Don’t you just love how the nights that you need the most sleep are usually the ones where you get the least sleep? I really hope that’s not just me. But regardless, here I am…it’s 5am and I am in my pj’s curdled up under a blanket with my cup of coffee already in hand – trying to avoid a breakdown before my Monday even begins. I literally have obligations from 8am until 7pm and just stating that, I can feel my heartbeat quicken and my throat tighten a bit.
Simply put: last week was awful. I have never been more happy to have a week be over and done with. There were panic attacks, tears, dissociation, drama, mean words thrown about, and on top of all that – a crazy busy schedule, little sleep, and tons of obligations. There were things I needed to “show up” for – not just physically but mentally and emotionally – and I wasn’t always able to be there.
It is December and while visions of sugar plums should be dancing through my head, I have to be honest and say that lately, visions of failure have been dancing through my head more than anything else.
I have severe O.C.D.: obsessive comparative disorder. I have this tendency to take the nitty gritty details of my life and compare them to what I see on the surface of other people’s lives. Now, I acknowledge that that can literally go practically nowhere that is good – after all, people don’t typically broadcast their own failures or shout their insecurities and personal struggles from roof tops. That only leaves me with the painted pictures of other people’s lives with which to compare my gruesome ups and downs. What I see most often in others through social media platforms, casual conversations, quick little hellos here and there, etc – that’s not the whole truth. In fact, it might not be any of the truth at all. People can choose what they do or do not share on social media, they can decide what they do or do not disclose within the confines of a quick hello, and they can choose whether or not to share with others the struggles they may confront on a daily basis. It’s impossible to adequately compare my back stage with someone else’s center stage performance.
And yet, here I sit. My mind reeling and rolling like waves that are confronted by a category 5 hurricane. (Is that a thing – do they go up to category 5? In my head they do.)
“Owning our story can be hard but not nearly as difficult as spending our lives running from it. Embracing our vulnerabilities is risky but not nearly as dangerous as giving up on love and belonging and joy—the experiences that make us the most vulnerable. Only when we are brave enough to explore the darkness will we discover the infinite power of our light.”
― Brené Brown
I run. I run marathon after marathon and almost always end up collapsing in exhaustion. When will I learn that I do not need to hide? I don’t need to hide from the conflict, confrontation, arguments, and all the fears that surround me. I don’t need to run from them because when I run from them I am also running from all the joy, happiness, love, and authenticity that I am also surrounded with.
When we run from our fears and failures we are also running from the ones who want to love us, the ones who want to shower us with loving affection, truth, honesty, relationship, etc. We are running from the joy in our lives, the happiness, the chances and opportunities that were designed and destined for us. We can’t choose what we run from – we can only choose whether or not we run. This is something I am learning and working through.
Weeks like last week are awful, uncomfortable, tiresome, miserable, and I could go on and on and on. But weeks like last week are also times of growth, times of change and transformation and opportunities for me to minister to others through my pain and struggle. Unfortunately, last week I allowed my O.C.D. to take the wheel and it drove me right off the road and over a bank. The car did a flip and we lay stranded – struggling to work our way out of the tightened seat belts for far too long before help arrived.
But help arrived. Help arrived in the form of community, love, friendship, compassion, and kindness. Help arrived in the form of a friend who helped with school work, a long over due conversation with a friend on the phone, worship at church – voices raised in unison, hugs exchanged, relationships strengthened, etc.
Help always arrives. God’s timing is perfect and it is something that takes an immense amount of trust – something I still struggle with on a daily basis.
Yesterday was the second Sunday of the Advent season – the Sunday where we discussed how God’s LOVE REFINES.
I held back tears – tears of joy, tears of relief, tears of sadness, tears of hope – as our Pastor revealed to us and reminded us that God loves us far, far too much to leave us the way we are right now.
God will refine us and I believe that the refining process won’t ever stop until the day we meet Him face to face. God can (and will) take the things that Satan throws at us and turn them into good in our lives. He will use the negative to build the positive. Like a silversmith, God will be constantly refining our impurities in order to make us more like Him – this is not an act of selfishness, no – it is an act of love.
Just as a parent reprimands, teaches, and directs a child in the way that is safest and best for them to go, God will do the same for us. What we see as uncomfortable, awkward, maybe even bad, scary, and miserable – God will take all of that and transform it into something that will help us to be more like Him. God wants us to love like Him, to forgive like Him, to show mercy and grace like Him, to be leaders like Him, to lead like Him, to share joy like Him, and on and on and on again.
True love accepts us where and as we are right now, but refuses to leave us unchanged. True love will alter us and mold us into something better, healthier, stronger, and better equipped to lead others to Christ.
Everyone has weeks like my week last week. They can be days of pure insanity, discomfort, and pain – but they can also simultaneously be weeks of refinement, love, and growth. God will take the bad and make it something good. But we can’t see the transformations He is capable of making if we are so focused on our own O.C.D. When we focus so much on others and comparing their best to our behind the scenes mess, we are undermining God’s plans for our lives and allowing our own insecurities and anxieties to be our God.
I’m not saying it’s easy – trust me, I know first hand how impossible it can (and does often times) feel. It’s uncomfortable to sit in discomfort. But Jesus came to earth and died for our sins so that we can go through these refining processes and come out stronger on the other side of them. God loves us so much that he sacrificed His only son – if that’s not the ultimate act of love, I don’t know what else there is. God loves us far, far too much to leave us stuck in mediocrity, complacency, indifference, struggle, and pain.
One of my favorite authors/preacher, Charles Spurgeon, said, “God is too good to be unkind. He is too wise to be confused. If I cannot trace His hand, I can always trust His heart.”
“God uses suffering in our lives to build and refine us.”
“You are imperfect, you are wired for struggle, but you are worthy of love and belonging.”
Happy Second week of Advent, friends!