These Present Sufferings

Sometimes God makes you struggle for a long time before giving you understanding as to why.  Sometimes the understanding never comes and you just have to struggle your whole life without it.  Other times the struggle and the understanding come together.  I like those times.

I have a mixture of both these days.  There are long-sufferings so old I’ve long given up hope of  seeing resolution on this earth, and then there are shorter frustrations that turn around pretty quickly.

Like today, the internet went down at work just as two groups of customers walked in.  “Perfect…just my luck”, I thought.  I made the first set of drinks hoping the internet was just experiencing a glitch and would come back on so I could take their credit card payment.  No such luck.  I took the second set of orders and apologized that it was taking so long.  When I explained that my internet was down, one of the men in the second group said it was okay, that he could pay with cash.  He then offered (or rather insisted) on paying for the first set of customers in cash as well.

This sparked a short conversation about currency, during which a lady walked in and got in line.  She paid for her drink in cash, but then decided to add something else to her order.  The second group of customers had left (the ones who paid for the first group’s order) but the first group was still there.  To pay it forward, they left cash to pay for the lady’s order before they left.  She wasn’t aware of what had happened, so I explained it to her.  She was so touched by the gesture, she left $5 to pay for whoever came in next.  That $5 is now sitting under my register waiting for the next customer who walks in.

As luck would have it, my internet returned right after the whole group left and now I’m standing here wrapping my heart around it all.  My very first thought when the internet went down was “great, of course this would happen to me…”.  But now, not 30 minutes later, at least two people were blessed because of it…something that never would have happened if I was able to take that first payment.

I wish all frustrations in life were so quickly resolved.  But God is also showing me tiny glimpses into the long-sufferings that have plagued my life for, well, all my life.  Least of which being the torments and traumas that have so mangled my inner being.  The evils of this world bother me more than most, I think.  Probably because I have lived my entire life on the losing side of them…a fact I’ve been giving God my what-fors about lately.

Today He showed me something, though.  He gave me a glimpse into the inner-beings of the so-called “winners”.  You know, the ones who always seem to have life work out for them, get what they want, somehow always get others to give them things/serve them, etc.  He showed me inside the ones who don’t have the slightest idea what struggle and suffering really is…and it was not pretty.  In fact, it was so ugly it turned my stomach and changed my mind around from “why me?” to “thank you, Lord.”

He showed me that there is a choice between an easy life with a sick, petrifying soul or a difficult, suffering-filled life with a purified one.  Each soul can either submit to the purification process, which means submitting to suffering, or they can reject it..in which case Satan is right there, dressed like an angel, waving a “This way to the easy life!” sign.  And most people follow that sign…that road is wide, after all.

But given what He showed me, I’m happy choosing the difficult life.  Injustice bothers me more than anything in the world, and that’s not likely to change.  But God showed me something – that those who have it so easy never make it to the mountaintops of God’s presence.  Why?  They never develop the legs for it.  So many people sell their spiritual heritage for ease and for comfort.  They get winded and turn back to their comfy chairs and baby bottles at every inconvenience…how could they ever survive the storm that is our Lord’s presence?  And it is a storm.

So I stand here again and thank God, even for the sufferings I don’t understand.  Why?  Because I know it is producing in me a strength that will one day be able to withstand the all-consuming fire that is our God.  Our perfect, omnipotent, fire of a God.  And on that day I know that I will bow at His feet having accepted the sufferings from his hand (not always gracefully, but accepted nonetheless).  And I’d rather do so as a weather-beaten warrior than a whiney little baby.


So thank you God, even for the sufferings I don’t understand.  Because I know that in you, no suffering is wasted.  Give me grace to trust you more, and more than anything….come.  Lord Jesus, come.

For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us. – Romans 8:18

 

 

 

 

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Internal Battles Wage

fork-in-the-road1

“Two roads diverged in a yellow wood,

And sorry I could not travel both.

And be one traveler, long I stood

And looked down one as far as I could,

To where it bent in the undergrowth.”

~ Robert Frost


No one else can pave the road on which I’m meant to walk.  And though I’ve always known this to be true, it seems a lesson in need of continual re-learning.  Where the idea came from that someone else would make a way for me, I’m not really sure.  But it somehow always creeps into my realm of expectation.  Or perhaps just desire…

Growing up, I was daily fed the message that I am stupid and incapable of making good decisions and to say that I internalized the message would be an understatement.  Despite the stubborn willfulness and fierce need for independence that seems so inherent to my nature, I also spent my entire life in the type of environment where personal will and independent thought were punishable by verbal and emotional death.  I can’t tell you how many times a simple question, meant to try and understand the chaotic world around me, was returned with an assault so heavy I would have begged for physical beatings instead.  The very thought of self-will was annihilated at a very young age, wholly replaced by fears and insecurities about my capacity, or even right, to make decisions for myself.   I learned almost immediately that I had no right to make decisions at all, especially for myself, and that doing so would bring nothing but years of pain and regret.  Though it has been six years since cutting cords with that environment, those messages effectively wove their way through every fiber of my being, making life as an adult difficult to say the least.

From many books I’ve read on the subject, my difficulty in decision making is a sad but common side-effect of growing up with narcissistic parents.  It’s like an ongoing trauma-response from the emotional and psychological assaults of my youth, infinitely compounded by the power differential inherent in the parent-child relationship as well as the tenderness and vulnerability of the age at which they came. Now I find myself at 30 years old, with all the expectations that come with the age, and completely paralyzed each time I am asked to make a decision.  My instinctual reaction is fight-or-flight, knowing that the slightest mis-step will result in a torture I will never survive.  Yet I cannot escape, as I am trapped on the other side by a determined need for honesty and truthfulness.  So what happens then?  Paralysis.  Depending on the magnitude of the situation, it may take me days or even months to work through the fear-response enough to make an honest, non-fear-based response or decision, but by that time it usually no longer matters.

What’s more difficult than decisions are the responses I frequently get from people who assume motives behind my actions without even knowing me or speaking to me about it at all.  I often get passed off as flaky, uncaring, disinterested, or snobby simply because I’m momentarily incapable of speaking my mind, instantly organizing my millions of thoughts into words, or forming a decision in the moment it is asked of me.  I tend to see things in a variety of ways, with multiple meanings and outworkings, and from many different perspectives all at once.  When asked a direct question, I usually have to ask a few clarifying questions in return before I can know where to direct my thoughts at all.  To even form an opinion requires that I have all the facts and information up front; otherwise, I’m stuck and have nowhere to go.  Apparently, some people think I’m supposed to know everything without knowing anything at all.  (Talk about frustrating).  The truth is,  I often don’t know what I think about something until I’ve taken a long time to consider all the different options, given I have all the facts.  I certainly don’t know how I feel until I think and perhaps walk through multiple variations of the thing, and then think on that even more.  Come to think of it, it’s  a miracle to have a solid feeling or desire at all.  One that isn’t motivated by panic, fear, or trauma anyways.

How anyone assumes they know what I think is entirely beyond me, considering I almost never have enough information to think anything at all.  However, I’m learning that many people in my life have disliked this quality.  Many lose interest about three words in to an answer I may have, and don’t give a care about what I say once they realize I’m thinking my way through things instead of shouting out an immediate position.  It used to hurt me tremendously and make me feel as though there was something inherently wrong with me, but now I’m learning to value the quality.   Most people I meet throw their unthoughtful feelings around as indisputable fact; and though I try never to laugh at anyone to their face, that is usually the response I most desire to give.  I’ve learned it’s much better just to walk away.

Anyways, I do hope I will live long enough to see the day where I no longer fear decisions and speaking my true thoughts.  But until then, I’ll just keep working…and writing…through the internal battles that continual to wage.

To Hide And To Rest

“Then justice will dwell in the wilderness, and righteousness abide in the fruitful field.  And the effect of righteousness will be peace, and the result of righteousness, quietness and trust forever.  My people will abide in a peaceful habitation, in secure dwellings, and in quiet resting places.”

– Isaiah 32:16-18


I feel a few things when I read these words.  The first being excitement at the idea of justice dwelling “in the wilderness.”  If this world is anything, it’s a wilderness.  And of all the awful things that take place in this wilderness, such rampant injustice is one of the worst.  And I don’t just mean that which has happened to me – I mean that everywhere I look, there seems to be evil and injustice stealing love and peace from innocent people, the severity of which is far more upsetting than things that have happened to me.  It is without a doubt the hardest thing I struggle with.  Often enough, the only idea that brings me consolation is that justice and righteousness will, one day, overcome this deeply twisted world.  I certainly feel hope when I read of concepts like these.

As I continue reading though, my feelings begin to change.  It seems that words of peace, quietness, trust, security, and rest do not immediately produce any feeling at all and the excitement switches rather dramatically to a vague and far-away sense of confusion – as though I’m reading words of a language I do not know.  Yes, I can spell and even pronounce them correctly, but it’s disconnected as I have no idea how they’d look or feel.  The best I can manage is to think of scenes from movies and imagine the happy feelings that would embody those ideas.  But they’re imaginary to me.  I can’t think of a single memory or experience in which I actually felt peaceful or secure. If I have any, they were either illusions or have long since been forgotten.

The other day, I was having a conversation with God about some issues I currently face.  These issues directly effect my life and future, but I have not been allowed any control or influence over them.  No amount of action (or inaction) makes any difference at all, which leaves me feeling wildly fearful and out of control. After expressing these fears and frustrations to God, I asked what He wanted me to do and the only two words I felt in my spirit were the exact words I don’t know how to implement.  Those words were “hide” [in Him, not from life] and “rest.”

Ugh…really?  Of all times that ‘rest’ may seem like a reasonable achievement, this is most certainly not one.  My life and future are currently shrouded in darkness and hang in the balance of strangers I don’t even know.  Hell, I don’t even know how I’m going to feed myself next month. Every moment is ridden with anxiety, so this is most certainly not the time in which I would think, “Yay!  Let’s take a break!”  Quite the opposite.  Sheer panic is far more natural…and yet…God did not stutter.  In fact, the words rang in my spirit so loudly they may as well have been audible.  I can’t exactly pretend like I didn’t hear them.  (Well I suppose I could, but being a foolish idiot isn’t a flaw I particularly wish to add to my already long list.)

So… now I struggle.  To hide in Him and rest during the most anxiety-filled, out-of-my-control, world-altering season of my life is the exact opposite of everything I find natural. It also requires trust, which I fully believe was left entirely out of my genetic makeup.  To entrust myself (or my life, or my feelings, or my plans, or my future) to anyone outside myself has never come naturally, even before I encountered betrayal and trauma.  I even prefer the self-checkout at the store because it seems quite stupid to have another person do something for me that I’m fully capable of doing myself.  (In all fairness, that’s also because I find non-essential human interaction an annoying waste of time.)  My very first words were “me do it myself,” for crying out loud!

But back to my point… it takes an enormous amount of conscious effort and energy to act so counter-intuitively, which isn’t helped in the least by having PTSD. Even if I do manage a meager amount of trust that maybe, just maybe, things are going to be okay…random interactions trigger the PTSD and then all internal hell breaks loose. Feelings and memories I can’t control flood my body, setting off the fight-or-flight response which then takes hours, days, or even weeks to settle. And you never know when those triggers will get flipped, which is anxiety-producing in itself.  (And people wonder why I prefer to be alone.  Holy cow…believe me, it’s for the best.)

Anyways, when I think about it though, a lot of Jesus’ instructions are counter intuitive.  The last shall be first, the poor shall be rich, you must give to receive, and to lead you must serve.  To rest and have peace during the world’s worst hurricane is right in line with the rest of his teachings, and is clearly illustrated in many a Biblical story.  Remember when Jesus called Peter out of the boat and onto the crashing waves?  There was a storm on the sea and there Jesus is, walking on the water and beckoning Peter to come hang out with him.  You know, like it’s no big deal.  Peter begins to walk on the water but then begins to sink as he sees all the waves crashing around him.  Imagine the panic he must have felt at THAT moment.  Now imagine living in that state of panic for months and years on end.  Yeah…not cool.

But here’s the thing.  Maybe I was never meant to experience peace, quietness, trust, security, or rest as part of this broken world.  Maybe Christ, and “hiding” in Him, is the only place I will ever learn what those words mean – even while the world rages on around me.  I may be 30 years old, but I have absolutely zero experience with any of this so I might as well be a newborn.  But again, wouldn’t that be in line with scripture?  Being “born again” has a lot of implications…one of which is that no matter how old we are, following Christ is going to be a new start.  We are going to learn things we never knew or understood before and in losing our life to Him, we will truly find it.

For me, lessons in rest and trust are only now beginning, but I am committed to learning them.  I may not always have a clue what they mean or what they look like, and sometimes I legitimately think God has lost his ever-loving mind.  But I also don’t go back on my commitments which means I’m going to figure this thing out one way or another.  And in the meantime, pray that He sustains me as I fumble and crawl along this rocky path.