You spoke with truth
Filled it with passion
Sprinkled with emotion
I saw Word take life
Touched the tender parts of my heart
Philadelphia sprung up
In the neighborhood of scars
You inspired the better in me
I desired the best for you
Desired to bless you
Encouragement to press on
To effect change in others
Like you affected me
Then came the Shift
Like a bandage pealed off over hours
As roots deepened
The pedestal I had put you on
Began to topple
When it fell with a crash
The roots ripped out
Tearing open never healed scars
Like a tree centuries old
Shoved over by a sudden burst of wind.
I’m not placing blame.
You were just being you.
The more I learned, the more I loved.
But somewhere the expectancy
Shifted to expectation.
The desire to bless…you
Shifted to the desire for praise…me
Desiring to serve…you
Shifted to wanting attention…me.
Before I know it, I hate what I’ve become.
Laying down my crown
Selfishness, Pride, Worry, Fear, Insecurity
Taking up the slave’s humble cloak
Confidently relying on our Father to provide.
This is gonna hurt.
I pray for the pain of healing.
I am sorry.
I love you like a brother.
I love you like a sister.
May the God of peace
Rest on us like a dove
In this ever shifting world.
Darkness is all I can see. It has it’s own depth and weight. I blink a few times to make sure my eyes are open. Yep, they are open. Without the precious sense of sight, my other senses become heightened. I hear nothing except the rhythm of my own breath echoing off the space. This strange sonar gives me a sense that my prison must have some height and depth. I hear no natural sound. I am not outside, or even near to an outer wall. A cave? I hear no water dripping or trickling thru fissures in the earth. No mustiness lingers in the air caused by the constant presence of mist and dampness. In fact, I smell nothing at all. If I am underground, it is not a natural structure.
What am I laying on then? Oh, yes. I’ve just noticed I’m laying down. Strange. Complete darkness is so very disorienting. The floor is smooth like granite except, wait a minute. What are these? When I move my hands metallic clinks echo throughout the chamber. The cold, oval structures appear to be interlinked. Chills cause the hairs on the back of my neck to stand on end as I recognize the shape: a chain large enough to anchor a ship to the bottom of the sea. With the same hand, I follow the links, the size of my palm, toward me to find their origin. The chills shoot through my body as I find the chain is not attached to my wrist by any kind of strap. It is growing from or was implanted there! With a gentle tug, pain shoots up my arm. An involuntary cry, the mixture of physical pain and rising panic, escapes my throat. Quick inspection reveals the other wrist in the same condition.
Momentarily incapacitated by fear, I evaluate my situation. Giving in to the panic will get me no where. Breathe. Just breathe. Get a hold of yourself. Chains have two ends. So, let’s see where the other end is. Yes, by now I have resorted to referring to myself in third person plural. You find chains coming out of your wrists and see how long you hold it together! With plans to investigate by way of crawling, I flip over on my stomache. Gripped by horror again, I gasp as pain shoots from my feet up my legs. I suck in air thru clenched teeth, willing the pain to subside. I try to control my trembling hand as I slowly, carefully, reach down to inspect. Though motion shoots fire through my body, I must confirm what I fear to find. Identical chains protrude from both ankles. With as little pain as I can manage, I scoot up, put my face on my knees, and succumb to all manor of deep despairing emotions. Time means little in complete darkness. I vacillate between why I am here and how I came to be at such a miserable place and condition. When I cannot reason the answers, I wallow in despair until it circles back to the questions of why and how.
A gentle touch on the crown of my head startles me out of my black revelry. So focused on my thoughts, I had not heard anyone approach. I look up, expecting to see only blackness. Instead, I find myself squinting at a man. My eyes had grown so accustomed to the dark, it hurts to look where any light exists. He is not holding a light, but he seems to be lit by daylight. It is strange. The light is radiating from within him. He is not gleaming or glowing. It’s like soft warmth in his being that needs no light. Instantly I notice his eyes. They are old with wisdom, filled with more knowledge and understanding than one human being should possess. His face holds an expression of peace that frankly, makes me want to slap him. As I consider if I should think this, he chuckles, shakes his head, and begins to sit along the wall. I gasp, afraid he will fall. He looks up with concern as he rests comfortably on a ledge I apparently did not see before he began to sit. Maybe it was a trick of the shadows.
“Hi.” I smile sadly as my eyes meet his again. This is not how I would have expected to greet the King of the Universe.
“Hi.” The warmth of his voice washes over me. I close my eyes and listen to it echo.
Glancing around I see my burdens are four round weights, roughly two feet in diameter, at the end of a five-foot chain. Etched in each weight is the name of an affliction I carry.
I look back at him with concern. He returns my concern with sadness. Unable to stand the distance any longer, I stand and gather up the chains to protect myself from pain as much as possible. With my head down I lean into the weight, bear the pain and pull with all the strength I can muster. The cavern is filled with the screech of metal on the floor. White hot pain courses thru every cell as sweat beads across my forehead.
“Please don’t,” he urges through gritted teeth.
Desperation in his voice causes me to look up, but I don’t stop. With each step, pain surges up each arm, each leg. Muscles spasm. With each stab of pain, I can see his face twitch, the muscles in his back, arms and legs convulse. It’s like looking in a mirror that transforms your reflection into the most precious person you can imagine. It is worse than any pain I can feel.
“Please stop.” He whispers again.
With relief for both of us, I drop my chains. There is still so much distance to cover. Still so little has been accomplished. Frustration sets in. “How do get there? What am I supposed to do? I can’t go anywhere when I’m weighed down like this. And it hurts. It hurts so much.” Tears fall, only now do I realize they have been falling thru the entire struggle. I turn my wrists over to show him where the chains enter my skin. They are now bleeding and bruised.
“I know,” he says and turns his wrists over, “the scars never really go away.”
I laugh through tears and cock my head to the side, “That’s not the same.”
“No?” He looks up from his wrists with just his eyes and wrinkles his brow. “Child, I did this for you.” Indicating toward the weight I claim as mine with a slight head tilt, he continued, “Those burdens I will take, when you are ready to give them up.”
“But I have asked you so many times to take them away. They are still here.” Tears run freely down my cheeks. This is a touchy subject, and we both know it. I turn away and begin running my fingers over the etchings in the weights.
“Sometimes giving me your burdens doesn’t mean they disappear. I will make ALL things new. Your scars, like mine, may have been made by horrific circumstances. But I can transform them into something beautiful. Let me have it. Let me do it.” These words are said with the gentleness of love, the authority of a command, and the want of a beg.
Tears still streaming down my face, “I do. I will. But I can’t promise I won’t steal them back.”
He stands. At the sound of his movement I jump, but I have no desire to run. After all, where would I go? He puts his hands on my shoulders and turns me to face him. With a rough hand on either cheek, he wipes away my tears. Forcing me to look into those wise old eyes he tells me, “I know. So until you are ready to give them up again, I’ll be here with you. Waiting. When you are ready, I will take it all over again.” He smiles. It brightens the whole room.
He kisses me on the forehead. I whisper, “Take it,” and I start giggling. His laughter is deep and full, filling the room with joy. With each breath the darkness surrounding us grows lighter. The sharp burning pain in my wrists and ankles has replaced the dull, bearable ache of healing. The weights have turned into balloons, each a different color. The chains are now strings. They are still attached to me, but the pain is substantially less. On each balloon is still written an affliction, but there is also hope, possibility, change, and potential written there.
It ends today. This is the last day you can hurt me. Just like all the days before, you were subtle in your comments. With carefully chosen words and actions, hoping I wouldn’t notice I am treated differently. I notice the subtle, a careful curator of the details. I see how you fawn and dote over the others. Cheerful greetings and lavish compliments are showered over the others, everyone but me. Today is the last day you make me question what is wrong with me. All my insecurities brought out by your presence. When I tried to do something nice for those you treated like children, I was harshly scolded. “Don’t let it bother you,” was the advice from others. Should I have to earn a thicker skin because of you? My tender hearted empathy is one of my dearest assets. It allows me to feel what others feel, to sense the emotional state of those with whom I am familiar. Today is the last day you turn my strengths into weaknesses. Though I feel I should hate you, I cannot. Though you have sent me to quietly weep in private, I have also wept over your sorrows. I have prayed for you; for the times you have been in pain and for your physical and spiritual health. No, I cannot hate you. I have spent too much time around you to hate you. Though you have hurt me enough that I will not let you close, I love you. Today was the last day you will hurt me. Today was my last chance to show you I love you. I am sorry I missed it. Farewell.
I don’t expect every new meeting to become a confidant.
But I wish my constant companion wasn’t loneliness.
I don’t expect a cure from this constant pain.
But I wish for momentary glimpses of relief.
I don’t expect you to be with me all the time.
But I wish you didn’t feel so distant.
I don’t expect you to know all the answers.
But I wish you would be still and listen when I speak.
I don’t expect you to understand.
But I wish I had no doubt you cared.
Through the loneliness, the pain, the isolation,
A calm voice whispers to the depths of my soul.
I know what loneliness is.
I AM your closest confidant.
I know every kind of pain.
I AM your relief.
I know sometimes I may seem distant.
I AM with you always.
I know questions seem to fall unheard.
I AM the answer when you are still to listen.
I know what it is to be misunderstood.
I AM wisdom and love.
My father who is
Always will be…
Hallowed be Your Name
Our Father in Heaven
Sent the Son
God with us
Sacrificed for us all
Ascended to Our Father
Sent the Spirit
Your Kingdom Come.
Your kingdom come
…is in the process of coming…
May your will be done down here
Exactly as it is where you are
May Our Father’s will be done by the
Wanting nothing more than
To Be Loved
Give us this day
Thank you, Father, for another day.
Give us what we need
To bless others
To see passed ourselves
Because life is broken.
Forgive our debts.
The ways we have hurt others.
May we forgive those who owe us
As You have forgiven us
By Death to self.
Our small foot inside your larger print
One step at a time
May we follow the narrow path
Away from temptation
Marching toward home.
Stretch your arms wide before us
May your sacrifice
From the onslaught of the
He only wishes to destroy
You long for restoration
We will one day live again
It usually starts with the desire for inspiration. A band I follow posts a picture from a show or a photo shoot. I look at the photo. If it’s one that I like, I research the photographer a bit. Who do they work for? Who are they? What does some of their other work look like? During this entire research escapade, the dominating thought in the back of my mind is not, I am ashamed to say, only to appreciate the quality of someone else’s art. Oh no, I am constantly evaluating their talent in comparison to my own because they are living my dream. Sometimes, after I have looked at their photography of other bands, I think, “I could do that,” or even worse, “I could have done better than that.” Proud much? Well…yeah. However, which is most often the case, I decide the work is far superior than mine, I feel defeated, jealous, and baffled as to how that person got that position. Is it who they know? Did they take classes? Do they have some personality trait that God left out when he formed me? Then why, oh God, why do I want this so badly that my soul writhes in agony?
Ok, maybe that was a little overdramatic. But, that’s what self-reflection can do to you, can it not? This morning in the shower, I was thinking about God’s will verses my will. It occurred to me that there is a lot of pride involved with placing my will, my wants, my dreams equal with God’s plan for the entire universe. Even that sentence sounds ridiculous. Perhaps more accurately…It was revealed to me that contrary to all the advice self-help quacks will squawk at you, it doesn’t matter how much you set your mind to achieving your dream. At the end of all things, you will just run yourself ragged trying to stubbornly get to where God does not want you to go. It’s like constantly running yourself into a plexiglass wall. You can keep doing it, but you’re going to get beat up in the process.
I am reminded of the story in Numbers 22. Balaam is riding his donkey when all of a sudden she won’t go. God put an angel in the path that would have killed Balaam had his donkey kept walking. The donkey could see the angel, but Balaam couldn’t so he beat the poor animal. Finally God granted the donkey the ability to speak so she could explain the situation to a misguided prophet. Ouch! Balaam realized his mistake and repented. It may not happen quite so miraculously, but God puts obstacles in our way, ones that we don’t always recognize, to stop us from attaining a dream or a goal. I have been struggling with this for a long time. Why would God give me a dream if he didn’t want me to chase after it?
The answer is simple. Well, it’s simple to write, not so simple to hear, even more difficult to correct. God will put obstacles in the way of your dreams if they become your god. I think we can all agree that dreams are good things that come from God. However, they can easily become idols. A few weeks ago I heard this in a sermon, “Idols are good things that become god things and become bad things to us.” May be why God would keep you from your dream. I fell in love with my dream and I use God like a genie. I make wishes and try to fool God and myself. Here’s the genie prayer, “Ok God, I’m giving you this thing I’m in love with. I really want it. But I want you to have it. I want to trust you with it. Here you go.” Sounds good right? Except in the back of my mind and the depths of my heart I was like a kid with my fingers crossed behind my back thinking, “I hope you give that back. I don’t really want you to have it. I think you’re going to break it. I’m really not sure I can trust you.” First, how many theological issues can you find? What does that reveal about the lies I tell myself? Let’s all be honest, God is omnipotent. Omnipotent means all knowing. Who do I think I am, tricking God? Seriously? If I let go of my dreams, it can’t be a trick. It has to be true, honest surrender.
Sounds good. How do you do that? A lot of people would say, “Love God more than your dreams.” But that’s more like a nice quip. You can’t make yourself love someone. Go ahead. Try. It’s empty and you end up going through the motions, pretending. Surrender is about a true, honest relationship. To get there, you have to have the right priorities. From that same sermon, “Give weight to God and all other things will float up.” The relentless pursuit of dreams without God will leave us bitter, tired, beaten down, and broken. By giving God the weight he deserves the unimportant distractions will float away. Then God’s Spirit can be a guide in what to do with your idols/dreams (you fill in the blank). Otherwise you’re running around, trying to balance everything, or beating yourself up on an invisible plexiglass wall. If that Idol floats away, you are still left with the One Thing that has weight, gives true joy, and has everlasting meaning. Find joy and astonishment that the Creator of a universe, larger than any man-made vehicle can travel, is willing to include any one of us, a speck in that universe. Joy springs from every fiber of my being that I am included in the story at all! When I tend to think I can write it better, or get confused about my part, I know I’m not as close to God as I need to be.
What is a dream God has put in you? Has it become an idol?
I started writing this a few months ago. Some days it’s more true of how I feel than other days. But these feelings are always part of me, somewhere below the surface. I guess you could say this is a little but what my struggle with depression is like. There, I said it. I guess I just want everyone to know that if you know someone who struggles with depression, just because they have a smile on their face doesn’t mean their fight is over. Most of the time, the smile is for your benefit and theirs. For an idea of how that works in my life, read on…
I’m So Tired
I’m so tired. I’m tired of being fake, of putting on this mask so no one will see the pain underneath. Some days the mask cracks. But this mask is so well made that no one notices the cracks, unless they take a moment to look close. I fear letting anyone get that close. My mask is fragile. There are so many cracks. If someone but taps in the wrong place, it will crumble and fall to the floor in a cascade of broken pieces. Then to my horror, this Someone will see the real me. And, oh, the what if’s! So many times I have been hurt! What if what you see is repulsive? What if you find it annoying? What if you judge my pain and my struggles and decide that I’m just not good enough for you? You see these fears are not manufactured or far-fetched. Someone in my past, Someone with a face, using words I will never forget, communicated these messages to me. It hurt to the bone. Each time I added another layer to the mask, hard to protect against the pain others can cause. That’s the pretty face that smiles every time you think you see me. It’s the face that says, “I’m doing great!” Some days this reply is a lie. I’m sorry, but you don’t know how much it hurts sometimes to smile. I wish you would look a little deeper. I wish I knew if you wanted to know the truth. Can you see the pain behind my eyes? How quickly the smile vanishes? The little furrow between my brows? The tears just below the surface, welling up? Maybe not. I’m sorry. This cracking mask is all I feel safe enough to show you. I don’t know if you can be trusted. I want to trust you. I want to remove this mask. Doing so would hurt. It’s been on so long it’s attached to my skin and my fears. So many times the pain of attempted removal has been amplified by the actions of others. So I give up. I strengthen the plaster. It’s getting heavy. The weight is exhausting to carry. So I’m tired.
It had been a stressful last couple of hours at work. I was reflecting about how everything went down and wondering if there was anything that I could have handled differently…better. My only hope was that some of the decisions I made were to my credit. Feeling like a failure after work is a common occurrence. Someone told me once that I’m a round peg trying to fit into a square hole there. It’s so true. At the same time I’m begrudgingly ruminating over the fact that because of Daylight Savings Time I am now driving home in the fast approaching darkness. The guy that thought this up obviously never struggled annually with seasonal depression. So while I’m frustrated about my struggles at work and being robbed of much-needed sunlight, I come around a curve by one of the lakes on my way home. My mind stops it’s constant stream of…well…thought to gasp.
Spread out before me is a scene of quiet beauty. I gently tap my brakes to take it all in. The view from this curve always causes me to catch my breath, if I’m paying attention. But this, I was not at all prepared for. There’s a break in the trees that line the lake just wide enough to see the wood-line that gracefully hugs the shore. There are large branches reaching out over the water as these old trees grip with all their might to stay rooted in the ground. Passed what’s left of the woods are houses lining the lake, tiny in the distance. Warm yellow light flows from inside their window panes, casting long fingers of gold on the still, dark navy water. Out of the vast darkness speckled with light rises a silvery-white mist. Far from making things haunted or eerie, as mists sometimes do, it gives the twilight a dusting of the magical as it reluctantly gives way to the darkness of night. The furthest edge of the lake is obscured, blending the deep blue of the water with the cerulean blue of the sky. There are no stars, just a deep calming blue that reminds me to appreciate my gift for noticing the details.
For a moment I wished I had my camera to capture this quiet moment. The truth is I just wanted to go home. Besides, by the time I found a good place to set up, and put everything in that place, all remaining light would be gone along with the beautiful deep blue colors. So for the brief moment that my car passed that opening in the trees, I soaked in every detail. And I kept moving forward, toward home.
As always, this bit of poetic vomit (for lack of a better word) was hastily spewed out of my fingertips last week when I was feeling rather low. I debated, with myself obviously, about whether to post it. The subject is very personal, as these sort of moments tend to be. My fear is that those few who follow this blog, those of you whom I know care deeply for me, will be offended by the words in this piece. Please understand that these words represent feelings I was having at a moment in time. Yes this is an ongoing struggle I have. But it is not how I feel all the time. Emotions are fleeting, be it blessing or curse. My hope is that some will read this and understand on some level. Or maybe you will understand me better. Perhaps some of my readers will be able to answer some of the questions asked. At any rate, my hopes triumphed my fears. Don’t judge me too harshly.
What does this all mean?
Who am i?
I’ve tried so hard.
And for what?
To get noticed.
To make a difference.
To make a living.
To make a life.
Get a life.
Just to be worn out and hurt.
No one notices.
I’ll write this,
A public proclamation to deaf ears
Seen by blind eyes.
With all effort I run the race.
To see the new as I breeze pass for the millionth time.
Bleed the wonder from the mundane.
Drain contentment from the dreadful.
All this is meaningless when others look right through me.
Just watching the dollhouse.
Others filling their roles,
She fits in this room.
Observing the potential of everyone else,
He was crafted for that.
I am always outside looking in.
Never quite right anywhere.
Left out on the fringe.
All the spinning is inside.
In my head.
In my heart.
In my soul.
Is there a way to get it out?
Get it to people who feel the same way.
Are there people who feel this way?
Is there anyone else out there who feels this way?
Is there anyone else out there who feels?
Anyone else out there?
Is anyone there?
Trying is getting me no where.
Like a rat running on a wheel.
If I stop running I will still be in the same place.
Just maybe not as tired?
Either way I am left not quite right:
Dissatisfied, unfulfilled, disappointed, and empty.
I don’t think I can fix this.
I find myself alone in a dark desert. The moon is high above somewhere, but he’s covered his face behind clouds. In front of me is a cliff so sharp, so deep I fear even to approach it. Something, perhaps the curiosity of childhood that prompts all of us to take just a peek into that scary closet, prompted me to step forward, toes right on the edge. A few stones bounce down the canyon wall. Bounce…bounce…bounce…into forever. It’s cold here, but I am only frozen by the fear of stepping off the edge. I’m told, heard a hundred times, that if I take that step it won’t be air, but somehow my foot may meet solid ground; that some faceless someone may catch me at some point. When I look down I only see black abyss that threatens to swallow me in nothingness. A violent wind swirls up and around me from Down There. Scrambling from the cliff’s edge, my pulse quickens. Hands scrape along sandpaper ground and begin to bleed. Blood mixes with sweat as I find myself enclosed in a glass box, isolated but not alone. Familiar faces mingle in the desert darkness. The glass isn’t quite glass, but more like a mirror. I see my reflection, but also see them. It’s like my reflection is out there with them, but the real me is stuck in this box. They glance my way from time to time. Some of them smile. Some of them wave. Some only notice when they bump the box, and move on their way with no expression at all. Loneliness grips me with fear that it will last forever. “Help me!” I scream over and over. In frustration I bang my hands on the walls to get their attention, leaving bloody handprints on the looking-glass. It gets their attention. Instead of rushing to my aid, their bustling stops. Their silence confuses me. “I don’t know what to do. Why won’t you help me?” When I look in their eyes, I understand. They look at me with sadness motivated by pity. They can see these walls have no doors, and they dare not break the mirrored glass. So they keep their distance. It’s safer this way. I steal a glance toward that terrible ledge, knowing the nothingness beyond, and realize this is a decision I must make on my own. Suddenly the cliff and desert is gone. All I can see are repeating images of myself, covered in bloody handprints. I am stuck in a world full of images of myself, but totally alone. Frustration, anger, and loneliness overwhelm me as I sink to my knees on the cold unfeeling rocky ground. Time passes. There is no wind, but heat like that of a fire begins to warm my face, but there is no crackle of burning wood or roaring flame. I raise my eyes, and am mimicked by a thousand reflections. Slowly I get to my feet. It’s hard to tell direction in this four-walled funhouse. One of the walls is warmer than the others. I can hear someone breathe on the other side. It doesn’t sound quite human. As I listen, it’s as if this person’s breath gives permission for the rest of the world to continue to move and have its existence. This is oddly comforting. I put my hand on the warm pane but can only manage to whisper, “Is someone there?” When no reply comes, I listen to the breathing a while longer. Partly in frustration, partly just to listen, I sink to my knees again, with my still-bleeding hand on the mirror. I bow my head and press it to the wall, giving up. The warmth rushes into my body from the top of my head, through the core of the bone, all the way to the tips of my toes. I take a deep breath as the glowing heat comforts me. Then my hand feels the glass begin to tremble. When I lift my eyes, glaring light blazes around me. The mirror once again becomes crystal glass. Once my eyes adjust, I can make out a figure standing outside my box. The light and warmth is coming from him. The moment I notice him, he raises is hand and I can see that his is also badly scarred and bleeding. His wounds are much worse than mine. He places his hand opposite of mine on the glass. The instant his blood makes contact with the glass, it seems to melt away and my own palm begins to burn. Startled, I gasp and pull my hand away. Upon inspection, not only is my hand uninjured, it is completely healed. When I looked back at this gleaming man, my glass box totally melts away and he stands suspended, as if on some invisible floor, over the canyon which I had refused to accept. I look into his face, knowing what he is asking, all the while fearing the question. He just looks back at me with an expression that defines love. Before this moment love and understanding has not existed completely on another human countenance. Though I have no choice but to love him in return, I remain on my knees. I will no longer look down into the abyss. I will keep my eyes on his. We will take this step, this leap together. I’m just not sure I’m ready yet. His smile says he will wait. It’s not dark anymore. I’m not alone.