah 48:10

But does that always translate? Do I always, at every second, hold onto things I know to be true? And just because I know dark times are coming, does that make me well prepared for the trials? Sadly and shamefully, I say, No. I’m so human. I’m always ready to throw in the towel because sometimes things feel too hard and I begin to question… Is it worth it?

Remember the sacrifice. In the garden of Gethsemane, Jesus broke down too.

“ ‘My soul is overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death. Stay here and keep watch with me.’ Going a little father, he fell with his face to the ground and prayed, ‘My Father, if it is possible, may this cup be taken from me. Yet not as I will, but as you will.’ ” – Matthew 26:38-39

 It must have been the worse feeling. The most horrific pain. You didn’t want it. And yet, you endured and bore it all for me.