The Ledge

I’m over the railing and my foot inches closer towards the cement ledge. I look over and down. It’s a 4 story vertical drop. I don’t even remember how I got up there, alone at the top of the parking garage.

2 hours ago I was at lunch with all the other happy people. Willa and Maurice sat down at my table and began picking at their food. More people came and they were smiling and laughing, and I was all too aware of the difference between their disposition and mine. Their happiness pointed to my inability to be present in the moment with them. I was in a bubble again.

I sat and stared at nothing. I only heard the muffled conversations of normal people around me. I was aware of two things: my guilt and my fear. I looked at Willa and Maurice, sitting quietly, both aware of my state of sadness. I was dragging them down. Miserable me always ruining the mood… I turn and see Greg, laughing and conversing with the other ten plus people at the table. I was in conflict. Because as much as I didn’t want to be a downer, I couldn’t help but feel hurt and sad that everyone else seemed so joyful. I shouldn’t feel that way. I want them to have a good time. Then I knew… I didn’t belong in this group. I’m not one of them. I saw myself as separate. Emotionally, mentally, physically, everything. I shouldn’t be there.

“I’m going to head out,” I said as I got up and walked away. But I didn’t leave. My engine started and I realized I had nowhere to go. After a minute of thinking, I turned it off. I chucked the keys to the side, frustrated that I was still stuck in the parking lot of the plaza, my sort of friends only a 10-second walk away. Why am I so selfish? I don’t want to be… I prayed.

God, please give them a joyful day. Despite how I feel or how I am, give them a day of rest and peace. May their worries escape their thoughts and may you give them the confidence and perseverance to face tomorrow, whether it’s work or school…

My heart continues to pull. I hate the fears I have about Renew. I hate overthinking about my relationship with this community. I hate thinking about how I will become too much for them. I don’t want to be scared of being thrown away anymore. The only way to stop the storm on the inside is to leave 100 percent. If I have no friends, then I have nothing to care about, nothing that can hurt me. I wouldn’t be able to want or wish. I don’t have to face disappointment. My fingers move fast. I leave every chat and Facebook group related to Renew. I LEFT. I throw my phone to the side as soon as I’m done, for fear that I may see the emptiness of my page and regret it all.

I’m crying. The pamphlet I picked up at Pastor Tori’s funeral the previous day sits in the seat next to me. I’ve been reading it over and over. He died a week and a half ago. Sudden cardiac arrest. I detached. Unlike everyone else, I didn’t cry when I heard, I didn’t cry when I saw the casket. But now it’s different.

Pastor Tori led a humble, faithful life. He used to be a Dean at Truth seminary. He loved the bible, the history, the context, the old dusty facts that many people lose patience with. And he loved the dinky little church in Covina so much that he would spend every weekend driving 200+ miles to teach them. He rejected job offers from other ministries for a little group of misfits. It didn’t matter that the members were immature and young and disorganized. It didn’t matter that in the years he was there, the population saw little growth in numbers. He was committed to his community, joyful and calm in all seasons, faithful in serving, and always devoted to the word of God.

And I left that church for Renew. Guilt. I never realized how much I learned from him. Guilt. I never thanked him for his teaching. Guilt. I told myself before the funeral that I will see him again in heaven and there will be opportunities to thank him. But my heart was wrenching and I wanted to forgo everything. Guilt. He was so faithful to his little community. Me? I just ran away from mine… Guilt! Guilt! GUILT! 

Meridian Parking Garage. I left Renew, yet I found no place to go but the parking place in front of the building Renew rents for their services. I got out of the car and walked over to the concrete clearing on the side of the parking garage. The railings of the 4th floor overlooked this area. I wasn’t sure why I was there. My legs moved on their own. I looked up and tried to measure how many Me’s it would take to measure up to the top. It didn’t look like a very far drop from where I stood on the ground. My legs moved again. They ignored the stairs. Instead, they circled around and around, passing the empty parking spots until I was finally at the top, completely exposed to the open sky. I think they were stalling for time. I’m not sure. I reached the rails. I climbed over. My knee, the only thing guarding me from the fall.

We’re caught up now. For a moment, no thoughts cross my mind. I feel empty. The wind blows around me. I inhale and my lungs intake so much air like they’re afraid they won’t ever breathe again. A new emotion swarms me. I can’t do it. I climb back over, slide to the floor, hold my head and scream. I scream so hard and loud, my throat hurts. Now, I really have nowhere to go. NO ESCAPE. The only route I could take, I didn’t have the guts to do it.

TRUTH AND LIES. Truth and lies. Truth and lies… Everything blurs. God is silent. God is good. God is always present. God is working. There is redemption. There’s no relief. God messed up when he created me. God is working all things for his glory. I still have faith. I’m too broken to be saved. I hate the world. I love people. Jesus died for me. Jesus loves me. He pursues me. He left me…

How real is heaven…

Wait. Wait. Wait. WHY. WHY. WHY.

Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer – Romans 12:12

My story wasn’t meant to end today.

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.