Friday, September 22, 2023

Enduring the Burden and Gift of Living

What's the bravest thing you ever did?

Getting up this morning.

Cormac McCarthy,  The Road

Be honest now, have you ever felt like this? I have...for many, many years. As a matter of fact, it's hard for me to remember a time when I haven't felt like this...

You see for years I have dealt with anxiety and depression, stealthy enemies that crept in and smothered my emotions and thoughts with fear and doubt. Too ashamed to talk about it, I did all I could to ignore and overcome them. My heart cry during that time was, I can’t find my way home so I labeled this season, The Dark Night of My Soul, though really it should’ve been, The Dark Days and Nights of My Soul.

During those years I carried guilt. What was wrong with me? I had so much to be thankful for! A beautiful home, a loving husband, kids and grandkids that brought joy, gardens, books, you name it, they were all a part of my life. But in the midst of all of the blessings there was always a knife, poised and ready to puncture a hole in any happiness or joy that dared to creep in. So I learned to dance very quickly, attempting to keep one step ahead of the despair and darkness. But at some point every dance becomes exhausting and you have to stop and rest. And that’s when I decided it was time to find my way home or I couldn’t go on.

There was a mantra that I would repeat to myself over and over again every day, Just do the next thing. Whether it was getting out of bed, walking through the bedroom door, taking the dog out, throwing in the laundry, there were many options of next things...things that made me feel I was alive and that there was a reason to go on living. But the journey looked long and hard and wearying. How long, Oh Lord...please, please meet me in the pain.

Why am I sharing this? Definitely not because I like to be vulnerable. But because I think there are others out there who are in the same situation and could use a word of hope. Like an infant starving for its bottle, arms flailing, frantic to find nourishment, we all want to be at rest and at home, not only in our own selves, but in the arms of the one Who loves us and is greater than anything we are experiencing.

So now is where I tell you about a book I recently discovered...a book that I wish I had years ago, though God knows it wasn't even written until this year: On Getting Out of Bed, The Burden and Gift of Living’ by Allen Noble. When I first saw it at Barnes and Noble I admit I thought, "How can any book so small be valuable? The answers I need would be contained in a tome of at least a thousand pages." So I walked away and left it there. When I got home it haunted me, so I looked it up online and read the reviews.  And parts of the book. And I knew...I knew it was the answer to my heart's cries all these years. It couldn't come in fast enough!

The book begins with two facts: First, that life IS hard. It can be so painful and monotonous and empty that we cannot begin to comprehend it until we are right in the middle of it and even then it doesn’t make sense. Human existence inescapably involves suffering. This suffering is the normal experience of being in this world. Beauty and love and joy are normal too, but so is suffering.  In a strange sort of way that brought me comfort, knowing that what I was feeling was normal!

Secondly, our being in the world counts for something…our choosing to get out of bed day after day after day says something…to ourselves and those watching us. It says that we are valuable, that our lives are valuable, that we are good because God declared it, even when it’s hard to go on, even when life doesn't feel good, even when goodness seems unimaginable. The bottom line is, life is valuable because God created it. You are valuable because God created you. And all He does is Good. We are not mistakes! Through our suffering and perseverance, through our rising and falling, choosing to trust Him one choice, one day, one action at a time, we testify to others there is value to living. No matter what.

Is life easy? I wish. At times it can be unbearably hard. The older I get the more I realize that I don’t have answers. I used to think I did…for everything. Once I knocked up against the truth that I can’t live my life on my own, that I desperately need not only a Savior but a Helper to guide me, it became normal and okay to be needy. And accepting that truth, along with my imperfections and weaknesses gives me the courage every day to wake up and turn to Him as my only Hope. This may seem weak, but really it’s empowering. Empowering enough to give me the courage to get out of bed one day at a time, acknowledging that He, and His Word and His Power have never failed. Never have. Never will.

I wish I could give you all the wisdom and truth of this book in my measly blog. But I can’t because it’s a story God needs to write on each of our hearts as He teaches us more about Himself and who we are in Him. I’m not sure we ever truly live until we know those things, and even then we will spend a lifetime coming to understand them.

I need to finish...before I thought of putting all of these ramblings down in this blog I sat in my rocker, caressing two heavy round rocks that I had found when we were up in Maine recently. I brought them home for the reason that they meant something to me, though at the time I’m not sure I understood what that was. One is a large wishing rock, dark on both ends with a wide, perfect, white line running around the middle. The other is a rock speckled with mica that glints in the sun. As I sat there rocking, I ran my hands running over them, feeling at peace. It was then that I realized that one of the reasons I chose those rocks was because of how well rounded and unique they were. I have always been fascinated by rounded rocks, softened sea glass, and polished shells and what it took to make them that way.

In that moment I heard the Holy Spirit whisper to me, ‘Your life is like these rocks. Your sufferings and trials and tribulations are rounding you out also, softening you, removing your rough edges. These rocks appeal to you because of what I have done in them. You can trust me to make something beautiful of your life, a work that will testify of my goodness, faithfulness, and love.’

So that is the gift I leave you with, my friends. The truth that no matter what we are going through, what our lives look like, He will work through it all and perfect that which concerns us. Because He is good. And He loves us. Forever and ever. Amen.

PS~ Get the book. You'll thank me for it. 

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