An Inkling of a Strawberry

Surprisingly okay meet up. I didn’t want to think about it. And I didn’t want to share it. And part of me can feel an anxiety attack coming on because now I know he lied. But I’m powerless to do anything.

Spent some time listening to Josh share. I’m not the only one who sees the danger in where the community is headed. Unrepentant sin, unsafe place, people in leadership that maybe shouldn’t be, wishing that God was at the center. All vague sharings, but I’m glad. I empathize and find myself relating to all your concerns, Josh.

We PRAYED for this group tonight. We prayed for ourselves. We prayed for change and for God to work through us and in every person at Renew. God’s will be done.

Find the strawberry in the midst of trouble. It’s tiny and I almost missed it. But I have to enjoy even the littlest things.

Therapy. It’s honestly the hardest thing I’ve ever done. Going to therapy sucks… And I came out of today’s session extremely discouraged.

“Panic attacks are your body’s signs telling you that this person is dangerous. LISTEN TO IT! You’re feeling pain and rejection, you can’t ignore that. You can’t just get over it like it didn’t happen, that this person didn’t hurt you deeply!”

Why can’t I? I used to do this so well… Suck it up, and move on. I did it in high school. I’ve done it all my life. It should be no different.

“You want to keep everyone safe. And you’re noticing that there’s a lot more unsafe people than just him. You’re afraid of what it’s going to do to your community. But you can’t help others until you create a safe place for yourself.”

Will these people ever feel safe??? The answer I got: a vague “hopefully, you can eventually get to a place you can tolerate them.”

Not exactly what I wanted to hear. You’re asking me to cut out multiple people that I kind of enjoy. And really, the only person who kind of gets what I’m going through. And it hurts… real bad. But maybe it only hurts for me… From what I hear, he doesn’t seem too bothered. Maybe he never really cared for me at all.

God… What are you doing? Please hear my cries and redeem these relationships. I don’t want to question you, but please show me that people aren’t as hurtful and heartless as my mind keeps making them out to be.

Climbing. So much fear and discouragement and angst after the session, I had to climb. I think I’ve climbed more than I ever did. It helps that it was day time, there were less people, and no Renew distractions. I did so many climbs and tried so many more. I fall and get back up. Kept going even when my arms hurt and throbbed. It didn’t cure anything, but it was something. Not to mention, Kevin was there. He’s just one of those people that ooze encouragement. Jokes too much, a little too loud, but with him, you don’t even really need to have a deep conversation to feel encouraged. Okay Ellis, your friends aren’t THAT bad.

Are You Okay

They don’t stop. The tug and pull. The nudging. The thoughts all blur together. Down the rabbit hole I go. I’m being driven mad. So many feelings and thoughts that don’t make sense. And in the midst of the confusion, the only voice I can make out is the one that says JUMP. And as I walk over the bridge of Freeway 57, I really want to listen to it.

Yes, it happened again. The hesitancy, the awkwardness, and the distrust were building up as I sat on the picnic blanket eating my 8 little chicken wings in the middle of the church picnic, surrounded by a group of people I couldn’t talk to. I felt the separateness and after failing to shut out all the hateful thoughts in my head, I knew I couldn’t stay. So I walked away. When I got to the sidewalk, I kept walking. When I got to the main street down on Yorba Linda, I kept going. Over Freeway 57 and all the way back to the parking structure I almost jumped off of 2 weeks before.

Short Rant. I hate this question: Are you okay?

Why do I hate this question?

  • Because most of the time, this question gets asked in a public setting, where the person being asked will always feel the pressure to answer in the affirmative. There is a room filled with more than a dozen other people, do you really expect me to break the last bit of resolve I can muster? There are more appropriate times to cry. And as much as I value transparency, breaking down in a room with a bunch of people I don’t know that well will never feel safe. And maybe I’ve been conditioned to say, Yea I’m fine. Sometimes, those are the words that come out of my mouth before my brain even processes the actual question.
  • Also, because the person asking already knows the answer. Nobody asks anybody this question unless they think the party in question is NOT okay. Which in most cases, the party is definitely not well if they can’t even pretend anymore.
  • Plus, if I answer with, No I’m not okay, then I’ve condemned you having to dive down the rabbit hole with me. You, my poor friend, would be forced to ask me follow-up questions and sit there listening, and feeling confused and unequipped to help. You’d have to waste your precious time on trying to care for me when you can be doing something else, or talking to someone happier and more fun. And that kind of sucks for you doesn’t it? Because if you try to throw some half-hearted encouragement and then just walk off because you didn’t REALLY want to open the can of worms, you’d come off looking like a real jerk. And I cannot condemn you to that sad reality.

And those are SOME of the reasons as to why I have a hard time answer this question. Because I WANT to tell the truth, but the truth is so risky. It’s not anybody’s fault. Because, technically, they tried. They at least made the effort. And to be honest, if I ever do end up jumping off a building, that will be the one thing that keeps them from feeling guilt.

“O well, we tried. So our hands are clean.”

“She just didn’t want help. Can’t blame anyone but herself”

“You can’t control what people do”

“It’s sad, but it’s nobody’s fault”

All valid statements. So why does it hurt to hear them?

The fight for joy is the fight to see. I can’t see the path in front of me. I don’t know what tomorrow looks like. Whether I’ll be okay or not. I can’t differentiate the people who love me from the people who will hurt me. I can’t see the glory of the gospel. I don’t know what is true anymore.

I know the word is so important. So, so important… Be grounded in the word because that is the only real true thing we have. And even when we have it, it’s hard to see it for what God intended. I keep fighting to see God for who he is, but I don’t see anything. It’s so blurry. So, so blurry…

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.