Sunday, April 20, 2014

you know I do

First Peter, bold and emphatic, slices off an ear, and hours later fear has caught him by the throat
and he denies and denies and denies. Peter denied Jesus but was outside the temple, waiting.
Afraid and waiting, then cursing and denying.

I do not know him!

Yes. I know the same crowing. It startles the souls.

I am afraid.

I make people afraid.

She had been bent double for eighteen years and was unable to stand up straight.

They assume she has done something wrong to have yet receive her healing. So they will shut her away. Keep her quiet. Her suffering makes them ask. Makes them doubt. Certainly she has done something to be cursed! There must be an answer because they do not believe in a God who would allow a daughter to suffer for so long! There must be unrepented sin! Witchcraft! Blasphemy!

Will God allow us to suffer for as long as she has?

She needs correction. Criticism. Set her straight so we do not have to ask the same questions she is asking! Asking! Asking!

I was bold and emphatic once, then fear caught me by the throat. I have journeyed into this darkness that will not shut me away, though I want to be hidden. That will not quiet me, though I long to be stilled. If I make my bed in Sheol, behold, You are there.

All around me voices are crying He is risen! He is risen, indeed!

...the same power that rose Christ Jesus from the dead...

But I have yet to rise from the darkness. It is not the darkness of a tomb. It is the darkness of the question no one wants to ask for fear of the rooster crowing, and yet I ask it, again and again and again.

And He who has not forsaken me asks, do you love me? do you love me? do you love me?

Yes. Yes. Even in the darkness, yes, Lord, you know I do.

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

hello. i am a screw-up, married to a screw-up.

 One of the beautiful and miserable aspects of walking with Jesus is knowing you are completely and utterly loved, while also knowing you are a complete and utter screw-up. Sure, you can gain a good deal of knowledge and growth over the years walking with Him, but as soon as even the slightest bit of pride enters into your stride, you find yourself tripping over your own feet, saying, "Shit! What was I thinking? I really need Jesus to guide me in this life!"

 For whatever blessed reason, Jesus has really made sure that my husband and I stay in a place of needing Him, or better stated: a place of utter and complete writhing in desperation for Him, our faces smashed and bleeding on the cement.

 My early life before marriage was kind of typical. I spent my first eleven years in the suburbs of Pennsylvania, close to extended family members and had a close-knit group of friends. We attended a local church, I sang in the choir, and I adored Jesus. Then, my family was suddenly uprooted and dropped down into the hell flames of Boca Raton, Florida, and everything changed. The culture in Boca was nothing like what I had known. The school was four times the size of my previous school, there were clicks, rich people, poor people, diverse cultures, and teachers had no time or interest in the lives of their students.

 Within six years of living in Boca, I was drinking, doing drugs and having sex. I had been beaten, raped, abused and molested. I believed God existed, but I also believed I had let Him down too much, was too far gone and trapped in a lifestyle I could not change.

 At eighteen, I moved away to Tallahassee, Florida to attend college, and during a couple of years I found myself overwhelmed by God's wooing. I found a wonderful church, made Christian friends
and a year later I met my husband-to-be. Jeremy was 19. He had grown up in a Christian home, and the church he had attended was what you might call legalistic. From an early age he realized there was no one in his church he could relate to, plus being bullied and smacked around by older kids in children's church didn't exactly give him the impression that Christianity was a religion about love.

 So he found his group, as all children do, and it was with the broken boys, the ones he would grow up with and drink and smoke pot together. He eventually got a DUI. Then he moved away to college and roomed with a rich cocaine dealer. Coke became Jeremy's drug of choice. He did so much one night he looked in the mirror and could see his heart beating in his chest. So Jeremy prayed, drove back home, high, on the highway, to his parent's house, knowing he needed Jesus.

 Jeremy was just a good six or so months into his walk with Jesus when we met, and we married three months later, got pregnant three weeks later --and during that time a strange physical problem I had had on-and-off for the past year, decided to kick in and never leave. We had a beautiful baby boy three days before I turned 22, and six months later, Jeremy was diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes.

 We had no idea what the hell we were going to do, or why Jesus gave us these great things along with such horrible ones.

 I would have to write a very long memoir to contain the crazy story that God has taken us through over these 19 years, but the proof of Jesus working in our lives is undeniable, although it has (and continues to) hurt like hell.

 With regret I can tell you that it wasn't until our son was about 15 that Jeremy and I stopped having screaming fights. Ugly, cursing fights were a norm in our home. In 2006, Jeremy's father died and Jeremy's drinking became the worst it had ever been. Then, in 2007, after my father killed himself in our front yard, we sought the help of a Christian marriage counselor, and Jeremy and I learned (finally!) how to communicate honestly, without yelling. Our fighting slowly decreased, and now it is extremely rare --so much so our son noticed and made the point to tell us a few years ago.

 Never mind the large amounts of past hurts Jeremy and I have brought along with us into our marriage (separate counselors are there for that), the tragic loss of our fathers, our being hurt by many Christians, or our financial struggles, for there remains two huge problems in our lives: for me, it is this untreatable, chronic condition that has, from the get-go, made me suicidal (I was hospitalized twice before my son was 3). For Jeremy, it's been the struggle of wanting to withdraw, and who can blame him? There's my debilitating disorder and depression he has no real power to heal (although he sacrifices every day to help me) and during the past couple of years he injured his lower back, so now he has daily pain, plus his blood sugar levels are a constant battle. At the end of the day, he just wants to retreat and watch YouTube videos of guitarists rocking out while he eats a bowl of cereal.

 Neither one of us has the best ingredients for a "happy marriage", but we have been there for each other, even when it has seemed the other has not. Even when we complain about one another. Even when we avoid each other. Even when we are fearful to be honest with the other, but eventually are.

 We could have thrown the towel in a million times, but even so, we have continued to keep Jesus as our hope. Otherwise, why would we continue to pray, to study His word, to seek counsel, to pray for one another, to even take chances to confide our pain in Christian friends, despite the dozens of times we have been injured by doing so?

Overall, Jeremy and I have learned there are two important ingredients to apply every day to sustain our secure, fumbling marriage, and the first is to say "I love you" as often as possible, and the second is to say, "I'm sorry you're not feeling well, is there anything I can do to help?"
In the end, isn't that where we find Jesus: loving and caring for us, utterly and completely, as screwed-up as we are?

Thursday, April 3, 2014

swinging from joy to despair, and back again

 For twenty years I have heard the long list, the opinions, the sermons, the pat answers. I have read hundreds of books, prayed the prayers and fasted. I have stood on God's promises. I have had the laying on of hands. I have performed spiritual warfare. Rebuked demons and called on angels. I have believed, and I have doubted.

 Last year more than thirty of my friends and family fasted and prayed for me for a month. And yet here I remain, a pendulum swinging from feeling safe, normal and hopeful, to the other extreme: shaking with anxiety, crying, hopeless, desperate thoughts raging in my head, and all due to suffering. SUFFERING. For twenty years.

 If you know my story, you know the extensive lists of physicians, specialists, and therapists available in the medical community that I have sought. You know the many expensive procedures, nerve blocks and medications I have tried and the handful I am on. You also know the extreme measures I have gone to, from having an injection in the most sensitive of areas, to having my brain zapped --and both treatments were unsuccessful.

 I still try, with what is left in me, to hold out hope. I still cry and plead with God every day. Every. single. day. I attend a weekly bible study with great friends, I see a Christian counselor, and most precious to me is the love and support from my husband, and the sweet, tender heart of my son. I continue to seek Him, but after twenty years of swinging week to week from one extreme to the other... it is difficult to believe there is an end in sight.

 I look back ten years ago, when I was thirty, still young enough and still naïve enough to believe in the goodness of God, to believe that the medical community would study PGAD and come up with a cure. It is difficult for me to have faith in either of them now.

 I have to admit, I look around at the lives of many believers I have known over these twenty years  who have endured, and continue to endure, great trials and suffering, and I see the same hopelessness, weariness, anything but this "victorious life" we were taught we'd have. We have put our energy and faith into God and His word, only to continue in our personal pain, see our loved ones suffer and die, for great sorrow to wear us down. I know all the responses Christians make concerning this. I have been told that even though I cannot recognize it, I actually am walking in victory, I mean, God has sustained me for 20 years, right? He hasn't let me give up yet! I should feel privileged that He has chosen me to suffer, because my suffering has comforted others, and I should recognize His hand working in my life, and be grateful for all that He has taught me through suffering. As much as these statements may be true, my current response is: Well, isn't that just great?

 I am with St Teresa of Avila who cried out,“God, if this is the way you treat your friends, no wonder you have so few of them!”

I do not have an answer or happy ending to this blog. I am simply stating, again, where I am: swinging from joy to despair, week-to-week, praying Psalm 13 again and again... and still not receiving an answer.


Psalm 13

1O Lord, how long will you forget me? Forever?
How long will you look the other way?
2 How long must I struggle with anguish in my soul,
with sorrow in my heart every day?
How long will my enemy have the upper hand?

3 Turn and answer me, O Lord my God!
Restore the sparkle to my eyes, or I will die.
4 Don’t let my enemies gloat, saying, "We have defeated him!"
Don’t let them rejoice at my downfall.

5 But I trust in your unfailing love.
I will rejoice because you have rescued me.
6 I will sing to the Lord
because he is good to me.