I want to be calm. I long to be serene and at peace, no matter what life throws at me. I want Jesus to be the first on my mind when I wake, throughout my day, and when I go to sleep. Unfortunately, that’s just not reality for me right now. I can’t figure out why. I am in the Word every day, but inside I am an empty shell. A hypocrite. A sinner in need of a saving, daily…hourly…every second. Looking back on my life, there have been times that I have been so close to God. I really want to be close again. I’m knocking on that door. If it is opening, then my eyes are blinded because I can’t see it.
I have a lifelong friend who writes beautiful blogs and has created an online site called A Martha Heart. She is so filled with love and with Jesus that her faith flows out of her words like incredible poetry. She inspires me.
But deep inside, I covet. I feel jealous, you see, because I want what she has.
She sees places in her journey where the Lord has been right with her. Where He held her. Where he helped her climb walls, face fears, and have the courage to walk a path that she could not see.
Oh, that my eyes could see the Lord’s intervention in my own life. What wall has He helped me climb? Where is He? In fact, where am I…who am I, really? What has happened to me and to my faith? Why am I so blind — and when did this blindness begin taking hold of me?
Fingers of fog blanket the roots of naked tree trunks that rise up out of the ground. Partially burned, these trunks lift pointed spears to the heavens. The oppressive air settles on my head, and frigid dampness seeps into every pore. The sun is a distant memory. Aimlessly I wander through the ghostly forest, my footsteps the only discernible sound.
“Where are you, God?” I cry out in this desolate forest. “Why can I not feel your presence?”
That ever-present fear and anxiety steps to the forefront, demanding to be heard. It is The Voice.
“You are worthless!” it screams in my mind.
“Go Away,” I reply. “I’m a Daughter of the King!”
The Voice takes on a different tactic and drops to a whisper, a bubbling brook that cascades through my waking thoughts and even through my dreams.
“Your daughter is now around a multitude of kids. Germs will be everywhere. She’ll get a virus.”
The logical part of my brain counters the whisper with a shout. “God designed our bodies to defeat germs! She will be okay even if she does get sick! The Lord himself will protect her!”
The Voice answers back quickly, before I have even a moment to relax. “What about that case of whooping cough? She was very ill, coughing and vomiting for a whole year. And the year before that it was pneumonia…and stomach viruses.”
Suddenly the barren forest grows fifty feet taller. I stand in the middle of a clearing, but the fog obscures any sunlight that may be overhead, and I grow dizzy with panic and shame because I remember the Whooping Cough. I remember the agony of hearing my precious one cough until she turned purple, retched, and vomited…over and over. I remember also losing faith in modern medicine — because my child had been given all the recommended doses of the pertussis vaccine — yet she still got sick…in school. And now, seven years later, she’s back. In school. With germs.
The Voice chuckles and mocks me. “Where was your God when she got Whooping Cough? Where was He when she got stomach viruses? Salmonella? Rotavirus?”
I can’t see the Lord or feel him, but deep down I have to believe he’s still there, or else I will sink into this swampy earth…let the earth have me, because without the Lord, what is the point of me? He may be far away above the fog, but He’s still there, with vision that sees through the clouds. So I answer back, not to the Voice, but to the One who made me.
“Where were you, God?”
He still doesn’t answer (or if he does, I do not hear Him). Instead I think of how she did pull through. None of those illnesses caused permanent damage to her physically…but, and this is a huge but…they did damage me. Mentally.
The Voice mocks me once again. “Your fears are shameful. Disgraceful. You aren’t a TRUE Christian because if you had the Holy Spirit in you as you claim, then your fears would go away, and I would have no hold on you.”
Hanging my head, I conjure up the Word:
18 There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love. 1 John 4:18, NIV
“Ah-ha!” the Voice shrieks in laughter. “You fear, therefore you are not made perfect in love!”
Looking around me at the barren, lifeless trees, I see that I am indeed not made perfect in love. For me, punishment is dealing with sickness, whether my own sickness, or someone else’s. And I do fear it. I fear it even though I’ve had to abide it from time to time.
I sink to my knees and remember the punishment I felt during the year of the Whooping Cough. I remember the nightly panic attacks rising up out of dreams of throwing up. It dawns on me that I view sickness as punishment…as painful to my heart as a flogging. I avoid it. I stop eating because of my fear of it.
Yes, indeed. I am not made perfect in love.
Will I ever be?
For a moment I sit still in the clearing, my knees hidden beneath the creeping fog. A damp breeze freezes the tears on my cheeks and smells vaguely of earth, and life, and something else undefined. The freshness blows away some of the oppressive stench that surrounds the clearing.
And I think about punishment and family and children and life and death. I remember Jesus willingly undergoing a horribly painful punishment that led to death. I know that I am supposed to view his sacrifice as the ultimate one…but the Voice creeps in again, unwanted and unloved.
“Your punishment is worse than death. Your fears keep you shackled — you will never escape. You will never dream dreams or live your life to the fullest. You would gladly trade places with Jesus on that cross if it meant you would not have to endure nausea in yourself or your family ever again. Pain you can deal with…you live it every day…and you know that at least on the cross, there would be an end to the suffering.”
I process a moment. The Voice does have a point. That is exactly how I feel, especially when faced with immediate risk of sickness. It’s why I delayed surgery so long. It’s one of the biggest, deepest, most secret of reasons why I chose to homeschool for so long. It’s why I avoid public restrooms and prefer to eat at home rather than out at restaurants. It’s why travel makes my life miserable with anxiety. But never escape?
“That’s a lie,” I tell the Voice. “One day I will escape, when I get to meet Jesus.”
The fog seems to shrug, and the Voice continues telling me ugly things I don’t want to hear, so I shove them back down inside and see the dead world surrounding me. I realize there are no colors in this place I’m living in my head. There are no birdsongs or squirrel chatterings. I have no dreams of what I’d like to achieve because I can’t see around or a way through the fog.
That’s when I notice that the fog itself is in my mind. It blurs my joy. It hinders my thinking. It blinds me to those things that I know are true, like God’s love for ME, warts and all. I hear worship songs proclaiming O How He Loves Us, and I shake my head in confusion and annoyance because I don’t see how He loves me, warped and foggy that I am. I am not made perfect in love, so how can He love me?
I know where I want this story to go. I want there to be a visible spring in the clearing, with birdsong and green life. I want to hear the Lord, to experience His presence again. I want to banish the Voice and achieve perfect love here on this side of heaven.
I guess God, who holds the pen to my life, has not yet written the part of the story where the ugly Voice borne out of fear is finally vanquished from my mind. Logically, I know the end of the story. I know Who triumphs over death, disease, and sin. But emotionally I’m stuck with a barren soul, waiting for the Ultimate Author to write that climatic chapter so I can then go on to dream dreams and achieve all that He created me to be.