Normal life and my normal self died a few years ago. The problem is, I keep expecting my normal self to resurrect—to look out at me from the mirror again, to take up residency in my heart and home. I keep expecting to be who I was. . .and I keep getting surprised when I'm not that person anymore. The carefree, wide-eyed, faithful-to-have-quiet-time, thoughtful person I used to be sustained wounds so deep that she died. That person is buried under a pile of ashes. Cancer. Death. Divorce. Things that weren't supposed to touch my family torched us. Many of my own hopes and dreams have burnt out, adding their ash to the grave of the person I used to be.
i am desperate,
if nothing else,
in a holding pattern
to find myself.
i talk in circles,
i talk in circles,
i watch for signals,
for a clue.
how to feel different.
how to feel new.
How do I get out of this dichotomy? I so often behave in a way that I despise. I know the right thing to do, yet shrink from doing it. I want to go back to who I was or forward to feeling—to being—new. . . anything but this horrible stuck feeling, this stagnant 'living' I've been attempting. The holding pattern never becomes a flight plan and I'm getting desperate. Desperation can push us over the edge, can push us to depression, can push us into a rut, can push us into despising who we've become. In my desperation I've made rash decisions—hoping that a change in life-circumstances would change the dull ache, the incessant indifference into incandescent joy. Hoping I could go back to who was.
[But,] no one can unring this bell,
unsound this alarm, unbreak my heart new.
God knows, i am dissonance
waiting to be swiftly pulled into tune.
The echoes of the Fall reverberate in my heart, my thoughts, my whole life. . .and it can't be unrung. Carefree me has become careworn and careful—careful not to get hurt anymore. The more I try to gather up all the pieces, to hold them and order my own steps, the less disciplined, purposeful, and joy-filled I am. The more I grasp at control, the less of it I have. Life spins at a crazy pace with no stillness.
I am all dissonance, the wrong sounds at the wrong times. Saying 'no' when I want to say 'yes,' and 'yes' when I should say 'no' has emptied me. I keep running away from the open arms of Jesus, looking for acceptance from just about everyone else. It's never enough from anyone else, though. The more I look for acceptance from others, the less satisfied I am. Their acceptance rings hollow. All I want is for God to pull me into tune, into step with Him. But running my own way, singing my own song, makes it impossible to walk in step with, or be in tune with, God. My life feels like a cacophony in unconnected, chaotic bursts.
i know the further i go,
the harder i try, only keeps my eyes closed.
and somehow i’ve fallen in love
with this middle ground at the cost of my soul.
C S Lewis once made the observation that “We all want progress. But progress means getting nearer to the place where you want to be. And if you have taken a wrong turning, then to go forward does not get you any nearer. If you are on the wrong road, progress means doing an about-turn and walking back to the right road, and in that case, the man who turns back soonest is the most progressive man.” Indeed, I know that the more I run away, the more I 'try harder,' only plunges me further into the darkness of trying to control what only God can. I've fallen in love with mediocrity, inadequacy, and complacency at the cost of my soul. I've chosen indifference so many times that I can no longer feel. . .and I'm terrified of remaining thus.
yet i know, if i stepped aside,
released the controls, you would open my eyes.
that somehow, all of this mess
is just an attempt to know the worth of my life…
I want to reach back in time and unmake the mess my life and my soul have become. The more I try to experience meaning and depth, the less I can feel. My desire for control—so I can be free, so nothing else can hurt me—has spilled acid-like onto other people, burning them, hurting them, haunting me. I can't feel pain and empathy to much depth anymore—I've burnt myself out. I'm left with hands full of ashes. The ashes of relationships, the ashes of my emotions—a grey film between me and real life. Is this what being a leper feels like? To not feel. . .to not know I'm being burnt when I'm on fire?
The more I grasp at life, the more I try to hold onto meaning, the more I want to experience feelings, the more they flee and the less I have. Jesus was right, of course: Whoever loses his life for my sake will save it, but whoever insists on keeping his life will lose it... I keep insisting on life as I think I need it or want it. The more I do, the more enslaved I become. Rather than being satisfied, I am insatiable. Rather than being disciplined I am reckless. Rather than really loving God and others, I run from them and shut them out. Rather than being hurt, I wound—and am insensible to the pain I cause. The more I want to feel, the more indifferent I am. Must I remain enslaved to this dichotomy? Where does change come from? Because it certainly does not come from me or from trying harder.
Change comes like a breath of fresh air into a musty room—it comes from the hovering, order-bringing, healing Holy Spirit Himself. Change – renewal – can only ever come from God. The more I surrender control, the less chaotic life might be. When I submit myself to God, the enemy has to flee from me, and so I am free. This is the the true paradox: that I must submit to be made free, that surrender leads to life.
I cannot go back to my normal, carefree self. The quivering of the Fall has shaken my life. I have been rent, broken, and buried. But the Resurrection and the Life is at work in me. He has fallen into the ground and died, bearing much fruit—and He calls me, calls us, to do the same. The breath of life will not fill my lungs the same way it did. . .but perhaps the Breath is a person who will expand my breathing, who will give me deeper life—life etched by sorrow and shaped into something more Beautiful than carefree me could have been.
I'm desperate for new life. To be a string tightened into tune, no longer wanton but free to be in harmony. No. . . Not desperate. I am confident that there is Hope for new life, for retuning and renewal. That Hope is the Anchor for my soul, to keep me from spinning in the circles of a holding pattern. He holds me steady in the storm—and when the time is right, the Anchor is drawn up and the Wind is given full reign to guide the ship. All things have their times and seasons, their proper channels and right order. When the sail submits to the Anchor even in the storm, or to the Wind under the hand of the Captain, it is then the ship is most free.
1. Sleeping at Last (Ryan O'Neil), Mercury
2. C.S. Lewis, The Case for Christianity
3. Luke 9:24 TLB (The Living Bible copyright © 1971 by Tyndale House Foundation)