Words from the wilderness: Giving Up

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I wrote these words on a dark day.  I wasn’t thinking of you when I wrote it.  I was just writing.  I didn’t need to share. I wasn’t trying to be saved and I wasn’t looking for comfort. I was just trying to find words to wrap around reality. 

I know there are those of you who church ‘won’t work’ tomorrow. Cause they’ll talk about a Gospel and a God who offers to save you from the dark and you will wonder why that doesn’t work in real life.  Why dark still comes so swiftly and silently with all its suffocating strength if He is who He says He is.  

So I will tell you tonight of a God who delivers in the dark, through the dark, not out of the dark; who came to be with you in it, not save you from it. Take heart – as a dear friend reminded me – we don’t have to be afraid of the darkness if our God is who we say He is.  We don’t have to panic or try to rescue one another out of it.  He is inside of you, light always there, even if you don’t feel it or see it.

You are not alone, dark dweller. 

___

I’m giving up.

That’s not an active decision. That’s not what I want. It’s just what’s happening.

This current is so strong and so fierce, and I have fought hard – not to get to the other side – I can’t even think about the other side – I’ve just been fighting with everything in me not to be pulled under.  I’ve known that if I pause, even for a second, these raging waters will win.

My arms grew weary long ago, my body failed a few weeks back.  But when it did, my spirit kept me going.  I listened to those cheering from the shore, adjusted my stroke when they pointed out ways I was wasting energy or hindering my ability to swim. But somewhere between 4 PM yesterday and 10 AM today, my spirit sputtered out and failed and my muscles atrophied.

And so I’m watching myself tonight, give up.

I can feel the water all around me now.  I’m not sure how long ago it closed over my head, but I’m not fighting it anymore.  I’ve accepted the futility of it all.  I’m not glad to be drowning, but still – there’s some sort of satanic peace to be found in the fact that if I just give up I won’t have to fight any more.

I hear the whisper just close your eyes and take a deep breathe and suck in this water and rest.  You will find peace here. And I know – I am still aware enough to know – it’s a lie.  But I’m just not sure I care anymore.

The stages of grief have been hijacked by the Enemy.  The denial that once let me swim despite the biting cold of the water has now become this numb apathy.  The anger that once drove me on against this current, defiant and unwilling to yield to my Enemy, now has me wasting energy wondering why those instructing me from the shore don’t jump in to help.  The depression that once lead me to reach out for help, is now like a weight pulling me deeper.  The bargaining that was once with God – an exchange of nothing for everything – now has me negotiating terms of surrender with our Enemy.

And the acceptance. The deeper I sink the more the acceptance makes sense. The more the weight of the water pushes on my skin and I realize how peaceful and calm it feels down here away from the raging fierceness of the water on the surface.

And I know the theological issue with these sensations. I know God has always been the one swimming – not beside me – but within me. I know any fight I ever had was Him. I know He will not leave me and I cannot drown here. I know it is not up to me to fight alone and I know that I can rest in His fight for me.

Except that – does anyone really understand how that works? No one on the shore is screaming at God to keep swimming – they’re urging me to press on.  He Himself is urging me to press on.  So how does it work – this promise of ‘resting’ while He works for me? It’s a lie from a ‘footprints in the sand’ culture that being carried by Jesus feels like floating.  When it actually feels more like fighting the current harder than you ever imagined.

And – the terrible truth is – if God persevering me today means that I keep swimming, I’m not sure I want it. I am done swimming.

My eyes are weary from crying.  My heart has collapsed under the weight of breaking. And yet – even as I type these words the tears come anew and my heart feels broken further.  And I don’t know what will be left of me when You have had Your way with me.

And I know we’ve surprised me before. You in me has surprised me – the strength of you – the grace of you in me – we – have surprised me.  I know I have sat at tables like this in waters far more shallow and wondered when my feet would touch the bottom. I know that this too shall pass.

And yet – that has no comfort tonight.  Because what will it pass into?  What new torture awaits tomorrow to teach me deeper trust and train me in righteousness?

Once upon a time I was a naive little pharisaical girl who paddled in the shores of the Gospel and kicked your grace around and delighted to watch it sprinkle the sand.

And now I am here. In the terrifying dark depths of this Gospel, feeling the weight of it press upon my soul and knowing that the monsters it saves me from are real and the thought of wasting a drop of it in a child’s game makes me tremble.  Do I treasure it more desperately and deeply here? Of course.

So isn’t this where I’d rather be?

The answer is supposed to be yes. Even now, floating underwater I still remember the surface enough to know that the answer IS yes.  But down here with the peaceful sensation of death distorting my senses, i’m disoriented.

The insanity that occurs when the brain is starved from oxygen has me thinking fondly of that little girl, living in the shallow waters; far enough in to be covered by the Gospel as it lapped at my heels like a comforting net, but still firmly safe on the sand.

Like the psalmist who foolishly wrote the wrong prayer – I feel the words hovering on my lips – the cry for you to “turn your face away from me.” To leave me be for for just a moment and give me a break from the weight of your attention and affection that seems to be crushing me.

But I’m not like the psalmist. I don’t have the courage to say those words. I guess I still don’t trust you enough to know that you would never answer that cry.

So there is more work to be done.  And that thought alone has me sinking deeper.

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2 thoughts on “Words from the wilderness: Giving Up

  1. Thank you so much for writing this. So much. This is exactly what the past months have been for me, and I’ve felt so alone. I’m still not sure how to do this faith thing, tomorrow or the rest of my life- but I guess that’s just a part of the journey. Thank you.

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