I’ve been pretty quiet here in Blogland for the past few months. Yes, sure I’ve been busy. Really busy sometimes even. But more than that, I’ve been fighting a monumental inner battle that left me feeling like I didn’t have anything to say; at least certainly nothing that would be inspiring or encouraging. If anything I felt like sharing my struggles may actually be a discouragement or stumbling block to others. I’ve never been about keeping secrets, but sometimes we just aren’t ready to talk about things when they are raw. Now that I am slowly emerging from the abyss, I can see how trying to share my experience might actually resonate with others’ experiences. So here’s where it gets real all up in here.
About a week after my last post I had to go to the ER for abdominal pain and dehydration caused by a severe and sudden worsening of the ulcerative colitis flare I was having. I had to start corticosteroids again to try to get things back under control, and even on high doses things did not improve quickly. I was shattered, confused, angry. Here I have been following this uber strict diet like a fanatical maniac for a whole year because I truly believed that God led me to it, that He wanted me to do it, and that He was using it as a tool to bring me complete healing. My part was to be self-disciplined and willing to sacrifice; not so I could heal myself, but so that He could heal me and grow me all at once. It felt so unfair! I had done everything “right”! Somehow, in the midst of my flare, everything I thought I knew and trusted and felt sure about scattered into complete confusion. Had I somehow heard Him wrong or missed a critical part of the instructions? Had every victory that seemed to be confirmation that I was going down the right path just been a teaser? Is God really good? Does He really care? Can I trust His promises in the Bible? They can seem so black and white, and yet over and over I have done “A” and yet “B” doesn’t happen. What gives!? Why does He speak in parables? Why can’t He just come right out and say, “Do exactly this ______.” (fill in whatever “this” may be)? Can I trust anything I hear Him leading me to? I am telling you, I was rocked, people! I was ashamed by how deeply my faith was shaken.
A yawning distance grew in my heart between me and God. I absolutely still believed He existed, yet there was a huge chasm between us. Have you ever felt profoundly angry and simultaneously profoundly sad? That is how I felt. For weeks. And weeks. I felt as though I had lost Him. The closeness and intimacy and safety of our relationship; the one thing I believed I could NEVER lose; the one thing that mattered more to me than anything else in the world – lost. Yes, I cried out to Him. Yes, I yelled at Him and told Him all the reasons I was angry, and how I felt I couldn’t trust Him, and how I felt betrayed, abandoned, and stranded, and why doesn’t He just say what He means. Not because I have any right to be angry at God or yell at Him, but because He knows it’s in my heart anyway, and trying to hide it will only widen the chasm. I tried reading my Bible. I tried listening to worship music. All I felt was numb and hopeless. I had the hardest time praying because it felt pointless. All I heard was silence. For the first time in my life, I understood what it feels like to want to wholeheartedly believe, but not be able to fully surrender. To not just feel like I was in a valley I would eventually come out of, but to truly feel like I had lost my faith. To feel like God exists but only as a distant figure. I fought for my faith the best I could, and I tried to shake my negative attitude, but I couldn’t close the gap. I had felt like I understood the work He was doing, and the encouragement He wanted me to bring to others through it. I felt as though I had not only lost Him, I had lost my purpose as well.
You may not know this about me, but I can be pretty stubborn, and I’m ashamed to say fairly self-righteous at times also. I think really deeply about things. Ok, let’s be honest, I over-think things… to death and sometimes to the point of nearly losing my sanity! I also research and research and research some more. So, I have at times fallen into the trap of believing that I’ve got quite a few things figured out because hey, if there’s an angle, I’ve already explored it. Needless to say, when I first started the diet and everything breezed along so beautifully and all of the pieces fell into place and started to make sense, I thought I had God’s plan figured out. To say that facing a severe flare a year into this thing threw me for a loop would be a huge understatement.
So the other day I’m alone driving in the car listening to my kids’ vacation Bible school CD (don’t judge), and the song my daughter’s class performed for the parents on the last day of VBS is playing. “Oh happy day,” the song goes and I have this mental vision of my daughter on stage jumping up and down and spinning around with her arms waving above her head without the least bit of shame. A huge smile flashes across my face and then is almost immediately replaced by a sad, furrowed brow, and a pang of missing that feeling in God’s presence. Out of nowhere, a thought comes to mind, “Just because you can’t understand it, doesn’t mean it isn’t part of God’s plan. His good plan.” Of course I had logically thought this already many times before, but this time I could feel the Holy Spirit saying it to me and it hit me on a soul level. Something finally started to break inside. I actually felt my spirit rise and worship as I sang along. “Oh, happy day, happy da-aaay, forever I am changed!”
Later that evening as I opened and closed the fridge for the umpteenth time that day, my eyes landed with purposeful focus on this magnet.
It was a Christmas gift from my mentor mom at MOPS. She had bought enough magnets for all of the ladies at our table and each one was a different word. She wrapped them in unlabeled bags, and handed them out randomly saying that she hoped everyone would just get whichever one they needed. To be honest, I was a little disappointed when I opened mine. Believe. Believing wasn’t something that was hard for me. I was sure I was supposed to get one of the other ones. “Hope” would have been better. Yes, I could always use hope to continue the battle with my illness. How about “Peace”? That would have been quite fitting considering my lifelong struggle with anxiety. “Believe” just didn’t really seem to fit. Oh well, it was still pretty and a gift from a dear friend, so on the fridge it went, and so it has sat mostly unnoticed since last Christmas. Then all of sudden the other night I’m standing there just staring at it like God has me by the shoulders and is shaking me. B E L I E V E!
Two little experiences, so small, and yet so big because I have missed this feeling of God speaking to me tremendously. The way He suddenly makes me focus on a thought or something I’m reading or hearing and makes it come alive. It’s like I’ve been holding my breath and now I’m letting it out going, “There you are! You’re here God, aren’t you? You’ve been here all along. Help me to believe no matter what happens. Beyond believing that you exist. Believing that you are in the details of my life working all things for good. I don’t need to understand everything, agree with it, or think it’s fair. I don’t have to figure it out. I just need to believe. I can’t do it alone. Help me believe.”