The days tick by one by one, and the utter lack of any sign of help can almost lull you into feeling it's never going to change. It comes back over and over-- the small but blatant acts of vandalism, the discovery of items missing, the signs of identity theft when starting up online banking, the mail tampering, the crashes and loud bangs at night, the tampered cameras, the footprints, handprints, the sound of rocks suddenly striking the bedroom window at 4am, the cigarette smoke smell that sometimes filters into my room at night...and the fears of bodily harm while we sleep.
I try very hard to escape mentally from this. It may appear on the outside like everything is ok. I can still physically smile and laugh and hold a conversation about regular things. I can detach myself from the reality of this living nightmare for certain parts of the day by immersing myself in other pursuits, but the fact is, the momentary anesthetic of it never lasts. My burdens are always on my back-- my short stops to rest do no good to lift this great weight I carry. It is enough to crush me.
When there is no belief and no support from the people who have the job to support and protect, then what defense is left but to bear the brunt of the storm alone? In my weakness and my illness, when I've had nothing left physically or emotionally, I've compared myself to being a paper bag wrapped around my mom and grandma, trying to protect them from a tornado. This storm-- it just rips right through me-- right through all I have to offer.
To combat these feelings of being out of control, helpless, and panicked, I have to find a way to get through each day. My mind is either trying to figure out how to stop this or trying to figure out how to avoid dealing with it. My emotional crutch right now is distraction. It manifests itself in several ways-- primarily by focusing on projects, shows, research, movies, current events, meals, or other people. I will turn to anything, however mindless, that will allow my thoughts to focus on something else, anything else, but the horrific box that keeps narrowing and closing in on me. The only problem is, when the distraction is over, when the Bachelor ends at 11pm Monday night, then my burdens return, feeling heavier than before. Distraction is an imperfect art.
The way I handle problems probably isn't too healthy, if you were going to psychoanalyze me. When I have a major problem, I tend to get quiet about it, shut down, and sort it out internally over a long period of time. This presents a slight problem when the issue is chronic, however, because I'm constantly building up levels of pain that never seem to go down inside. I never have time to sort out and return to normal-- the assaults don't end.
My mom is the exact opposite, and so when you put the two of us together, she is trying to get me to talk, and I'm trying to get her to be quiet. We both desperately need a way to cope with the outrageous stress, and yet we both end up fueling the stress of the other. We are quite the pair.
Where do I go and what do I do with my faith through all this? Is it really true that I can have this yoke arrangement with Jesus and that he will help me bear my burdens? I've carefully considered that question many times over the past 2 years. I've come to the conclusion, through experience, that the answer is yes. However, I must not shut down on him too.
How is it that the one who can ease my burdens and help me walk through this is the same one I run away from when times get hard? Is it anger, resentment, or is it something more? I think the temptation to have my need for relief met the "quick and easy" way is so intoxicating. It is a way for me to exercise some form of control in a situation where I have long since been in over my head. It's a way for me to say that I will handle my pain THIS way, and that no one will tell me what I have to do or when I have to do it. The problem with this approach, though, is that it is a prideful breakdown in relationship communication with my Lord.
My relationship with Jesus is a personal one, much like what I have with a dear friend. He is my confidant, but when he waits for me to come and tell him how I feel each day --sometimes I just don't show up-- often racing by him to do what's on my agenda. When this happens, I have no chance to connect with him to get the strength I need. Without communication, there can't be intimacy, connection, or the chance to receive help, support, or comfort. It's sort of like a Facebook or Myspace friendship--just having my little Jesus icon on my list for show, but never putting any more effort into it than the initial decision to call him "friend."
Jesus warns me of this trap in one of my favorite passages, John 15:4-5
Remain in me, and I will remain in you. No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine. Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in me.
"I am the vine; you are the branches. If a man remains in me and I in him, he will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing.
Joyce Meyer once did a sermon where she had a small tree in a pot that was healthy and sprouting green leaves. But the dead branches that were no longer connected to the main vine/trunk had no source of nutrients or water, so they were dried up, brittle, and without green growth. She compared our spirits to these dead branches when we don't fellowship daily with our Maker. She called herself "a little crispy around the edges" when lacking adequate time with God. If that is the case for all humans in general, how much more so do I need daily water for my soul in the midst of my journey through this horrific wasteland? I must be in God's word daily and praying so that my spirit stays revived and bears healthy signs of life in this valley of the shadow of death. He is the spring of living water and promises help.
See, I am doing a new thing! Now it springs up; do you not perceive it? I am making a way in the desert and streams in the wasteland.
They did not thirst when he led them through the deserts; he made water flow for them from the rock; he split the rock and water gushed out.
Who is the rock?
Trust in the LORD forever, for the LORD, the LORD, is the Rock eternal.
Where does this "living water" come from? A Samaritan woman at a well asked Jesus that question.
Jesus answered, "Everyone who drinks this water will be thirsty again, but whoever drinks the water I give him will never thirst. Indeed, the water I give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life." (John 4:13-14)
Thankfully, when I came to the end of my rope and finished resisting God last night, I came back to him, and he was gracious and patient, and eager to forgive my neglect. His gracious reception was full of the love he's been dying to pour out, but that I've been unavailable to receive.
The first passage I got to last night, as I began reading again was this:
Praise be to the Lord, to God our Savior, who daily bears our burdens. Our God is a God who saves; from the Sovereign LORD comes escape from death.
He daily bears my burdens AND he saves! How great and awesome is our God in heaven, whom we can meet with and be friends with through Christ.