Wednesday, September 10, 2014

A Broken Offering

Well... it's back. The heart-pounding, the heavy chest, the surge of adrenaline for seemingly no reason. The weighty sense of doom and lack of oxygen. I've been waiting all through the last 14 months, anticipating the return, watching with nervous eyes. Of all the times in all the lives, this would be the time. This would be the life. But it's stayed at bay, I think possibly because my body knew I couldn't handle one more thing. And now that life has slowed, the crises have passed, the mountains have been scaled... now the panic comes. Now the anxiety returns. Now the attacks hit and wash over me rapid-fire.

Yes, I am seeing my doctor. Yes, I have told my people and they are both praying and reaching out, arms wide and welcoming, familiar, both with my struggles and with their own. You'd be amazed once you open your mouth to say, "This is where I am," how many people respond with, "Me too." Yes, I rest fully assured in the provision that God will provide for my family and how fiercely He will protect us. But the power of the mind? It isn't logical. The fears? They don't make sense. My triggers? The things that can send me into gasping fits? They don't add up. You can't talk yourself out of it. You can't reassure yourself through it. You just have to let it pass. You have to hold on, feel it, and let it move through you.

You might find this awkwardly personal, weird to share, to fling out into the ether for anyone to read. But this is my healing, my therapy, and I have neglected it lately. I talk it out and think it out and share it (albeit from the safety of my computer screen). But somehow that process heals me. It walks me through and teaches me and puts pieces back into place. So I'll tell you about where I am. And you have either been there and you will nod your head -- yes, yes -- or you have not and you will shake your head -- wow, gosh. But along the way, I hope you all see one thing shining very brightly in the distance: hope.

It feels like that moment when you realize you have made an incredible mistake. You have screwed up, and not just a little bit, but majorly. So majorly that you might actually lose everything. Every. Last. Thing. That sense of doom so powerful that you see no way past it, no way around it, no way to fix it. The only solution is to raise your hand and say, "Yes, I did mess every last thing up, and no, there is nothing I can do to fix it." That feeling, that sinking in the pit of your stomach -- that is what it feels like.

Or imagine you are trekking along a path in the woods, enjoying the light breezes wafting pine scent your way and the sweet songs of finches and sparrows. And you have your eyes fixed on the bend up ahead, fairly certain it is the last turn in the trail before you hit the summit. And as you come around that bend, instead of a bright open scape of mountain views, you come body-to-body with a grizzly bear. You cannot hide, and you cannot run. There he is and he has seen you. Your body smashes you with adrenaline and you know you will either fight or flee. Your heart speeds up and your stomach drops and you instantly feel sick and trapped and afraid -- that is what it feels like.

Except I haven't screwed up majorly and I haven't encountered a hungry bear on a remote trail. Instead, these feelings, these thoughts hit me while I'm, say, washing some dishes at my kitchen sink. Or sitting down to eat lunch. Or getting ready to leave for an appointment. It's not even anything specific, like being afraid of large groups or traffic or rainbows. It just hits and racks. It's chemical and hormonal and in no way based on my trust (or lack thereof) in God or my faith or how powerful or good I think He is. It is my body fighting an enemy that does not exist. And in so doing, creating a new enemy for me.

But it also creates a lot of cause of prayer and reflection. Appeals to God and appeals to others and I found myself in bed the other night thinking about being broken. And I thought to myself, Brokenness is not a barrier to the kingdom of heaven. Reassuring, I know my place before God is secure and cannot be knocked over by waves of anxiety and my inability to breathe. And I sat with that for a while. And it came to me. Brokenness is not a barrier to the kingdom of heaven. In fact, it is the only requirement.

"[Jesus] said to them, 'Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick. I came not to call the righteous, but sinners.'" (Mark 2:17) The Pharisees had wondered aloud why Jesus was hanging out with "sinful" people and this was His response to them. The added layer here is this: none of us are healthy. "No one is righteous, no, not one." (Romans 3:10) No a one of us in all the land or who has ever been in all the land is righteous. Not a single one. The Pharisees wonder why Jesus is hanging out with the "sick" (read: unrighteous) people when He could be hanging out with them (the healthy, righteous ones). Where they miss the mark is in not realizing that they too are sick. They've got it all together. They don't "need no doctor."

But Jesus said He came for the sick. He came for the "weary and heavy laden." He came to heal sores and stop bleeding and repair vision and make men walk. And every single time He performed a miracle like this, it was to draw attention to the power of God to heal the broken. The physical healing provided a platform to display the spiritual healing, the true reason for Jesus' ministry. And the only requirement to be healed by the Lord was to say, "Lord, I am sick." Several even had sick loved ones far away and asked the Lord to heal them and He did. Their faith was in His power to heal brokenness and their faith was well-placed.

So I raise my hand to the Lord, and I don't say, "Just hang in there with me God. I'll get this all sorted out soon." I don't say, "I know I was weak again, but next time I'll be strong." I say, "Lord, I am broken. I am broken and I cannot fix it. Have mercy on me, Lord." And not a one of us can know how the Lord will respond, whether He will chase away the fears and anxiety or whether they will accompany me until the end of my days. But I do know that the Doctor is in. I do know that my brokenness does not bar me entrance into His presence. I do know that all He requires of me is faith in Him.

And so here I am, frantic and panicked and scared and broken, but kneeling before the King. And the line that keeps ringing in my head is one I sang nearly weekly while in college and one that blew my little mind the first time I sang it and one that I will never, ever, not as long as I live, forget: "If you tarry til you're better, you will never come at all." If you wait until you get it all in line, until you get it figured out, until you feel like you are "fixed", you will never come. You will never approach the throne. You will never feel worthy to come before the King. "Not the righteous, not the righteous, sinners Jesus came to call."

And so I do not let my brokenness bar me. I do not let my brokenness hold me away. I do not let my brokenness come between me and the King. Instead, I hold my brokenness out in my hands like an offering, like an offering of praise, as a way of saying, "Heal me, Healer." And when I offer it to Him, when I trust Him with it, when I lay down what would be my way and instead walk His, I find life. I find peace that stands secure. I find a hold in the storm. And I don't, not for one second, let go.