Maybe, Just Maybe

Well, shoot. This is hard to write. Wanna know what a ridiculous sinner I am? Here's just the most currently revealed example. I knew what today's post would be, planned to write it last night, and it's part one of two posts about my health. Today? Being honest about how bad it's been, what has been going on. Monday, what my doctor thinks is wrong and what we're doing about it, because I start treatment that day. Still have a thousand posts about awesome Gospel amazingness that has been graciously oozing from every pore of my life, both in an around me, lately, but that's what I planned to write about.

Then something awesome happened yesterday. Some people I mad respect surprised me by mentioning me on Twitter out of the blue late last evening.

First this happened:

And then this happened; she's quoting from my Yes, Jesus Loves Me post:

Which is crazy humbling because I admire dem people so much.

But then I thought, "Gah! What if people decide to check out me / my blog and then the most recent entry is about my health? And they're all, 'Yeah, no. Whine much? She sucks.' I should write about something gospel-y-er. Then I'll actually be able to help people see the reality of grace and the Good News.'"

See it? Thinking there are spiritual things that matter more than REAL LIFE. Particularly ironic that my heart jumped there when my deepest desire is to help others see that Jesus exists and matters most in real life and not those loftier spiritual things up there. You know, the places we're always attaining to but never quite reach, but it keeps us focused on where the what if Jesus would be instead of where Jesus resides in the what is.

So to find some more worthy post for today than what I already planned? That's crap. I have nothing more wise and spiritual to offer you than the truth that my heart and life are a mess. I desperately need Jesus for things so simple yet impossible as not hoping I can impress you, right now, as you read this. So yup, I need Jesus, and I'm going to stick with my original post.

Here it is, then:

I don't want to write this post. As a girl I was told a lot of awful things, but the sum of them was: "You want attention. You are horrible for wanting attention. Be small, be humble." If I was sick? Banished to my room so it wouldn't spread. Physical injury? Get help only if it's really emergency material and then get over it, it'll heal faster if you shut up about it. Emotional trauma from years of incest? It wasn't my fault, so now move on and get past it. Don't be a burden, don't get a big head of thinking I matter. Do not be victim. Humility, then, was to think that I wasn't very smart, wasn't pretty, wasn't to desire attention, wasn't talented, wasn't wanted. But what I was, then, was selfish, greedy, proud, and a burden for desiring any of those things.

A huge part of what I still struggle with as a result is a tendency to think it's good to find every gross part of me and fixate on that, assume that's all people see and all that matters. I'm fat, talk too much, want people to like me, don't read to my kids enough, snark at my husband too much, get too angry when I'm driving...blah blah blah. And then I believe those are the total of my identity, but I guess since Jesus died for me I should work on them, waste his shed blood a little less. But, in humility, I'm seeing how yucky I am and that's the only way Jesus can make me suck hopefully a tiny bit less.

That is all a bunch of lies. Who I am is Jesus's beloved daughter. What is going on in my life matters to him, and it's through my circumstances that I get to experience the grace of growing in belief that every detail of my life matters to Jesus. I'll say it a hundred million times--not a hair falls from my head that wasn't foreordained by my Lord. And he cares. If God's sovereignty over my hair follicles shows his love and faithfulness then so does everything else.

Well guess what? A lot of hairs fall from my head lately, due to autoimmune hypothyroid disease and a gamut of other related issues. I've written somewhat about my health struggles, but always with some protective barriers. I'm so afraid you'll think I'm pathetic, or trying to get attention, or make you feel sorry for me if I tell you how I'm really doing. I hint at it, say sort of enough except not really. I keep myself in check.

That's slavery, people. Living my life according to some arbitrary rule about not making people think I want them to feel sorry for me? It's a law I was taught as a child but have chosen to keep believing that keeps me feeling good about myself when I think I'm keeping it, horrible when I fear I'm failing. I live under constant self-scrutiny, doing that sifting thing I talked about in this post.

Do you know why it's slavery? Because my eyes are constantly on myself. I think if I'm careful to speak right about my health struggles then Jesus will get glory. All that sifting is a whole lotta looking deeper into myself.

No. Just no. You know how Jesus gets glory? Through my weakness. So allow me to be weak with you.

When I wake up in the morning, I don't hear my alarm for about 20 minutes. Because I'm so tired that my brain just incorporates the sound into my dreams. Getting out of bed is incredibly difficult. And if I sleep until I wake up on my own? Those glorious weekend days when my husband gets the kids? I don't even open my eyes until between 1 and 2 pm, and still wake up with dread that sleep is over. But I wake up exhausted every. single. day. I have for so many years that I truthfully don't remember what it feels like to wake up rested, no matter how much sleep I get. I'm only now realizing that isn't normal, that not everyone who says they're tired (and Americans are tired) means the same thing I do when I say it.

And once I'm up? Many days include more Buzzbee and Super Why! than reading books. A lot of snuggling in my red chaise and very less-than-I-want playing therapeutic or educational games on the floor or at the table. A lot of being on my lap but not much running / jumping / chasing. Wednesday, for Roger's birthday, we took the kids to the park for the first time in I couldn't even tell you how long. Six months? Nine? I don't know.

I feel shame. For being a failure as a mom. Who can't even get her lazy ass out of bed. Because at my core, I still think that I'm just not trying hard enough and the exhaustion and fatigue are just me making excuses. Everyone is tired and they fail so much less hard than I do. So the shame spreads, thick and sticky, over all of my inner thoughts.

Don't even let me start on the piles of mail, dust on my baseboards and counters and toilet and--actually, we can make this easy: EVERY SURFACE...and I got started. So my house is messy and cluttered. Beyond what I can even bear to admit to myself let alone you.

Beyond the fatigue and guilt is the actual physical pain. My stomach hurts constantly. Headaches incessant. Dizziness. Nausea. Feeling so weak I can't stand up. Sometimes grabbing the nearest piece of furniture or wall when I do. Seeing black swirly spots all of the time. Never being able to get warm all day and then burning up at night. My skin on my face so red and just going completely insane and I'm embarrassed to be seen half the time. Plus the crazy battle with my pride every time I post a picture with my face in it (unless I'm wearing make-up, in which case I must exercise extreme self-control to not post allthepictures because I felt nothorrifyinglyred for two seconds). My tailbone, at random, hurting so badly that I can't stand or sit or lounge or lie down without excruciating pain. My lower back so sensitive that the slightest amount of pressure feels like you are stabbing me with needles. And the same is true, just lesser in intensity, on most of my body.

There are more physical manifestations of my illness, but you get it.

The weight? I don't need to explain the frustration of killing myself with diet and exercise and gaining weight. The depression of knowing the joy of finally being able to buy GAP jeans because I got down to a size 18 only to have to go back to Old Navy plus sizes five months later when nothing fits. Not even my stretchy pants.

So. Many. Supplements. Every. Single. Day.
That doesn't even include my thyroid medication or liquid supplements. 

I drink apple cider vinegar--and then fight vomiting it all back up--so that my gazillion supplements will actually digest. Schedule my life around thyroid medication and adrenal supplements and when I can and cannot eat due to them. I usually don't take my iron because I always forget to leave enough time between meals and, truth, just don't feel like making the vitamin C drink I need to take with it so I'll actually absorb the iron. But the other night I envied a woman who said her medication was making her sick because nothing I ever take seems to make a difference--I don't get better or worse. I have no way of knowing if anything is even happening. But I definitely don't feel better. I would like to feel worse because then I'd at least know my body recognizes I put something into it.

What's really difficult is that symptoms do sometimes lessen. If I feel better and try to do something like our weekly Costco trip, or go to church or Bible study, the next day they are all back but way worse. If I keep doing things through the symptoms, eventually I'll crash and have a day where I have to cancel everything because I can't leave the house. And sometimes it's so bad Jason has to take a sick day because I can't get out of bed. And I live under the fear of when I'll have done so much that it's multiple days...or weeks...or worse.

But I can't stop doing everything. Juliet has therapy 3-4 times a week, Roger has school and I need to get him off the bus every day and be in "go mode" with him for 3+ hours until Jason gets home, plus he has therapy I take him to once a week (which will increase five fold next month when we are finally able to start a new therapy we have been fighting to get him). Plus all the paperwork and meetings. Because Autism doesn't care that I'm sick. I usually have an appointment or two of my own because of the illness. Add in church, errands, trying to have some social life so I don't go insane, even if it's just a friend on my couch...it's just normal life but for me it's exhausting to the point of breakdown.

One day I just lost it, started sobbing when I realized that nearly every waking moment of my life is spent figuring out when I'll next be able to rest. And by rest I simply mean sit down without a child all up in my face or a task to accomplish. My body is so broken that without even meaning to all I can think about is lessening the utter strain on me in every waking moment, that those moments feel like the only time I can breathe and the rest of my existence feels like drowning.

This gives you a picture. What is hard is that by not being honest about it I keep it in my own head and try to figure out how to have a good attitude. So I admit it's hard but not actually how hard it really is.  I admit I feel discouraged and struggle with hope that I'll ever heal, but not that I question if I would actually want to keep living if I knew I wouldn't get better. I admit that I'm disappointed that it's not cancer, because at least I'd know what's wrong, but I don't say that the fact that with cancer you eventually die, thus know there's an end that likely isn't 30-40 more years of fighting, is pretty damn appealing. I just keep attempting to temper the darkness, make the blackness in my soul kinda grayish.

That's killing me worse than the disease.

What I need is light. I need Jesus. I need the Gospel, that Jesus suffered on my behalf, endured excruciating pain and sorrow and loss of life and had the perfect response to all of it. God doesn't need my good attitude, because he already has Jesus' perfect attitude on my behalf. God isn't asking me to scrub out the bad thoughts because Jesus only ever thought good ones for me.

At church on Sunday, the preacher said something that just broke me wide open.

1: God doesn't need my service. He doesn't need anything from me, because he already has everything. I don't ever serve God; I serve my neighbor, and the Lord gives grace to others through that but it does nothing to impact God or his ability to do anything.

2: I don't serve God, but God constantly serves me. He keeps the cells in my body functioning so that my heart pumps and my lungs oxygenate my blood. He keeps the ground stable under my home. And he gives me grace upon grace to live and receive the Good News that he's done everything on my behalf.

I realized that I have been trying to serve God by keeping it together, all while admitting just enough to seem like I'm relying on him. You know, so you'll know that I know that I need Jesus. But, as I told you, that's slavery because it has nothing to do with God. It has everything to do with me.

Because my reliance on managing how you'll perceive me is just as much
a mind game as this episode entails, just infinitely less funny.
And also because Friends is everything

Through a conversation with a friend I realized exactly why. What rules me with regards to my health is not the truth that God loves me and allows my ailing health so I'll recognize my desperation for him. What rules me is my avoidance of my worst case scenario. I wish I could tell you that it's that I'll miss the grace of God, but it isn't.

My worst case scenario? I tell myself it's that you'll think I'm complaining and whining and trying to make you feel sorry for me. That's what keeps me in "moderate" and "temper" the pain mode.

But no. My worst case scenario has two facets.

1: That you will pity me if you know how bad it really is.

2: That you will try to help me.

Want to know how I know that's true? I knew I was going there, to recount those two things as I expressed them to my friend, but as I typed them I thought to myself, "OH NO! What if people reading this think I'm asking them pity me and offer help in a passive aggressive way, all twisty and...oh my word, what if they don't and they say, 'Whoa, I didn't know it was that bad; I want to help her,' and then they actually try to help me?" And I felt sick to my stomach and like I should just delete this post, that I was wrong about it being what I'm meant to write about today.

Dear Lord. Save me from myself.

So why am I writing this? In part it's so I can lean into my weakness. To let the beauty of, "for when I am weak, then I am strong," flow through me, to process it in written words so that I continue to see God's grace. But I'm also seeing, when I start to be really honest with close friends about how actually bad things are, how everyone I love lives in this same bondage.

For some people, it's also devastating health struggles with no answers. For others, it's guilt and fear that they aren't doing enough to overcome bitterness from life-wrecking circumstances. For someone else it's about their struggle to believe God is good and that he loves them as their spouse cannot overcome a painful addiction, keeps hurting them over and over again. For another it's that they will burden people with being honest about how devastated they are by a horrific death of a loved one. Someone else is in the excruciating process of trying to diagnose a child with special needs but no one can figure out exactly is wrong, so no matter how much she fights for her baby she's helpless to control anything, to actually get him the help she knows he needs. On and on. The single common denominator is all of these friends feeling like they are failing God and burdening others if they admit that. Just like me.

Do you see it? It's a complete and utter lie that I will burden others with being honest about my struggle, that it will hamper God's will by making me the focus if I admit just how weak I actually am. As though I have the power to interfere with the will of God. He didn't allow my body to be this broken just so I could impress people with a "right" and "godly" response of good perspective.

Maybe, just maybe, the cry of my soul, the one I try to suffocate, is not that I need to respond right but that I'm drowning in the darkness and the burden is too heavy to bear.

Maybe, just maybe, others are suffering and weary and just as desperate for the light and lightness of the Good News of Christ's love to flow into their heavy darkness as I am.

Maybe, just maybe, if I admit my weakness and need of Christ it will lead to his love flowing into said weakness, turning my eyes from down and inward up and outward to him and his love; to remember once again that because of Jesus' love for me, his perfect life was sealed on my behalf by his willful death on the cross.

Maybe, just maybe, when I see how much Jesus loves me and performed perfectly on my behalf, I won't keep trying to "respond godly" because Jesus already did and it. is. finished.

Maybe, just maybe, when I realize that I live under a banner proclaiming "it is finished" I will be free from trying to control how I'm perceived and instead admit my weakness just as it actually, really is.

Maybe, just maybe, when I confess how Jesus loves me in my weakness, I can be a safe place for others to admit theirs.

Maybe, just maybe, Jesus will shine his light and love not just into my heavy darkness but through me into others and their heavy darkness.

Maybe, just maybe, they will realize that they, too, are loved in the midst of their failure and they, too, live under a banner of "it is finished."

And maybe, just maybe, this Good News will make us freer and lighter, and we'll love one another like we're freer and lighter and so are they.

Maybe, just maybe, this love will allow the people we've longed to meet Christ for years to see in us not people enslaved to themselves but liberated in Christ.

As Ray Cortese recently said,

"Church should be so full of laughter & joy that outsiders press their noses against our windows longing to get into the party."

Does your soul yearn for that to be true like mine does? But then think it's way too good to be true, that we must be missing something that sucks all the fun away? Because we're sinners and God is holy so we mustn't have too much fun, take him and our sin too lightly?


Friend, I am so desperately weak. I mean, really, really desperately weak. There's no good thing in me. The Bible isn't kidding about that. The more Christ shows his grace to me the more I see sin in every bit and part of me. Find an impure motive in me and you've found a pretense and a lie because at some level you'll find a part of me that's hoping for some sort of gain--at least, for you to believe I'm a pretty solid Jesus-loving woman, and at best, for me to finally believe it.

And my health? It sucks. It really, really sucks, and most days I don't even bother asking God to help me find answers and heal because what's the point? I get pretty Lamentations-y about it and Eeyore would be like me on Prozac.

But do you know what's true? Actually, really, beyond-what-I-think-and-feel true? That health is comfortable grace because it's a good gift, but it's also often merely an illusion of strength. This sickness, this weakness in my failure to believe that God is good through my sickness? It's a gift of uncomfortable grace that allows me to see how desperate I actually am. How weak and unable to perform perfectly like Jesus I actually am. How quick to believe the false Gospel of "try hard to be like Jesus" I actually am. How much of a sinner in need of grace I actually am. My loss of health hasn't made me desperate, it's simply revealed my desperation.

And so are you. It may not be your health. It may be nothing like anything I ever write about. But we're the same, you and I, because we're both infinitely weak and unable to be perfect as God is perfect. Even our repentance when we fail is tainted with hoping God will help us not need to repent this same way again, that this act of repentance will make us just a little less needy, a little less weak, next time. Our heart's bend, as a Christian, is always wanting to need God a little less because we are a bit more like him now. But the truth is that we are never less weak; to grow in Christ is to become more aware of just how weak we actually are.

Where is your weakness, friend? Not the sum of every way you fail, but specifically that thing where you're finding yourself in my words, and the Lord is saying, "Yup, sinner like her. Same." Because you know what comes next. Jesus' perfection is imputed to you as righteousness and you are equally as liberated from trying to manage your stuff as I am.

Jesus came to set the captives free. We are just as easily enslaved to the addiction of trying to be godly as the worst substance abusers you can imagine.

But maybe, just maybe, admitting that "when I am weak, he is strong" today will break chains and together we can walk forward, liberated to tell everyone about what Christ has done. There will be laughter and joy, relief and release, instead of incessant managing and trying and keeping and solemn introspective.

And others will want to know Jesus, because they'll see his love flowing to one another through our weakness instead of his law slammed onto one another through our own perceived strength of what we've learned from him. They'll ask us about why we're free and we'll tell them about the One who has done it. And they'll never once describe how they met Jesus as the time where we shoved him down their throats and they finally didn't vomit it back up. Gatherings of the Bride would be a joyous wedding reception of uniting to our Groom, growing larger and larger because people outside hear the party and want to come in, and we actually let them.

It won't be a sober funeral of our sin, akin to seeing the hearse-led procession wherein people driving by think, "Oh no, someone died. But thank God I don't know who it was."

No. It will be something where people want to know, want to come, want to be in it, and we accept them just like we were accepted.

Joy. Laughter. Merriment. Freedom.

Lord, let it be so!

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