Ironically, I'm not good at waiting.
Don't get me wrong, I'm better than I was. But I'm nowhere near the patient saints who suffer daily with strong faith and don't ever doubt or get angry at God. In fact, I shut down toward God sometimes.
Like today. Today I couldn't even breathe a prayer. I couldn't even read the words of comfort in scripture because the comfort feels hollow and unreal to me right now, like something that's made up to make me go on. All I feel is raw pain. Everything feels and looks as if God doesn’t care about my heart’s cry, what's happening to my family, what’s happening to my life. It appears as if he is allowing us to be devoured. I cry out with the psalmist who wrote 74-- as if these were my own words--
"We are given no miraculous signs; no prophets are left, and none of us knows how long this will be. How long will the enemy mock you, O God? Will the foe revile your name forever? Why do you hold back your hand, your right hand? Take it from the folds of your garment and destroy them!"
"Do not hand over the life of your dove to wild beasts; do not forget the lives of your afflicted people forever."
How many times have I tossed these words up to heaven only to feel as if they are pebbles that come falling back down on my head? My feelings. My feelings are the problem here. What I see and hear and perceive is what blocks me from fellowship with God. I feel like my glass of emotion is full of liquid pain overflowing, leaving no room for any other sensation. I'm either trying to numb myself, and failing, or I must succumb to being a paralyzed patient under the knife. No control. None of my cries are heard. The cutting just continues.
So that is today's landscape on my journey of waiting-- the waiting that grinds like an old woman needing a hip replacement-- bone on bone, with each step eroding the very support that keeps you upright. Sometimes I wonder if I'm really becoming more like God in this fiery furnace, or if in fact, I'm slowly being destroyed, watching helplessly as the ship of my life goes down. All I can claim at this moment is that Jesus is Christ, and I have decided to trust him. I can make a claim of decision of the will and testify to his faithfulness of the past. It is a naked, vulnerable faith, stripped of feelings, answers, or extras, but somehow it is still there... A weather beaten tree still standing, in the flood waters and hurricane winds, rooted deep.
When I was a kid, I absolutely hated waiting, as I'm sure most kids do. I took it to a new level though. I wasn't just counting down days till Christmas. I was so impatient that I ate warm bread because I couldn't wait for the toaster's cycle to finish. Whenever it was possible, I would cut corners, ride my bike over the curb, and take the shortcut, just to arrive at my destination as soon as possible. But what always happened when I reached that destination? I started looking for the next one. Reaching those goals never completely fulfilled me. In fact, if I'm honest, I was pretty disappointed by some holidays, some relationships, some cold foods I couldn't wait to heat. The desire for quick satisfaction held me as a prisoner, and all I could see was getting the next achievement, the next place of fulfillment. Fulfillment never quite came.
When I graduated from college, I didn't know what to do with myself. For so long I had always been told what the next goal should be and what I needed to do to reach it. The waiting of completing my education had seemed overwhelming, and I felt it was something I'd been working toward "forever." When I suddenly found myself with choices, options, and no set direction for the first time, I panicked. Whatever I chose to do next would determine my happiness, my life's new path. But I didn't have a clue what made me happy. I'd always done what was expected of me. I didn't know what my life should be about. Sure, I loved God, but that wasn't a career, it was faith. I had tough choices to make, and I asked God about them, but no clear answer seemed to come. As time ticked away and deadlines approached, I had to decide what I wanted to work for and do it.
I was already on my way to finishing a master's degree after summer research and extra credits under my belt, so I figured I would think about my career plans as I completed experiments and started my thesis. But working there just made things harder and more confusing. I wanted to please my boss by continuing with more graduate work. I was told over and over how much promise I had. I had a set path before me that could give me security and delay me having to make any real choices for myself. I had guaranteed funding, though not as much as a salary. I had the knowns, the secure, the familiar. I had been doing ok so far, but that's all I'd ever known.
What if I'd be happier doing something else? In another lab? Another school? What if I'd be happy starting a job like some of my friends? Gaining independence, getting a nice apartment? What if...just what if...I should go to medical school like I wanted to when I started college? Nothing seemed clear. The harder I thought about it, it seemed like the harder things got for me. I felt like I was walking in mud. My thoughts weren't clear. I was tired. I was very very tired.
When I got the flu that winter, the first thing I should have done was take it easy. I'd already had health challenges in the past (which is a whole other story for another day). But I didn't take it easy. I didn't listen to my body. I didn't listen to God.
Slow down, Kristen. Tune into me. I want your love. I want you to be in love with me.
These things were constantly going through my heart at this time, but I felt this pressure to be more, to do more. I was gradually descending. And as my aspirations for career swirled and grew in my head, I became even less able to do what little I was doing. I didn't want to wait to get better. I wanted a quick fix.
My grandpa was terminally ill then. He had been sick for 5 years at that time and had heart disease, kidney problems, and dementia. My mom and grandma were at the breaking point taking care of him. He was very difficult and required round the clock attention. I tried to help out when I could, but this just added to the considerable strain on my body. I wondered why I couldn't keep up.
One day I took some laundry over to my grandparents' before work because my mom was sick. I was already hours late for my job, once again taking advantage of the flexible hours we could keep. However, when I finally arrived, the air was thick and unusually quiet with a buzzing that made me uneasy. I got the polite hellos. I had been the topic of conversation. An email landed in my box later, and a conversation took place that made me shake from stress. My chronic late arrivals had been pointed out to the boss. I was told I needed to get my act together.
I panicked, not knowing what to do, not knowing how everyone else could keep up when I suddenly could not. I tried to remedy the situation by getting even less sleep, taking more cold medication, and trying to get an antibiotic-- anything that would get me back on top again. Nothing worked. I was a congested zombie there at 9 on the nose, with nothing to show for my days but a trash can full of dirty Kleenexes, some emails, and the darkest emptiness and confusion in my heart-- a feeling that no matter how hard I tried, it was never enough.
I had a class that semester which would run into early evenings, and in order to gather enough strength to drive myself home, I had to sleep for a few hours in my new boyfriend's dorm room. I was like a lead marionette walking through a Jello world. Every move of my arms, every thought was thick and heavy. I didn't know why I couldn't shake this illness. For months it just hung on. The dizziness, the fatigue, the headaches, the muscle pain all lingered along with the stuffy nose.
I was powerless to stop what was happening. I couldn't speed up my healing. I couldn't pop that toaster button and just eat the bread raw. This illness was out of my hands, and it was leading up to a lesson in waiting and reprioritizing that I couldn't avoid. Looking back, it's nothing compared to the current circumstances and the waiting I'm doing today, but at the time, it was everything holding me back from a "bright future."
I was nearing the edge of a cliff, and as much as I was aware I was struggling, I never saw that pit coming.