The Funk

TreibsandHave you ever felt it? Have you ever been in a dark place where any movement on your part will only bury you alive? Have you ever felt so naked, so stripped down, unveiled, exposed, unmasked, vulnerable, defenseless … have you ever felt raw? There’s hope.

When a person is in that state they are unable to articulate their pain. They become withdrawn and reclusive. Suddenly, they have nothing to say, no opinion to contribute. Nothing is worth the effort of stringing words together to form a thought. Everything they say and do comes from a place of emptiness, an emptiness that just can’t be filled by another human being, no matter how much they love you. You might not want to die, but the thought of continuing in life is exhausting. There’s Hope.

People seem to need a name for this “condition”. Some call it depression. Others call it Seasonal Affective Disorder and some just refer to it as a lack of faith.

Against every bit of judgment, good or bad, I am going to expose myself … there’s a reason this blog is named “Unveiling Hope”. At the risk of worrying my family and friends, let me state for the record that I am not suicidal so don’t rush over or call; don’t worry and don’t feel guilty if we haven’t touched base in some time. This post serves a purpose.

Several times a year I go through what I call a grand funk. It is a state that I seem to slip into ever so slowly that I don’t even recognize what is happening until I am full on engulfed by it. Most often, by then, there is nothing anyone can do to help me for the most part because they don’t know what is going on. I have become quite adept at hiding the ugly little truth.  For certain, there is that part of me that wants people to think I’ve always got it all together and I can handle everything that life throws at me – even though I’m sure no one actually thinks that. No, this “thing” takes hold of me. It wraps itself around me and squeezes until there is almost nothing left of me. My silence gives it power. I become fearful that people might misunderstand if I tell them what is going on. I’m cruel to myself. I yell inside “Don’t cry! Whatever you do, don’t cry!” Those words still resonate … haunting voices of days gone by.

I’ve also become accomplished at changing masks, wearing whatever mask I believe needs to be worn at any particular moment. I’ve been afraid to be the real me so much so that there are times I’m not even sure where I begin and the mask ends. It sounds rather pathetic to say but when I’m in this state, I haven’t the foggiest idea who I am. I believe however that it is the very action of veiling my truth that becomes a generating station of denial that only serves to sink me deeper and deeper into the funk. Who am I trying to impress?

So, you might be wondering, why I am sharing this? Or perhaps you’re thinking you should call 9-1-1. Why am I exposing my pain for all to see? Why am I doing the very thing that I have kept private and hidden from so many, so well, and for so long? It hurts too much to bury it. I feel like I’m being pulled into it deeper. Keeping it in doesn’t seem to be serving me any purpose. The funk must have a function. I believe that everything happens for a reason. Do I actually benefit from the state of raw? Is there any good that can possibly come out of an experience where someone is so exposed that every nerve throbs and the thoughts they think hurt? I think there is.

I have heard some well-meaning people tell me that I should pray more or that I lack faith and that is why this happens to me. But they are wrong. Maybe this doesn’t happen to me but happens for me; maybe it happens to me for others. There is only one certainty when I am in the funk: by God’s grace and mercy, I will prevail. I will be victorious. Some would argue, what kind of God would allow you thrash about in quicksand for an indeterminate period of time? The fact is that only a loving God would allow it because there is something that needs to be learned and shared. Experience tells me that no matter how long the funk lasts He will rescue me and I will always come out better than when I went in. I have learned to ride the wave and hang on to Him for my very life. There are absolutely times that I FEEL I’ll not make it this time, but I KNOW that I will because He has NEVER left me or forsaken me … never. He is the Hope I hang on to.

Each time I go through this, I become a stronger person, but more importantly, I become a more compassionate person. I know what people are going through and I can usually see it coming before they become fully overtaken by it. My journey has taught me (keeps teaching me) that I am able to stand along another and say, “I know Someone who can help.” Faith is believing in what you cannot see because you know it will be, even though it doesn’t feel so.

If you’re in a funk at this moment, I want you to know that you are not alone. I want you to know that you’re not crazy. I want you to know that it is not a lack of faith that got you to this point but faith will sustain you whilst you are there and He will lead you out. You will overcome. You will be victorious.

Be the best you that you can be today and don’t measure your goodness and value by someone else’s standards. If you can barely “be” at this moment, hang on to all hope. Hang on for dear life because life is precious.

Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope you have.” 1 Peter 3:15

My Hope is in Jesus.

Now, that’s Deep!

back massage detailA couple of years ago, I was preparing to run a 5K. I had spent several weeks adding on a block or two of distance and pushing myself a little bit harder every day. I had never run before; I was careful not to push so hard that I might injure myself before the race. I just wanted to do it to prove to myself that I could do it, to prove to myself that I was tough. There was however a life lesson throughout the process which did not manifest itself to me until such time as I would be open to absorb it and learn from it. Unfortunately for me, that time was later rather than sooner. Welcome to my world.

Thinking that a “deep tissue” massage might prepare my muscles for the big day and relax me at the same time, I made an appointment for the afternoon before the race. Is there a better way to end the work day than laying beneath a heated, thick, fluffy duvet with the sound of birds and crickets chirping in the background? The room was the perfect temperature; it wasn’t too dark, just dark enough to lull my body into a false sense that it was bed time. I took a deep breath, you know the kind that a child takes after crying – three breaths in one. Ah … I can’t imagine how much better this will be once the massage begins … sigh …. deep breaths of a relaxing proportion such that I could not remember having in years … if ever.

The massage therapist tapped on the door before entering. I watched, through the slits of my almost closed eyes, as she poured oil into her hands and warmed it. “Tell me if I’m too rough,” she whispered over the the chirps coming from the corner of the room. She asked me to roll onto my stomach and began with a gentle effleurage over my back and moved down to my thighs. Am I in Heaven already? I sighed. “Sometimes people can’t really handle deep tissue massage,” she stated. Clearly, she didn’t know me. I’m a rock. I’m built of sturdy stuff. I can take anything you can throw at me. “Just take those knots out of my muscles” I pleaded.

As her tiny, warm hands worked the muscles in my thighs I began to nod off. That feels so great, I thought.  I hope I don’t fall asleep. Oh … yes … that’s sooo nice … OH!! DEAR GOD IN HEAVEN! WHAT ARE YOU DOING TO ME!?  I was suddenly catapulted from a  sweet dream into a nightmare. What the … “Am I going too deep?” she asked as I tensed up. “Oh, not at all” I replied (lied). WOMAN! ARE YOU CRAZY? TELL HER THE TRUTH!! I couldn’t. I just kept thinking, if it hurts this much now, I’m sure it’ll feel great when she is through. I said nothing. I could take it. After all, I gave birth to two children. I was, for the most part, a single mom. I’ve spent a life time sucking it up. There was no way a massage was going to ruin my record or put a dent in my pride …  so  … I held it in. I could have told her it was a little rough. She wouldn’t have minded; it would have made no difference to her.The once tiny digits that caressed and kneaded my muscles now seemed like little boney, coat hanger-like fingers digging their way into every nerve ending of my body. She likely would have welcomed a slight change in pressure, but I just couldn’t bring myself to say anything. I sucked it up.

Sixty minutes later I rolled off that little table, the table that once lured me onto it with its soft, warm, fluffy duvet. I limped out of the office and winced as I tried to get into my vehicle. I could barely control the steering wheel. My arms and even my hands felt like they had been flashed frozen and thrown into a fire. Hot bath! Hot bath! Hot bath! My Sweet Lord, please help me. I’m dying!

That night was a sleepless one. Even my once soft mattress abused what was left of me. Needless to say, the following day, I missed the race. I could barely get out of bed. In fact, I could barely walk or move for the next three days. Was God giving me a deep tissue spiritual massage?

Sometimes God will use insignificant things, people, or events to teach us something He desires us to learn. Sometimes, He has to teach the lesson more than once. So, what was I supposed to learn that day that He’s had to re-teach me several times since then? Humility and vulnerability are precious to a person’s growth. I had spent months preparing for  a race that I was not able to run because my pride got in the way. That massage therapist would not have care if I would have said, “How about a not-so-deep tissue massage?” She was getting paid either way. She was not going to go home and tell her husband about the tough broad who was able to endure everything she had to dish out. I was afraid she would see that I was human; I had limits as to what I could handle. She was unknown to me. It was likely that I would likely NEVER see her again but I felt the need to continue the charade that I had become so adept at playing even before a complete stranger. Opening ourselves up, being vulnerable and authentic, is of more benefit to us than it is to the world of people around us.

Do you keep everything inside? Do you force yourself to live up to your own high and most often unreasonable standards? Are you trying to live up to someone else’s unreasonable standards? Is it difficult for you to say “enough”? Are you trying to please others at your own expense?

Was God’s plan for me to actually run that race? Or, was His plan to provide me with a life lesson … one that I soon forgot and would have to learn again and again and again? Life is not easy but there is always the blessing of a teachable moment if we set our “self” aside and open our hearts and minds to listen and adjust accordingly. A candid conversation with a friend recently brought that lesson to my mind … again. We are human. The people we love are there to remind us of these lessons when we let them inside. Don’t be afraid of being judged if you don’t complete the race you had planned out. There is always a spiritual race being run that is far more important than the races we try to run in the natural.

“For I know the plans I have for you”—this is the Lord’s declaration—“plans for your welfare, not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope.” Jeremiah 29:11.

Fearless Faith

Problem and difficulty conceptFear sees the enemy as bigger and more powerful than God. The greater we fear, the greater our problems become. Fear attacks us from the inside and works its way from our minds and emotions into the very fibre of our being. Fear kills us slowly. Fear believes God is distant and aloof.  Fear is us handing the enemy power over us by faith that he will move on our behalf. Faith sees God and sovereign and loving. Faith brings comfort in the situation and not only at the end of the situation.

Fear and faith also have a lot in common. Both require a complete trust or confidence in the unknown and unforeseeable future. The biggest difference between them is that faith requires trust in God and fear is basically trust in the enemy. Fear says, I can’t believe that God can, or will, do what He says He can. Fear says, I’m more afraid of what the enemy might have planned for me; he must be more powerful. Fear is a tactic of the enemy and believe me when I say, he knows our weaknesses better than we know ourselves. If the enemy is anything, it’s patient. He likes to whisper lies in our ears and the only reason we have a proclivity to believe them is because he often slips just enough truth in those lies to make them somewhat plausible to someone who has been caught in his snare. Sometimes he just repeats things he may have heard others say to us. There is nothing original about him. Jesus called him “the father of lies.”

God wants us to trust in Him. He wants us to surrender all to Him. He wants us to – when confronted by fear – turn it away by clinging to Him in faith; He wants us to choose Him rather than fear. Fear and faith are attained by choice – a decision has to be made as to  which one we will put our hope in and which one we will banish. It is impossible to have two opposing thoughts simultaneously … wouldn’t it be so much easier to choose faith? Wouldn’t it be more comforting to choose faith?

Faith in God does not guarantee a sweet and easy life, but it does guarantee that there will always be a Comforter with you, someone in your corner, someone who loves you without condition, no matter what you have said, or done. Faith is what allows you to cry but helps dry the tears when you bring to mind all the times that you have banked on faith and been rewarded by it.

When faced with a decision to fear or have faith there is something I often forget … but never for long. I choose to recall that my faith has always come through – maybe not always as I had things envisioned or planned – but things have always, always worked out for the best – faith builds faith. If we never had opportunities to test our faith, it wouldn’t be faith, would it? When I choose to believe in fear, there is no joy in the situation – ever. I am robbed of all peace. My entire spirit is downcast. I look forward to nothing but the end. I am never blessed by it and I find myself inconsolable and isolated. When I think of all the time that I have spent awake, worrying, speculating … is always for not because I have never, ever, ever had a situation turn out worse that I had ever imagined it – and I have quite an imagination.

How many times a day do we put faith in the unknown? Every night when I lay my head down, I have faith that I will wake up the next day. I have faith when I get in my car that I’ll make it to my destination. People save money because we have faith that we’ll make it to retirement. We get an education because we have faith we’ll become employed. We have faith in the intangible, against odds that are not always calculable, but so many of us can’t believe that a loving God would care enough about us to see us through whatever life hands us. No, we make a deliberate choice to give glory to the enemy when we give in to his promptings.

There is only one kind of faith and that is fearless faith. “Do not be afraid. Stand firm and you will see the deliverance the Lord will bring you today. The Egyptians you see today you will never see again. The Lord will fight for you; you need only be still.” Exodus 14:13-14.

The Comfort of Offense

Teenage girl disaster survivorHave you ever wondered why, after forgiving someone, the thought of them, the sound of their voice, the mere mention of their name can set off a chain reaction of negative emotion and stinking thinking ad nauseum? Sometimes, it can get to the point of having conversations in your head … you know the kind … the things you wished you would have thought of when you were first offended. The kind of conversations where they never get a word in and you are always the victor … oh, and you have some doozies ready – just in case. If we’re being honest, we’ve all been there, haven’t we? We have all planned out our vengeful little schemes in our fantasy world. Oh sure, we forgive, but there is no way we’re going to forget. We can’t! It’s just not wise … they may do it again. For some people, the down side of forgiving and forgetting is that  you can’t stack up the incidents of offense against you if you’ve forgotten them. Forgetting those offenses would mean that everyone who has ever hurt you gets a clean slate each time. Preposterous!

Listen, let’s be clear. I’m not talking about the the guy in the elevator who steps on our new Manolo Blahniks. He didn’t mean it. He apologized profusely. Besides, he’s a guy, what does he know about shoes. It’s not like we have a relationship with him. Hating this guy would be a waste of energy….right?

I’m talking about when our best friend divulges one of our most embarrassing secrets publicly at a gathering.We get angry, hurt, embarrassed, maybe even mortified! We try and shake it off; we rationalize about why she did it … too much wine perhaps? She later approaches us with her head held down in shame – she’s betrayed a confidence and ridiculed the one person she loves most in the world. She’s too ashamed to even expect forgiveness. We forgive her, but secretly we tell ourselves, “I’ll never forget what she did to me. I’ll never get over that humiliation.” And we don’t.

Each time we see her, things seem a little more back to normal. We feel magnanimous about our ability to forgive. What a good friend we are to forgive that kind of indiscretion.

Months pass by and we have another secret. We’re about to call her when we remember what we promised ourselves. We said we’d never forget! We forgave her, but the wound never quite healed. Every time the opportunity to prove to her that we really did forgive her came along, we picked at the scab and it bled. After a few years, though the scab finally healed, there remained an indentation – a scar. This is the place where the pain lives and thrives – where the pain has become a monument to what once was a flourishing friendship. We re-hash and re-hash until the offense has taken on a life of its own – it’s called unforgiveness. Our life, the one we once knew – the vibrancy of life – has been ebbing away. We are slowly being gobbled up in a bed of quicksand. Everything we do to rescue ourselves only sinks us deeper in the mire.

We think that if we allow ourselves to forget the past, we are condoning it. That is not the case. Erecting a monument to pain is a slow suicide. After a while, people don’t want to be around the person who is always rehashing the same old same old. It’s unhealthy. It’s like drinking a poison tonic and expecting everyone to take a sip. We end up hurting ourselves more than that friend originally hurt us and we blame it on the very person we said we forgave.

Eventually, we’ve done such an outstanding job of never letting anyone forget we’ve been offended that people know our stories by heart. Some of them actually begin to feel sorry for us and that – pity – is the anchor of offense. That is what perpetuates the pain and gives it life.

So, we meet some one new. A new friend. We have a lot in common. But there is something about her that we just can’t put our finger on. Maybe she sounds like, looks like, or has a habit like our old friend. Suddenly, everyone we meet who reminds us of the pain we’ve been tending to will end up making us run our fingers over that spot again. We don’t even know what’s happening. At some point, we might even become so hypersensitive about our own pain that we don’t even recognize when we do the same thing to others – we become self-centred. We take comfort in our pain. It becomes a blanket that keeps us warm when we no longer trust anyone else.

Forgiving without forgetting is like trying to strain play dough through a colander. It isn’t meant to be. I’m not saying it’s easy. I confess to you that I have stacked upon stacks of many offenses that I have nurtured over the years but you know something, it is bloody exhausting and leads to physical, emotional and spiritual illness of untold proportion. We can’t do this alone. It’s much bigger than we are. We need to realize first all that we have been forgiven for – our indiscretions and our sins – wiped clean as far as the east is from the west.

Forgiving and forgetting is not something we do for others, we do it first for ourselves to restore our health, our sanity, and primarily to maintain and grow in our relationship with God.

“But if you do not forgive others their trespasses [their reckless and wilful sins, leaving them, letting them go, and giving up resentment], neither will your Father forgive you your trespasses.”  Matt. 6:15 AMP.

Autopilot

Pilots in the cockpitNot all planes have autopilot installed and not all pilots use autopilot. As a matter of fact, there are some pilots who feel that using autopilot is detrimental to one’s “hands on” skills, and so they gladly log in all those hours faithful to their craft in the manner in which they were taught. They enjoy it.

Some pilots however recognize that autopilot affords them more attentiveness and time to deal with Air Traffic Control and watch for air traffic. Using autopilot does not necessarily result in the neglect of flying skills because it’s not just a switch that is engaged so the pilot can sit back and relax. The pitch, roll, heading and altitude must be set prior to engaging the autopilot. Proficiency in the transition from hands-on to autopilot is only acquired after training and much practice. In any case – practice and dedication of time is an investment all pilots have to make.

Sadly however, autopilot doesn’t seem to work the same way when it comes to relationships. Most relationships fall prey to the autopilot. The problem is that most often, the time, effort and energy is not reinvested into most relationships.

Suddenly, the urgency to hurry home to the love of our life has become frequently delayed by running errands. In times past, there were no pecks on the cheek – there was eye contact and a full embrace. “How was your day?” was responded to with more than a one syllable answer. Enjoying a spontaneous evening out with a friend is now scheduled and rescheduled and sometimes rescheduled.  Children tug at our pant legs – hoping we will look directly into their eyes and listen to them speak an entire sentence before ending it for them because frankly, it’s been a long day and maybe Mom or Dad had their fill listening to whining colleagues all day.

Once upon a time even a treasured few minutes was worth any amount of effort; other activities and priorities have all but snuffed out what once fueled the desire to engage in our relationships. We seem to have it all backward. As a dear friend used to often say to me, “Time isn’t something you have, it’s something you make.”

There is one relationship that should be held in reverence high and above all others. In fact, without this relationship – all others will succumb to autopilot and will likely crash and burn. There is one, One, who desires above all else to be pursued as if life itself depended on it … and if you really think about it … a full and abundant life actually does depend on it.

“’For I know the plans I have for you,’ declares the Lord, ‘plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. Then you will call upon me and come and pray to me and I will listen to you. You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart.’” Jeremiah 29:11-13.

Time isn’t something you have, it’s something you make.

Abiding Love

Geöffnete TürThere I stood barely breathing, secluded in the barren field, tormented, scarred and scorched like a sunflower in the midday sun. You came to me. Did you hear my call? For your hand was outstretched and beckoned me. You lead me to a garden that I had only dreamed of. Your kindness touched me to the depth of my very soul, leaving me weak but secure within your strength.

Who am I that you should look upon me with your loving heart, that you should call me friend and lover? In my wonder, I see my reflection in your eyes and I see that I am beautiful. You say of me that I am more precious than all the gold and sapphires. Yet, I know it is because I live in the shadow of your love. Your voice is a melody to my ears and your name the song of my heart. Your words are my sustenance. I am enveloped by your love. You have made me your bride before all who see. Your love radiates from me, a beacon in the darkness of night. You keep me under your wing. Your kiss replenishes my hope, for with you, I am perfect because you love me.

I give myself to you completely: body, soul, heart and mind. Because I am in you and you in me we are one – inseparable, betrothed, woven together into one fabric. You are my perfect love. Your arms warm me in the coolness of the night; their strength rescues me from the thorns. Your love speaks the promise of eternity. You hold me in high esteem crowning my head with your glory. From you flows quenching waters. I thirst for you, my love. You fill me. You perfect me.

Was I not once weather-beaten by the winds? Was I not once a tree stripped of her bark? No more. You are my refuge, my shelter from the elements. My heart, once buried in the tomb of the world, is now alive. Your beauty illuminates my essence. I delight in you. My heart leaps in my bosom at your sight. I cannot contain myself. I am a wild flower blossoming in love. I am a bird gliding and soaring, a river that cannot be contained. Because you take my breath away, again I am barely breathing.