I tried to write this post a few weeks ago, but it just wouldn’t come out. You call it fear, I’ll call it writer’s block – tomayto, tomahto, let’s move on.
It was going to be another post about “life is hard, but God is good”. I wanted to write (again) as (another) reminder to myself that God would continue to strengthen me to carry the burden. But the truth is I just wanted the burden removed. I felt like His decision to give me strength instead of relief was a solution resulting from distance – like He didn’t really, really understand how finished I was.
I didn’t come right out and tell Him He was wrong. My head knew better than that. But my heart felt a little bit shunned. Why wasn’t He seeing my deepest pain and meeting my deepest need? If He truly knew how battered I was, He would rescue me from the battle, not throw some more armour on me and push me back into the fray.
So I started to write (again). I hoped (again) that at the very least, perhaps being honest about my struggle would encourage someone else out there who was living a similar struggle. But it just sounded like all the same stuff I’ve written before and the lack of progress seemed more discouraging than uplifting. So instead I wrote about energy drinks, bad drivers, and James Bond.
And I started working on my exit strategy.
No, I wasn’t about to off anybody. I just needed to find a way to quit with integrity. I was on the brink, I’m telling you. And my husband was there with me. Almost. He convinced me to wait a week. I didn’t see how one week would make a hill o’ beans of difference at this point, but fine. I waited. And I read my Bible (because that’s what good Christian girls do when they’re lost) – mostly searching for passages about God slaying the bad guys, and reminders to the early church to stay away from evil-doers. Oh, and the Psalms were good, too. David didn’t hold anything back when it came to telling God how he felt; I was on board with that!
I didn’t pray a lot. Not what we usually think of as prayer, anyway. I’d said all I wanted to say already and I couldn’t keep rehashing it. So I was just with God. Hoping that He was doing something, but kind of expecting the week to play out so I could get on with my plans.
But then something shifted. I was (and still am) hesitant to call it a turning point. We’ve hit rock-bottom too many times and desperately wanted to label it as a U-turn moment, only to find lower rocks the next week or the next month. This time feels different.
It has nothing to do with me. I didn’t find some miraculous new parenting technique. I haven’t overcome my anger issues. I didn’t log a magical number of hours of heaven-stirring prayers. I had just given up – and not a “spiritual” giving up that’s all about relinquishing control so God can take over. I was simply empty.
And it had nothing to do with the other people involved in our struggle. No one made a new commitment of faith or verbalized a resolve to do better or broke down crying about the mess they’d made of everyone’s life.
There was just a shift. It had to be God. The baking soda of His sovereignty met the vinegar of His intimacy and erupted in a fresh reality: He knows all and He knows me.
Now I’m writing from the other side. Now I can say with absolute certainty – the kind that comes from experiencing it, not just hoping for it – that when God decides to give strength instead of relief, He knows what He’s doing. And even when He only gives enough strength for this day or this hour, it is still enough. Surprise, surprise – God isn’t wrong!
I am rereading Donald Miller’s book A Million Miles in a Thousand Years. It is an introspective comparison between the makings of a great story in a book or a movie and the makings of a great story in how we live our lives. Character development, inciting incidents, obstacles to be faced and overcome… these are necessary elements to a great story. Miller moves from writing these elements onto a page to writing them into his life. And it’s brilliant.
One of the chapters is about Miller’s trek to Machu Picchu. He and some friends took the 4-day, 45-kilometre hike along the Inca Trail through Peru’s mountains and valleys, even though they could have reached Machu Picchu in a matter of hours via train. Of their arrival at the destination, he says this:
“We didn’t hike to the Sun Gate the next morning; we ran. We ran on blistered feet and sore legs. We got there, and it was fogged in, so we sat along the rock, on the ruins, and waited for the fog to burn off. We sat and sang songs. And it was like Carlos said, because you can take a bus to Machu Picchu; you can take a train and then a bus, and you can hike a mile to the Sun Gate. But the people who took the bus didn’t experience the city as we experienced the city. The pain made the city more beautiful. The story made us different characters than we would have been if we had skipped the story and showed up at the ending an easier way.”
When I read that the first time, I thought, “Yeah, that’s probably true. But I bet if a bus had been available two days into the hike, he’d have been happy to get on it and he still would’ve enjoyed the city.” When I read it again this week, I thought, “Yeah, that’s so true! It’s excruciating sometimes, that whole business of putting one foot in front of the other, over and over again. But the destination makes the hard journey worthwhile. The pain actually does make it more beautiful.”
I can’t say that we’ve fully arrived at our beautiful destination. I’m sure there are still mountains to climb. But I think I can pick up the pace a bit. And I can holler to the people who are further back on the path, “Keep going! The view from here is incredible!”