You keep track of all my sorrows. You have collected all my tears in a bottle. You have recorded each one in Your book. (Psalm 56:8)
Thursday, November 12, 2015
Dust Bunnies Make Awful Pets (Expanded Version)
Since I was a teenager I made the promise to myself that no matter what, I was going to be as painfully honest with myself as I could possibly be. I was going to be transparent. There is something so refreshing about being transparent, with nothing to block the light. Light shows us what needs to be cleaned, what needs to be repaired. You can’t fix something you can’t see.
Try it. Go make a mess on the kitchen counter or try to glue back together a broken vase in the dark and then flip on the light. You'll see that all you have done is smear the dirt around and your fingers are stuck together. It's a lesson in futility in its purest form.
Sometimes the clear panes of glass of our hearts, through neglect or because we don’t want them to be seen through, can become shrouded in a film of grime. Things become dim and the areas that need to be cleaned become hidden.
Because I have promised honesty, I will tell you that my windows had become a little more than dusty. My transparency had become downright opaque. About a year ago (you'll notice there have been no new posts on the EVBN since...) I made the decision that I was going to hide what I was going through. I saw the pain in my family's faces because I was still hurting and still struggling and felt that I was burdening them (by no fault of theirs, they are generous and loving people and never made me feel this way, it was simply how I saw it in that state of mind). I had turned the blog into a book and began to sell it, and I felt that if people really knew what I was dealing with they wouldn't want to read it. I felt that it would somehow diminish the honest and heartfelt things that God had shown me.
I decided that I would just "deal with it" on my own and stop opening up about the depression and feelings of emptiness. The fear was long gone, I no longer felt it choking me every day, but in its place was a heaviness and a despair that I couldn't understand. What I thought was my low point sank even deeper and I isolated myself to the point of hermitude.
Have you ever tried to act happy around other people when you feel anything but? I've never ran ten miles (or more than one for that matter, let's be honest), but I can assure you the level of exhaustion is comparable to that. You feel downright drained and even more open to the attacks of the enemy because you have no energy left. It weakened my temper, made my fuse downright nonexistent and I would lose my sense of stability in a moment. It was easier for me to simply avoid people, leaving me like a sickly deer on the edge of the herd to be picked off by wolves.
This went on for nearly a year, with each week seeming more hopeless than the last. I reached a point where I couldn't pray anymore, I couldn't read my bible anymore. I used to sit the Word next to me on the couch and tell myself that if I kept it close long enough I would be able to open it. Sometimes I would just look at it and try to get myself to just reach out and flip open the cover. That never happened. I felt as empty and dry as a person could be.
It wasn't that I had lost my faith in God, it wasn't that I stopped loving Him. I simply couldn't feel anything. A sense of desperation rose up in me that left me almost manic and I ended up hurting someone very close to me because of it. After they left my house following one of the most shameful examples of my actions and mouth, I sat in my living room with tears streaming down my face.
"God, WHY AREN'T YOU ANSWERING ME!? WHY ARE YOU STAYING SO SILENT WHEN I AM TRYING SO HARD TO HEAR YOU, TO FEEL YOU!?!?
I literally screamed this at the ceiling. I'm sure the neighbors had probably thought I was losing my mind but I had lost all ability to care. I floated through the rest of my evening in a state of numbness that I had grown more than a little accustomed to and I hated it.
Lying in bed that night, I couldn't sleep. My mind was blank and I remember I simply said, "God, why is this happening to me?"
For the first time in a very long time I felt Him. It was a gentle and loving Spirit, but it was a corrective one that answered me.
I saw a grimy, filthy window that I couldn't see through because of all the dirt. A window that spoke more clearly to me of the state of my heart than anything I had tried to reason out before. Suddenly, as though someone took their finger and swiped it across the glass, a clear mark appeared through all of the dust.
God said deep down inside of me, "Daughter, you have spent so much energy and so much time hiding what you are going through from others that you have shut Me out too. For the first time since this wilderness has begun a place has opened for me to let My Light in."
During a conversation the next day with the loved-one I had been so bitterly cruel to, they looked me straight in the eye and said, “You have to come to terms with all you are dealing with and you need to align it with God.”
Just like a vaccination stings or a pill can be difficult to swallow, so can truth, but those things are designed to heal you.
Somewhere along the line hiding my struggle from other people so as not to expose my weakness blocked out the only thing that could possibly help me. It kept me from shedding light into the deep corners that needed to be swept clean and expose a purpose inside of me I didn't want to face.
At times we can become so afraid of others seeing the mess. We think they will become tired or frustrated with our struggle because we should be done and over it already, stronger and wiser by now. “Is she really crying at the altar again? She knows better!” At times we simply don’t want to acknowledge the purpose and plan that God has for us and we end up like Jonah with seaweed in our hair smelling like the Detroit River. Sometimes we just become too exhausted to deal with the filth anymore and try to hide it from ourselves.
Nothing can be more damaging to our spiritual walk, it had certainly been damaging to mine. My fear of being seen as weak clouded my windows and what I found when the light broke through were dust bunnies the size of house cats demanding to be fed and getting hair on the furniture. By trying to hide what I have seen as fragility or infirmity in myself from others, I had blocked out the light, blocked out Him.
The simple act of opening my mouth and admitting to the people in my life that I needed help, that I needed prayer and guidance was like a spray of water, cutting through the dirt and grime and the Son has broken through. I won't lie and say that it has been an easy process. Being vulnerable is a scary thing. It opens you up to be looked in to and there will be some that don't like what they see. Being vulnerable and admitting that despite all of the truth you have in you, you still fight a wicked battle. It lets the whole neighborhood see the corners of dirt and realize you’re not the Martha Stewart of the cul-de-sac, making you feel exposed. The facade of a super-Christian crumbles and what they see instead is an entirely human person in the need of God's grace more than ever before. This is okay.
When the dirt is gone He can send in the laborers to help you scrub it clean again. Others cannot pray if they don’t know your battle. They can’t attack the mutant dust bunnies they know nothing about. You can't be counseled and guided out of the wilderness if you aren't willing to admit that you are feeling lost. It's scary, but I can assure you, reader, that nothing is more terrifying than circling the desert for forty years when you are only a few days journey from the Promised Land.
It is a lesson in obedience, trust and faith that has to be learned.
I was reading in the book of Ezekiel about God setting him down in the valley of bones. My pastor had just preached about this chapter and later, when I was finally able to open my Word and dig in again, I revisited the story. I found myself asking God the question, "Why did you wait until they were nothing but bones before You stepped in to breathe new life into them? Did they really have to become dust for You to move?" But as I read it again and again I began to see the truth of it.
Bones can't resist Him anymore. They have come to nothing but the barest reflection of what they once were and have no ability to do anything else but rely on His strength and mercy. Bones cannot argue with God, can not "reason" with Him, cannot tell Him there are other people better able to do what He is asking of them to do. Bones can't do anything but wait for Him to give them new life. Out of everything that God has ever shown me, this has been the most humbling and liberating lesson He has ever taught me.
I'm not saying that we should willingly allow ourselves to become a valley of bones, but I can tell you that we must come to a place of full surrender to Him before He can raise up the warrior inside of us. For some of us, it takes such an extreme for Him to get through to us, but He is faithful and He is merciful to do it if we are willing to walk amongst the bones and call them out. He will give us flesh again and breath life back into our being if we are willing to not just look at them, but command them to live again.
The Word says that God captures our tears in a bottle, a perfect compound to clear away the dirt. Wash the windows. Tear down your defenses against other people seeing in. Let Him send them into your life to help you, to pray for you, to encourage you. He is waiting to breath new life into your bones and to make known to you the path out of the desert.
"See, I am doing a new thing!
Now it springs up; do you not perceive it?
I am making a way in the wilderness
and streams in the wasteland."