The Messy God

I think it starts with someone getting up there on a Sunday morning and acknowledging their brokenness, I said to him as we sat at a table at a local McDonald’s. We were sharing our brokenness with each other: him, the brokenness of his family; me, the brokenness of myself. We can’t fully and truly embrace each other until we know each other’s brokenness. 

. . .   

I’ve extended the olive branch many times, and it always ends the same way, he said. They’re angry at me.  

They’re not angry at you. They’re angry at the trauma, at the world, and they take their anger out on you because you’re a safe person. I do it all the time. I did it just last night to one of my safe people. I twisted his words and threw them back in his face, not because I was angry at him, but because I was angry—am angry—at myself, at the world, at God. Sometimes I wish secretly that he would just hate me because then it would validate the way I feel about myself, which I know is irrational and illogical because he chose to walk this journey with me. 

. . .  

Insanity is doing the same thing over and over again expecting different results. But isn’t that also sanity? Doing the same thing over and over again hoping that some good will come from it? I get up every morning hoping that the day will be better than the one before, that I’ll be able to handle whatever life throws my way better than I did the day before. Is that insanity? Or does that make me sane? Does my choice to live each day, to take each day as it comes, even if the day before was rough, even if I know this one also has a chance to be rough, make me insane?  

. . .  

It shouldn’t be like this. I shouldn’t be sitting at work and feel the need to press a knife to my wrist. Feeling nothing was easier because I could make myself feel by self-harming. Feeling everything is harder because it happens all of a sudden, without warning. 0 to 100 in the blink of an eye. It’s going to get harder before it gets better because until I allow myself to feel all the emotions I suppressed for years, my emotions won’t regulate themselves.  

. . .  

God found me at the altar. He was there waiting for me in the messy place. He met those guys in the fiery furnace and didn’t walk out with them. He was there waiting for them—in the mess, in the fire. He waits for us in the messy place, over and over and over again. Does that make God insane?  

I ran away from God, turned my back on God, got angry at God; and still, He waited for me in the messiness, in the brokenness, in the darkness, in the fire.  

Life is messy; healing is messy, but God gets down and dirty with us. I don’t know why He does what He does; why I am the way I am; why I’ve been through what I’ve been through; why there’s all this hurt in the world. But this I do know: God has shone the brightest in me in the midst of my pain and hurt. I’ve met people I wouldn’t have met, have grown stronger than I ever would have. I’ve been on my knees crying, and I’ve found my way back to the cross, back to where He was waiting for me all along.

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This is how you move forward

She’s one of the strongest young women I know, he said as they sat across from me, burying my face in my hands. Because despite what they were telling me, despite two of my biggest supports sitting across from me telling me, with tears in their eyes, I still didn’t think I was worth it.

I had signed the release form months ago: why shouldn’t a therapist be allowed to speak to a pastor, figure out the best plan to help me heal, cooperatively, emotionally and spiritually. Healing isn’t a one-man job. It takes a community. An army. A whole support of people. A group of ants can lift a potato chip. A group of people can lift a burden of years of hurt and trauma.

This is how you move forward.

I’m panicking about the future because I don’t know how to live for it, I said in his truck on the way back to work from the hospital.

Maybe you don’t live for the future. Maybe you live for the present, the current moment, he replied.

The current moment. The present. How does one live for the current moment without reverting back to the past? Without trying to frame it around the trauma? Without having the memories echo down the empty halls of the feelings I have at the moment?

Right now, I feel numb. But numbness doesn’t mean not healing. Healing means allowing yourself to feel all the feelings as they come.

This is how you move forward.

You learn to rely on your own strength–finding the balance between reaching out and reaching inward. Sometimes your biggest support lies within yourself. The strongest thing you can do is realize you are able to do this on your own. You have the skills within you, the support around you, and the love outside of you to make this happen.

I can make this happen.

This is how you move forward.

You realize that this isn’t going to be easy. I’m terrified right now. I don’t know what the future holds, but I’ve started to live for it: lying next to me on the couch as I write this is a dog, so dependent on me, she follows me into the bathroom. Monday, I had a conversation with another pastor about meeting God at the altar and turning things over to Him. And this pastor had so many things to say about my future–being a voice for the broken, writing and speaking the stories of people who don’t have the words to speak for themselves.

I never wanted to be any of those things. Never thought my brokenness could be used for good. Never thought beauty could come from my ashes. The future? The future is something I’m so unsure of.

This is how you move forward.

You acknowledge that the future can be terrifying, but you live because this life is beautiful, even if the road is long and dark up ahead.

This road is long and dark up ahead, but I see this light trying to push through like the sun after the rain, and that’s enough to keep me going. Because I don’t know what the future holds. But this I do know: I don’t walk this path alone.

This is how you move forward: you breathe. In and out. You take one step and then another. You get back up when you fall down.

You get a job. You buy a car. You get a job. You continue to go to therapy even though it hurts. You allow yourself to feel the pain, even if the pain tells you to give up.

This is how you move forward: you face each day, you face each unknown with the courage and determination that’s gotten you this far.

Because you’ve made it this far. And you can keep going.

 

God Friended Me

O Come to the altar, the Father’s arms are open wide. 

My heart stirred. A quiet voice was speaking to me, go to the altar. Let it out. Let it go. 

Please don’t make me do this, I hesitatingly prayed. I don’t want to be one of ‘those’ people—the hurting, the broken. What must it be like to be unafraid to come forward and kneel and ask for healing, for forgiveness? The truth is, I am one of ‘those’ people. I am hurting; I am broken. I don’t know how to be anything else.  

O Come to the altar, the Father’s arms are open wide. 

I made my way down to the altar, body shaking, trying to hold back the tears threatening to fill my eyes: I don’t want to be here. I don’t want to exist. I don’t want to be broken anymore. As I kneeled down at the altar, the dam broke: I started sobbing and shaking. I felt people gather around me, one on either side. And then, the pastor said words I never expected to hear, not at this church: I’m feeling God move in this place; those who are able, please come forward to the altar and gather around your brother and sisters. Step into the aisles as we become a family. 

O Come to the altar, the Father’s arms are open wide.  

It was in that moment that God moved, that the Holy Spirit moved, as people flooded around those kneeling, I felt one of my other pastor’s place his hand on my shoulder. I heard the voices of some of my biggest supporters whispering prayers behind me. And I felt God move. Sometimes I doubt God. Ok, actually a lot of the time I doubt God. But I always manage to find Him in the doubt, moving through me like the wind. Oh, there He is. 

O Come to the altar, the Father’s arms are open wide.  

Last week, I relapsed. Hard. I cut myself badly enough that it could’ve killed me, should’ve killed me. And I felt guilty. And I felt dirty. And I felt unforgiveable. But God, God met me where I was, kneeling at the altar, tears streaming down my face, my brokenness and shame on display for everybody to see. And He didn’t judge. And He didn’t leave. And He didn’t call me unlovable. He opened His arms and said, Oh, there you are. I’ve been waiting for you. 

O Come to the altar, the Father’s arms are open wide. 

I felt God move in that place, in the sanctuary with a hundred of my closest friends gathered around me, around us. In that moment, I let it go: the guilt, the anger, the shame. I let the miscarriage go. I handed it over to God, and He whispered, Finally. 

There’s still a lot of work for me to do, things for me to let go of, things for me to hand over to God. I’m codependent. I feel as though my only two choices are self-harm and suicide. There’s so much pain and heartache. But sometimes it’s not about what God’s going to do in your life; it’s about what He’s already done in your life. God trusts you enough to make it through the difficult moments, so He can make beauty out of the ashes. He makes ministry out of misery. He uses broken people to help broken people because we’re all broken in some way.  

He changed my life yesterday. It took five minutes at the altar, kneeling, panicking with, tears streaming down my face. People whispered in my ear, I love you. I’m praying for you. For the first time, I believed them.  

God was felt in that place yesterday.  

As I got up from the altar and started to walk away, I was embraced with so much love by so many people. I have never been more acutely aware of the fact that I’m not doing this alone. We are not doing this alone.  

God friended me yesterday. He’ll friend you too.  

Kneeling at the altar. Crying in your bed. Driving in your car. Walking through the woods. He’ll meet you where you are. He’ll love you as you are. And when you turn your eyes towards Him and surrender your burdens, He’ll say, without judgement, finally.  

This is not what I wanted to write.

I don’t know what I wanted to write, but this wasn’t it. I started writing about trauma and memory loss and how four years of my life are missing. Then it was a poem about OCD and WebMD and how, like oil and water, they don’t mix.

And now it’s this. What is this?

I don’t know exactly.

It’s confusion and pain and anger. It’s me trying to make sense of the mess going on in my head. If you heard the conversation between my anxiety, my OCD, my depression, and me, you’d laugh too. Or go crazy.

Maybe I’m crazy.

I told him that once, sitting in his office, as we discussed God and trauma. Maybe I’m crazy for believing that there can be a God in spite of what happened to me. Maybe I’m crazy for feeling the need to drive into trees, for feeling the insatiable urge to cut my wrists open and watch them bleed.

Maybe, he replied, we’re all a little crazy.

Is craziness doing the same thing over and over expecting different results, i.e., insanity. Or is craziness not having it all together, pretending to be ok when all you want to do is collapse into a pool of nothingness.

Nothingness.

Nothingness sounds good right about now. I have to feel things in order to heal.

Heal. Heal. I want so badly to heal. Right now, I’m angry. I’m sad. I’m hurting.

I’m hurting, and I want so badly to just stop. Maybe self-harming would help.

No. That’s dumb. That won’t accomplish anything except more pain.

Is it the OCD telling me I need to cut?

cut. cut. cut out like paper dolls. strungtogethersodelicately.

Delicately, some days I feel like I’m hanging on by a thread. Somedays I’m afraid that the thread tethering me to sanity will break

and

i’ll

fall

fall

fall

down

into

nothingness.

I’m a frayed knot.

This isn’t how it’s supposed to go. It shouldn’t hurt this bad. I’m celebrating how far I’ve come, celebrating recovery and all that means.

Yet still. Still I hurt. And I question. And maybe I search for answers in all the wrong places, but this thread hasn’t broken yet.

Still. Be still.

Be still and know.

I know.

I’m ok.

I’m 4-years-old, seeing a dead body for the first time.

I’m 5-years-old, having my body traced discreetly on the ride home.

I’m 6-years-old, wondering what it would be like to be dead.

I’m 13-years-old, wondering if I’ll forever be dirty like they said.

I’m 24-years-old, trying to undo what’s been done, trying to accept that I’ll never be what I’m not.

But I still hope there’s more than this: more than pain, more than suicide, more than self-harm.

Will I ever again be able to sleep without fear? Not have parts of me try to race me to the grave? Will I ever really be ok in my own skin?

Forgiveness is not forgetting. It’s letting go.

Progress is not forgiveness.

Maybe progress is what this is: taking my racing thoughts and writing them out.

Progress is breathing.

Breathe in.

Breathe out.

Just. Just be.