Tag Archives: hiding

Hold the Storm

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“Lord, I want to feel again!” – this has been my ongoing conversation with the Lord for the past two years.  Anyone who knows me knows that I am passionate – about (I should be explicitly honest) everything in the way I approach life and people.  Yet 2017 found me utterly…missing.

Missing: Have You Seen ME?

Numbness is often correlated with shock.  Our bodies are most amazingly designed with a physiological fail-safe to become “numb” when confronted with situations or sensations too intense to process in the moment.  When something is overwhelming, the neurons that signal our bodies with different sensations and instructions to act simply stop sending signals because we don’t have the capacity to handle so many messages at once.  In the face of intensity, our bodies shut down the “feeling” parts.  This is numbness, and it can act as a physical, mental, and emotional shield that protects us in moments of intensity.  Numbness happens when people experience hypothermia and frost-bite: too much cold, and the human body ceases to feel the chill.  Numbness protects people, especially small kids, from environments that are over-stimulating (physically or emotionally) by causing them to “zone out” or ignore various situations.  In trauma and grief, numbness can allow persons to distance themselves from the situation(s) and even continue carrying out normal activity.  And, my dear friends, in caving to a challenging season, I went completely numb.

“I don’t know” was my go-to response – and I actually didn’t know; I didn’t know what I wanted, how I felt, whether I was okay.  I really didn’t know; I couldn’t tell.  It wasn’t that I didn’t care.  The problem was that I didn’t even know whether I cared – and that terrified me.  Or maybe it didn’t – I wasn’t sure.  Robotic, mechanical, functioning on autopilot – no terms are too strong for what it was and none, I assure you, are flattering in the least.

Numbness is a coping mechanism, but it is not a solution.

Oh, I was in deep hiding.  I was so far gone that, by the time I realized, I wasn’t certain I could find my way back from the nothingness.  That was a fearful thing, as I consider it now.  If there is anything I am most terrified of after that, it is to be numb again.  It was a separation, a chasm of nothingness, a consuming void – and I could see no light.  Separation from hope, from light, from Jesus – that is hell.  And I had chosen it – in my pain, in my confusion, I surrendered to the void.  I glimpsed that hell.  Sweet Jesus, never again – never again.

Yet even when I would have hidden, when I chose the nothingness, my Savior did not abandon me.  We are never too far gone for Him to rescue and redeem (Psalm 139:7-12).  And He alone knows how much I needed to be rescued, how deep was the scoring of my wounds, how my thoughts writhed in a turmoil of hopelessness.  For me, the freedom from this void came only when I was finally willing to admit it: I was furious, and I was hurt.  Both feelings were legitimate, honest, and even right – but it was not right for me to either keep or hide them.  It is okay to be angry – it is not okay to stay angry.  It is okay to hurt – it is not okay to stay hurting.  These were truly my feelings, but with no acknowledgement or centering peace to give perspective, they became parasites, feeding on my life.  In my nothingness Jesus met me; even in my hiding, He knew where I was.  He knew my need.  “We finally have our Sabra back,” my family wept with relief as I wept to purge the nothingness that had hollowed me for so very long.

I have spent these two years recovering my feeling.  And, if I may be forthright, it is painful.  It can be agony to feel so deeply and thoroughly.  Like a numb limb regaining feeling, there are the pricking stings of lifeblood flowing freely again.  From deadening numbness to full feeling – in His kindness I am healing from my hiding and from my wounds.  There are times when it is so tempting return to my hiding in the nothingness – or equally tempting to cast myself on the raging sea of emotions and be swept away.  How does one control such wild emotion, such feelings and sensations, the pain and the passion?  I do not want to hide, but do I want to feel?  Am I brave enough to feel again?

One of the people most dear to me shared wisdom.  This friend of mine knows what it is to feel, more than most people ever imagine possible.  We were discussing my role as a counselor in this context, how I work with kids in helping them build the skills they need to be emotionally and relationally healthy.  What is the truth, then, that I can speak over my kids?  What should we be speaking to ourselves?  “Deal with it” – yes, but how?  How do we learn?  In the end, it always comes back to one answer, the Truth: Jesus.  My friend spoke of a story…

Jesus sails aboard a boat in the middle of the Sea of Galilee with his disciples.  Under the strength and skill of the disciples – many of them professional fishermen – they have navigated to this point.  With sudden fury an unexpected storm arises, its wild might threatening to consume the small vessel and its passengers.  What can be done?  Even these avid fishermen are powerless – and utterly terrified.  If anyone should have been able to embrace this storm, it is these men – these men who can now do nothing except panic.  “Jesus,” they beg their sleeping Master, “Jesus, we are perishing.”  Why he isn’t panicking with them?  Can there be any salvation in this place of relentless fury?  Yet Jesus is not overwhelmed, for even this fury does not prevail against him.  Why are his disciples worried?  Where is their faith?  Has a storm stripped it from them?  And Jesus speaks stillness to the fury: the wind calms and the waves gentle immediately.  “Peace, be still,” he says, and there descends a perfect peace.  They are still in the sea.  There is still a journey to complete, but now they do it in awed awareness of the Storm Master.  Yes, even wind and waves obey the voice of Jesus.  (See Mark 4:35-41; Matthew 8:23-7; Luke 8:22-25.)

Approaching the Storm…We all have times when we are caught off-guard by emotional storms.  Storms, storms – I could hide, or I could battle it from the boat – are those my only options?  Hiding from the storm was not the answer.  I tried to stay ashore and avoid the storm – but the cost of the nothingness, the hiding, was more than I was willing to pay.  I also was still shy of the raging storm – its wildness was shocking, and I do not like the lack of control (which was especially disconcerting when I had so long prided myself on my self-control – ha!).  I prefer to focus on things that seem to be within my control – and when I do, I miss the deeper answers that God is providing.  Like the disciples, I try to use my strength and skill to solve my problems – then wail in desperation when the fury of the sea is overtaking me.  I continue to wrestle with the sails and oars of my boat when I should be asking Jesus to simply calm the storm.  I look for my control within the boat, while Jesus is standing ready to provide an encompassing peace.  That is the alternative to the hiding and the striving.  The storm is not to be feared, nor is it to be conquered by sheer force of will.

So what did my dear one say?

Embrace the storm, and let Jesus calm it.”

There is power in the storm, but only Jesus can steady this fury into peaceful strength.  Hold the storm, storm-child; you were made to feel.  I want to know the fullness of God’s heart toward me – and that is no tame shore.  The winds and wild waters exist, but God’s Word is a greater reality: “Peace, be still” (Mark 4:39).  Do not fear the storm; do not fear the feeling.  Hold the storm, storm-child, for you are created for the fullness of it. 

These are the words that God spoke as the peace into my storm:

You feel, but I AM.

And then there was stillness…

This is the reality of embracing the storm, of letting Him be the peace that stills and steadies.  Through it all, He remains I AM.  What would it look like, dear hearts, to chase the storm instead of fearing it?  What would it look like to embrace the heights and depths of emotion in raw honesty, knowing that He is our peace?  What would He speak to us as we stand in the storm and let Him become our stillness, our centering Peace?

Emotions are a gift that allow us to glimpse our Creator-God’s heart toward us, to see as He sees, to take hold of our glory in being made in His image (Genesis 1:26-27).  This is not so that we give in to whims of wayward emotions but so that we relinquish our fear of seeing the full glory in how God made us.  Emotions are true – we truly feel them – but they don’t always tell us the Truth, which is why we need to allow Jesus to be our Storm-Master. Let us feel, my friends.

Hold the storm, storm-child, for the Master of the storm is holding you.

We are not abandoned to the fury.  No more hiding.  No more striving.  Give up your shore and give up your oars.  Embrace the storm and let Jesus calm it.  Let Him speak to and through the storm that you might find fullness in how you are made, for He has declared His creation “very good,” knowing all of you even when you were but a dream and a plan in His heart, not yet born into the world (Genesis 1:31; Psalm 139:13-18).

Perhaps you are emotionally numb now.  Perhaps you are traversing your own terrifying nothingness, seeking your way back to feeling.  Perhaps you know what it is to feel so intensely that the emotion threatens to drown you or that others cringe away from your “outbursts.”  Perhaps you are endeavoring to understand someone who is coping numbly with pain or who startles (even disturbs) you with the intensity of their feeling.  Wherever you are in your seeking and your feeling, remember this, brave hearts:

Revel in wind and waves, for you are in the care of the Storm-Master.

Emotions are a gift from God.  To feel and to grow means that we are alive.  When we cease to feel and grow, we are dead.  Only living things grow.  Only living things feel.  And our God never, ever leaves us alone in the hiding or the feeling.

You are not “too much” for God.  I am not “too much” for Him.  He can handle the fullness of our emotions.  He has given us this beautiful, wild capacity, and He is not afraid of it.  He is not overwhelmed or shocked by our feeling.  He is not disgusted by it, nor by our needing or hiding.  In our feeling, He stills the storm.  In our needing, He does the filling.  In our breaking, He is the Healing.  In our hiding, He does the finding – because He always knows precisely where we are.  He never abandons, beloved.

Hold the storm, storm-child.  Let Jesus, the Storm-Master, still your waters and calm your winds.

Out of Neverland

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“Never!” – an oath we make far too easily and carelessly.  There are certain things that I said I would “never” be willing to do.  Never, no, not a chance.  I looked at my life, peered blindly toward the future, and declared, “Never will I ever!”  Therein lies my conundrum.  Years ago I told Jesus “yes” while silently attempting to add stipulations.  My mouth claimed I wanted Him, but places in my heart were not yet surrendered.  I ensconced myself in the safety of my Neverland, a place I could be comfortable and in control of, a place that was enjoyable and sweet – or so I thought.  Ah, dear heart, have you ever done the same?

Is the comfort of Neverland really our best hope?

Is the comfort of Neverland really our best hope?

If you’ve watched (or read) the story of Peter Pan, you know that Peter and his lost boys want to stay in Neverland, the place where they will never have to grow up or stop having the comfortable, carefree fun they so enjoy.  I confess that I had not understood the draw of Neverland.  To me, it seemed like a place to hide.  If things got too hard or growing up became too tedious, Neverland was the alternative; yet I always wondered if that was merely a shadow of a life fully lived.  (By the way, I am a fascinating annoying great movie-watching companion, if you appreciate an analytical dissection accompanied by running commentary.)

There are times when my conversations with God are laced with please-don’t-make-me cries.  I’ll do anything You want, but please don’t make me ________….. – just fill in the blank.  It’s my own indirect way of begging “never.”  Then there are the times when I tell Him that I simply don’t want to do what He is asking.  Being comfortable is easy.  It’s familiar, and I can understand it.  I’d rather play games in Neverland than grow into a mighty woman of valor, because on the horizon I fear an Adventure with Jesus that I can’t control, a future wild and unpredictable to my finite imagination.  I don’t want to sing in front of people, don’t want to be a classroom teacher, don’t want to live in cold places, was never interested in traveling to India, don’t, no, never…. – or, at least, I thought I didn’t.  So flesh conflicts with spirit as my head struggles to comprehend the stirrings of my heart.

Piece by piece, word by word, the Lord has been tearing down my every “never,” stripping me of excuses.  My never-oaths hold no weight in the eyes of my King of kings.  Recently having found myself frustrated by His lack of acknowledgement regarding these never-oaths, I declared to God, “There you go again, changing my heart to be passionate about something I didn’t even want!”  Yet my indignance was born of my need to surrender – not of true frustration.  Finally coming to the end of myself, I am giving up my whole heart to Him.  In these moments, what else can we do but laugh?  Life with Jesus is one surprise after another, and still we are totally safe in the constancy of His nature.  To quote Graham Cooke, “God is unpredictable but consistent.  You never know what He is going to do next, but you ALWAYS know what He is going to be like.”

Happy in my saree -- a secret wish I never thought to experience!

Happy in my saree — My little-girl dream come true!

The true adventure is found not in my self-satisfied Neverland but in the Wilderness with the Love of my life.  True adventure is utterly terrifying.  I am now in a place that I had not expected, a point in life I never wanted to be.  And I find it beautiful.  This is the difference in doing life with God.  What we so often miss is the power of our own choice.  When we choose Him, He sets us free – but He’ll never force us to walk in that freedom.  He wants His best for us – but He’ll never force it on us.  It isn’t about Him forcing you into a life you don’t want.  It isn’t about your becoming His henchman, obligated to cater to the His mysterious and changing whims.  In fact, He alone is the One from whom all good things come (Jas. 1:17), and He doesn’t change – ever (Mal. 3:6).  His ways and wisdom are no mystery, for He “has revealed them to us through His Spirit” (1 Cor. 2:10).  So if God isn’t some vague, unknowable force, waiting to strike us down or toss in a shocking plot twist just for thrills, if He truly doesn’t strong-arm us into choosing His best, what IS this all about?  It is about allowing Him to change your heart to desire the things He desires.  As your heart changes, you will sincerely long to see His will done on earth and in your life as it is in heaven (Mat. 6:10): the full-blown picture of His glory and goodness.

Good morning, India! I would never have thought that the bar-covered windows, the bright plaster homes, and the spice-scented air, filled with the sounds of family stirring in the early morning -- could become beloved so quickly.

Good morning, India! I would never have thought your bright plaster homes and spice-scented air would become beloved so quickly.

God didn’t demand that I go to India, a country about which I had always shrugged my shoulders and declared I had no particular intention of visiting.  Instead, He brought people into my life, offered opportunities, and began to speak to my heart about this new place and culture for me to love.  He began to reconcile my heart to His, causing the desires of my heart to match the desires of His.  Like a checkbook being balanced, all the columns began to add up correctly and the totals make sense.  It was an Adventure born of my decision to say “yes” to the One who alone is good in all His ways.

Whether it's teaching the kids in my church family or teaching students ranging from Kindergarten to high school, teaching is my passion.

I love kids. Teaching is my passion.

God did not demand that I teach classrooms full of students.  It began years ago when He whispered to my heart, “This is what I’m doing.  If you want to do what I’m doing, you’ll do this” and I found myself attending college for Elementary Education.  Reconciling.  In the four years since, I continued to say that I would never be a regular classroom teacher.  Yet now I find myself eager to take on classrooms of bright-eyed and belligerent students alike, falling completely in love with every student as I see the Father’s heart reflected through each one.  I cannot resist the intense compassion and desire to nurture that swells within me as I teach.  It has been an unexpected but freeing journey for me to admit that my never-oaths were holding me back from the fullness of what God has for my life and His glory.  Reconciling my heart to His.

Sometimes we don’t understand the depths of His freedom until we comprehend the depths of our own bondage.  I chose to surrender.  Every day, every moment in which I forget that choice – I choose again to surrender, letting Him reconcile my heart to His.  Hand in hand, He’s leading me out of my Neverland into a wild place with Him.  The cry is no longer “Never!” but rather, “Here am I!” (Is. 6:8) – and all the wild, glorious adventures that follow.

helen-keller-quoteAs we begin to step out of our Neverlands, we walk into greater freedom.  We become free in our laughter and our loving, free in our dreaming, free even in our hurting and our longing.  The loveliness of life lies in allowing yourself to dream with Him.  The Adventure is in the limitless of His kind nature and the richness of His heart toward you.  In what areas of your life have you been holding back?  Where is the Neverland that you’ve been hiding in?  Is it fear keeping you there – or is it just the comfort?  What dreams would you dream if your heart was truly free?  Where have you chosen “safer” or “easier” or “less risky”?  Where have you told God “no” or “never” – and what might you be missing because of that?  Do you truly long for the things He longs for – do you really desire His best in your life?  Talk with God about it; ask Him what He has to say.  These are not easy answers, but honesty is the birthplace of freedom in our lives.

Join me in the journey out of Neverland, braveheart.  No more hiding.  It all begins with one decision: say yes to Him.  This is a life without regrets, a life lived in freedom.  The one “never” I can proclaim with confidence is that it is never too late.  May our hearts be reconciled to His, one in desire and aim, because there is no other Adventure worth living.

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