Last evening I posted probably one of the most difficult posts I’ve ever written. It was a lament. Fairly raw. Honest. Not overly filtered.
The entire time there was a part of me that wanted to cheer it up with some white-washed scripture. Something positive and reassuring and… ultimately, in the circumstances, pithy.
But I couldn’t.
And not because I was trying to hold on to good theology.
It was, rather, because I was too worn. Too broken. Scriptural truths (in context or not) were simply slipping like water from my grasp.
And yet, as we almost always find with laments in the Bible, I could not close without a reaffirmation of trust and truths that are so engrained within me that their presence is known even when all else falls apart.
Those four sentences were a struggle.
And yet they were just as raw and honest as the rest.
So I hit the publish button and I brushed my teeth and turned down my bed. And before I put my computer to sleep I opened up iTunes to my morning exercise playlist. And when I got my pjs out to put on, I placed my exercise clothes on the bookcase.
Just like every night.
I also had my tea pot warmer and cup ready on my desk along with the BIC lighter that I use to light my candles when I get up on time to write in the mornings.
And then I realized what I was doing.
I said it aloud. To myself. To God. I didn’t believe the morning would bring the ability to move about and stretch and exercise and I didn’t believe I’d be able to get up and around early enough to have some book time. There was no hope for a better morning.
But I still prepared for it.
Because it is habit to do those things.
And that’s when a new thought struck me: Maybe hope is a habit.
And I crawled into bed, with heat on my pressure-filled, aching ears. And I carefully placed my head on the pillow so as to not incite dizziness. And my weary body sunk into the warmth and comfort of my bed.
And I struggled to focus on my memorized evening daily office prayers.
And that’s when God’s Spirit offered flashback images, reminders and new thoughts.
Because yesterday I just wanted to stay in bed and sleep off symptoms and cry. All day. But I went to work. (Well, Dad drove me.) And though I may not have gotten much actual work done (for more reasons than just my health – it was an unusually busy-with-people day), I was there.
And when I came home I crashed for a 2 hour nap, waking at 5 to my parents wondering what was going on for dinner. They could see I was not in a good place. They even offered to take me out to one of my favorite places. Mom asked me what I wanted to do. What I felt like doing for dinner.
“I feel like eating ice cream and going to bed,” was my honest response from my ever-sore throat and ever-weary body. “But instead I’m going to help you (help me) make dinner as best I can. And I’m going to enjoy the strawberry-chicken-spinach salad more once it’s in my mouth than I can currently imagine I will. And then I’m going to enjoy a half cup of strawberry ice cream. And then I’m going to make that Norwex call. And get that e-vite for another hostess out. And maybe write a blog post. And then I’m going to bed.”
And that’s exactly what I did.
Right down to enjoying the brilliantly combined flavors of the strawberry-chicken-spinach salad once they were in my mouth.
And so as I was in bed a few hours later, I was reminded of these things.
That perhaps I still have hope even when I don’t feel hopeful.
That perhaps God is still building character in me even when I feel I am lacking, slipping.
That perhaps I am still persevering even when I feel lethargic, apathetic and threadbare and like I’m slo-mo falling backwards rather than pressing forwards.
And maybe this is what it means to be held.
To be sustained by God.
To be formed by His Spirit.
To let go of my ideals, my pride and my striving.
Maybe this is what C.S. Lewis was referring to in The Screwtape Letters when he mentions obedience in the face of nothingness-of-desire.
“Our cause is never more in danger than when a human, no longer desiring, but still intending, to do our Enemy’s will, looks round upon a universe from which every trace of Him seems to have vanished, and asks why he has been forsaken, and still obeys.”
I had always pictured living out that philosophy—that encouragement—victoriously. Defiantly.
A strong warrior’s cry deep within. I will do what is right! I will do what is asked! I will not let the enemy win! I will battle on! I will persevere!
Like a movie montage highlighting the strenuous striving, sweaty effort and dogged determination of a warrior or fighter or athlete or overcomer, set in snippets and run together in moments what in reality takes months or years, all set to inspiring music like Eye of the Tiger or Chariots of Fire.
But maybe it’s not always like that.
Maybe it’s most often not like that.
There was no defiant cry last night. No striving. No battle cry.
Just a weary resignation to do what I had no desire to do.
And so I think of Bonhoeffer’s words and I wonder if I am “like a beaten army, fleeing in disorder from victory already achieved.”
When I set to choreograph that poem as a mime piece, one of the first and easiest parts, and the image that sticks with me the most even now, was that line.
Fleeing in disorder.
I slow-mo’ed into a running statue.
From victory already achieved.
With each beat I transformed the running statue into a cross.
The cross is the victory achieved.
God’s incarnation. God’s sacrifice. God’s work.
Maybe there are no movie montages for me.
Maybe there are no valiant battle cries or enemy-defiant shouts.
Maybe there is no earthly healing.
Maybe there is little to no seeing on my part of perseverance, of character, of hope.
Maybe there is only Jesus.
And maybe that’s okay.
Maybe then, in my failures and in my frailty… in my weariness and in my weakness… in my apathy and in my honesty… in my shameful brokenness… maybe then Jesus shines through.
Maybe then others can see what God is doing in and for me.
Because I am often blind to it.
And maybe that’s okay.
And maybe that’s what it means to be held.
And maybe hope is a habit not of my doing, but worked and sustained by the one in Whom I abide and Who abides in me, keeping me connected by grace to the vine that sustains and causes me to bear fruit.
Even when I can neither see nor feel it.