Those around me protect me fiercely. Everyone who knows me and loves me seems to manifest a strong commitment to safeguard me against unnecessary and difficult situations, emotions, and physical settings. I am thankful for their compassion, awareness of my fragile physical state and how dysregulation can trigger terrible flares for me. I know that many chronically ill individuals are not as fortunate as I am, and that they find themselves surrounded by friends and family who do not honor or respect their physical limits. In my life, I am the only person who does not respect my physical boundaries. Even my therapist proceeds through each session cautiously, in order to protect my heart from unnecessary and overwhelming stress, throwing it into SVT’s or unmanageable tachycardia (It turns out that extreme emotions actually can be hazardous for my health).
With my protective mechanisms fully engaged, surrounded by loved ones who also compassionately desire to protect me, and in the midst of a deeply emotional, grief-filled season of life, I hear God whispering to my heart that He is preparing me for a great work of the Spirit. And I grab onto my seat for dear life.
How will I survive this?
What if I miss it in my self-protective auto-pilot?
I’m too tired to embark on this new adventure, so I need you to heal my body first.
Seriously, God, I just need a break.
And yet, the winds of the Spirit are leading my heart to a new song that I have yet to learn. The Lord is leading in, and through the voices of individuals in my life, through scripture, through unexpected life transitions, through deep soul dissatisfaction, and through books that I have haphazardly stumbled upon, I hear this promise:
“This place is too cramped for me. Make room so that I may live there.” Isaiah 49:20b
“Behold, I am doing a new thing; now it will spring forth; Will you not be aware of it? I will even make a roadway in the wilderness, rivers in the desert.” Isaiah 43: 19
I am terrified; And I’m at peace. Can those two emotions happen together? Because they are happening together in my head and heart.
My head is scared; My heart is at peace.
Now I need to find a way to surrender my head to the Lord of my heart. Lately, meaning, in the past year, these new things that God is calling me into are big, bad, massively intimidating steps of obedience, like preaching a 30-minute sermon to a room of over 100 individuals, or leading five songs as the stand-in worship pastor. And both of these acts of crazy, radical, Xanax-requiring obedience took place during weeks marked by pneumonia, fevers, multiple daily episodes of passing out, and scary-level medical crises. Honestly, my commitment to these invitations to serve did not make rational sense considering my health issues. The impossible had to happen (the lessening of the severity of my physical symptoms) long enough for me to be able to stay upright on stage for the duration of my act of obedience.
And the impossible did happen.
This statement leads me to call to mind my word of 2019: impossible.
Maybe we should just rename 2019 “mission impossible”. Because this impossible gig is no joke. And here’s the thing about God’s callings: He seems to equip us in our moment of obedience, not before. In my experience, I have to step out in faith, and then God provides the miracle. Also, both Old and New Testament seem to demonstrate this pattern of God’s faithfulness in light of His peoples’ obedience. God calls His people to do something totally nutty, and He promises to provide for and empower His beloveds. But they are going to look like fools, their stomachs will drop and then ping-pong straight up to their throats. They will get the runs because, well, our handy-dandy fight-flight-freeze-poop response that our brain stem so faithfully delivers to us. They will see their lives flash before their eyes, and then they will choose to return their gaze back to the Author and Finisher of their faith as they cry, “Lord, save me!”
And He does save them. He empowers them. He performs the impossible in direct response to His children’s obedience. But not before.
I think it gets a little bit easier with practice: Like a smidge. Maybe it will keep getting easier; Or maybe stepping out into the humanly impossible will always take my breath away. But seeing God get the glory when once again, He shows Himself to be the God of the impossible, it’s always worth it.
I’m not sure exactly what glory is stirring under the surface of our current heartbreak and grief;
I’m not sure what the impossible calling will look like or how God will choose to communicate it;
I’m not sure if it will be sudden or gradual.
But I know my God. I know He is faithful. I know that what was written in Deuteronomy 7:9- 10 is always true, even to the end of the world:
“ Know therefore that the Lord your God, He is God, the faithful God, who keeps His covenant and His lovingkindness to a thousandth generation with those who love Him and keep His commandments.”
He’s never failed me yet.
He never failed me through a painful, tormented childhood: He was there, making His presence known when I felt forsaken and abandoned.
He never failed me through nearly two decades of anorexia, three suicide attempts, and the deep darkness of the inner torment of mental illness: He was stirring the Spirit inside of me, drawing me back to Himself slowly, gently, and patiently, sparing my life when there was no good physical reason for me to have survived near-fatal circumstances over and over again.
He never failed me through the agony of healing and heart-wrenching work of facing the realities that I had long hidden in the dark closets of my mind: He gently, graciously, showed me my friend Jesus who had been with me my whole life, caring and nurturing a scared, broken little girl.
He never failed me as we navigated the loss of our first child: In the midst of soul-crushing grief, the Spirit sprinkled moments of lightness and unexplainable joy, filling in the cracks with hope, redemption, and deeper intimacy in our marriage, and ultimately, opened up doors for our sweet Lily and Elijah.
He never failed me in the development of life-altering chronic illness, which has left me often home-bound and unquestionably disabled, daily re-writing my expectations of motherhood: He has used the deepest pain to heal me in ways that I never knew possible. God has impossibly managed to use the blinding pain of never-ending illness as the wrapping paper for the most beautiful present I have ever received: The gift of presence. He has used this affliction to heal me of a thousand and one greater afflictions: Some, I didn’t even know to be areas of brokenness.
Honestly, I have at least 500 more personal life scenarios demonstrating God’s faithfulness, as does scripture, but once I exceed a certain word count, I know it can be tedious on your eyes, but I know you, fellow Christ-follower, also have your own book of God’s faithfulness.
And so, we march on: Into the great unknown. We go forward into the unknown that is fully known by our Lord. And when our unknown is fully known by our best friend Jesus because He is already there, we don’t have to be afraid. When we are rooted and established in Christ, we are fully known, fully loved, and fully secure in death, in life, and in everything in between.