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 They become withdrawn and reclusive.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.

Rescued

I could not speak, though much to say,

Words failed . . . thoughts assailed.

Who would I tell anyway?

 

My pride, my heart, the hurt . . . I wailed.

I knelt. I cried. I tried to pray.

No matter what – I tried and failed.

 

Left to feel . . . alone . . . untouched

Choking on my tears . . . undone,

A single strand of faith I clutched.

 

Knowing many . . . known by none

By The Father’s love was touched,

And hope rescued by the Holy One.

 

The Furnace of Affliction

The LightWhen we find ourselves calling upon God to rescue us from the furnace of affliction what we’re really doing is asking Him to save us from an opportunity whose primary function is to bring Him glory and secondary function is to inspire growth in us.

I never find myself asking Him to remove circumstances from my life when they suit me.  When things are humming along I’m likely at my happiest though I rarely learn anything in these situations. I guess you could call that “blissful ignorance” and it’s safe to say that I don’t bring much glory to God because my focus becomes self-centred. Candidly speaking, it seems that the longer things go well, the less grateful I am. Why? Because the condition of my spirit begins to degrade – in the Old Testament days that is what they called a “hardened heart”. How many people really spend much time on their knees in worship, praise, prayer and thanksgiving when things are going splendidly?

Then there are those times – when I am being pulled out of the furnace that it seems to me I’m most grateful. It all has to do with mindset – where my focus is – and it’s usually on myself and my comfort rather than God and His promises for my life.

But here’s something new I’d like to try on, (did I just say that?). What would you say if I told you that the best place to practice gratitude is actually in the furnace of affliction? So, why am I not filled with gratitude when God stokes the fire a little? I know that every moment I spend in the furnace results in a spiritual upgrade, but for some reason – the “old man” in me seems to have the ability to resurrect itself when the coals begin to turn red.

Yahweh was in the furnace with Abednego, Meshach Shadrach,  but since then He has made atonement for us, He is in us in the furnace – with all-conquering power and glory. Before we even step in there, He knows what the outcome will be and He invites us to come into the fire. I have, on occasion, bowed down to fear rather than accept His invitation.

It’s all in the mindset – like Joshua and Caleb who believed and saw the promise of God while the other ten spies needed see in order to  believe. Glory is achieved in the furnace – His and ours. Daniels’ friends stepped into the furnace full on and later came out refreshed and with an attitude of gratitude. God is in our circumstances – we belong with Him.

“No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us.  For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers,  neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” Romans 8:37-39 NIV.

Loneliness

LonelyIf you Google the word “lonely” the results are, inevitably, a list of more than 172 MILLION are returned in .26 seconds. By the time I’m through writing this post, it might be even higher.

Many people believe that being alone and being lonely are synonymous. In fact, they are not. Being alone is a choice one makes; being lonely – for the most part – is not. I am an introvert and I enjoy being alone – I like and quite look forward to solitude. I don’t enjoy being lonely. I have had an extensive amount of experience in this area.  Some of my lovely, and well-meaning friends and family members have often recommend that I join groups and find things to do as a means of meeting other people. Joining an organization – such as a gym, or joining a bowling league, for example – are activities. Being lonely is not always related to an absence of activities. Being lonely doesn’t necessarily indicate an absence of loving family members or friends.

I am not a member of the Lonely Heart’s Club. My opinions don’t represent the opinions of all the lonely people in the world; I can only speak for myself. Being lonely is a heart condition. I have been (many times) in rooms filled with people who truly care about me and the feelings are reciprocated – yet I have – many of these times – felt lonely and alone and hopeless. For some, myself included, that can be a dangerous place to be for too long a period.

Loneliness is accompanied by a persistent ache, whose description is almost impossible to put into words. It’s like a cancer looming in the soul of your existence. Oh, sure it might seem to go into remission from time to time but then you wake up one day and just know it’s back. Each time it returns you sure it’s here to stay this time. It wants your life. You don’t know why it’s here, but it hurts so very much – no one can possibly understand your pain.  Some even say, “But you’re so lucky. You’re so blessed. You should be happy”…. They haven’t been there. They don’t understand. There is something significant to be said when a person can examine the exterior of another’s life and determine that, because they are blessed, suffering has been taken off the table.

If you are suffering, I want you to know that I have been there and I do understand. If you think, even for a moment, that ending your life will solve this problem … I’m writing to you specifically.

There was a time in my life when the pain of loneliness was so great that even the love of my beautiful children could not fill the emptiness that seeped into my thoughts, heart and spirit. All the faking in the world may have fooled others but it never fooled me. It seemed that loneliness was my shadow and the sun exacerbated my pain by shining into my darkness. There were times where it took more energy than I had to keep on, to hope. Hope requires energy … or does it?

Maybe you’ve been in this “place” for so long you have completely given up hope. Can I ask you, since you’re here and reading, can you please just hang on a bit longer? Will you do that for me? I know that we perhaps have never met, but we do know each other. We share a bond and that means that you’re not alone! There are far too many people still suffering, but TRUST me when I say, there are many who were able to move past this. There is hope. There IS hope.

It may seem that hope requires too much energy – what it really requires of us is to make a commitment to hang on to all hope, when all hope seems lost. Hanging on does not equate to filling the emptiness with substances or activities such as: shopping, alcohol, relationships, pornography, television, working 12 hours a day or, even exercise done to extremes. Hanging on to hope does not mean waiting for another human being to fill the void. Neither does hanging on to hope mean engaging in the latest methods of  “self” improvement; there is nothing “wrong” with you … there’s something missing. While all these things may very well take a temporary bite out of loneliness the problem will always be there unless you find the only thing that fits the void. If you’re searching for a permanent way out of loneliness I can assure you that the hole inside you right now will be felt for next to eternity, by those who love you, if you leave this world before trying to fill your own with a living and perpetual hope.

By design, we came into being with an emptiness, a void, a hole in our spirits. Our Creator fits into that hole. He longs to fill that emptiness in you. He longs to complete you. He is kind and loving and waits for an invitation. He will not bulldoze His way into your heart. Call on Him. He will answer. I guarantee it. He answered me and I was no one special, but I am now because His hope lives in me. Please, call His name. He is our Hope – the author and finisher of our faith.

“We wait in hope for the Lord; He is our help and our shield. In Him our hearts rejoice, for we trust in His Holy name,” Psalm 33:20

“Blessed is he whose help is the God of Jacob, whose hope is in the Lord his God, the Maker of heaven and earth, the sea, and everything in them – the Lord, who remains faithful forever,” Psalm 146:5-6

“Show me your ways, Lord, teach me your paths. Guide me in your truth and teach me, for you are God my saviour, and my hope is in you all day long,” Psalm 25:5-6

The Wonder – Part II

Beautiful Nature BokehI was breathless, but not out of breath. In some ways it seemed like the culmination of my adventure – something tugged at my soul – something I didn’t understand, but was about to. I knew it was just the beginning, perhaps the end of one journey but the start of a passage, an understanding, the fulfillment of a promise. I felt understood. I felt loved. Purpose was speaking to me, calling me out of the shell I had survived in. I felt like a flower, opening up for the first time. Someone was looking into me, seeing me, seeing in me what I never saw in myself. The unveiling of hope was revealing itself to me. I laid down in the grass. It was covered in dew, but I welcomed it. It made me feel alive. My spirit was alert as if it had heard something I hadn’t – a concerto playing for me, written for me and only me. It felt like a new beginning.

She wrapped herself in the grass. The dew caressed her with the tears of my love; the joy of my heart enveloped her. She lavished in it. It was refreshing. It was a moment I couldn’t interrupt. She’d come. This very moment inevitable. That’s why she had made the journey. I could wait a little longer; I sent my song of love to her, carried on the wings of the birds. My heart swelled at the fullness of love that was emergent in her. She had never dreamed of this kind of love and I wanted nothing more than give her everything I had to give. Gratitude began to fill and surround her – she would never know fully that it was I who was grateful that she embraced the gift I gave her – it was in the giving that love grew.

I felt satisfied and grateful as if the greatest gift had been bestowed upon me. It was in those moments that I realized that I had been walking in a shroud of weariness before I set out on this walk, before I came to lay myself beneath the sky. Heaven seemed to be speaking to me. I had never known this comfort. There were no words to express how touched I was. I wanted to stay there in that moment and never let go, but no – there was more to come. I felt strong, yet weak. I didn’t want to move but I felt compelled to get up. It was as if I had found a treasure map and had been relishing in the find of the map and not the treasure. I was overcome by tears. I had never known this kind of joy. Something was growing inside me.

She picked herself up and began to walk in my direction, though she hadn’t yet seen me. I knew I would surprise her. I knew she would have doubts and wonder who I was. For a brief instant she would feel unsafe, unsure of herself, unsure of me, but it wouldn’t last. It was me she had set out to encounter when she began the journey. Ah, she noticed me. I pretended not to notice her, to give her time to process what she was feeling and thinking. Her mind was cautious. Her heart was intrigued. Her spirit knew me. Her spirit recognized me. Everything inside me wanted to run to her, to pick her up in my arms and hold her, to melt away every little bit of pain and doubt, to answer every question, but I knew I had to move slowly. I had to let her come to me and she would, sooner rather than later. The course had been set; she was already out of the starting blocks. She wasn’t about to turn back now.

I saw him sitting beneath the willow tree, on the bank of the river that had been calling me. My spirit longed to approach him, but my mind was tentative. Who was he? Why was he there? Was he waiting for me? He hadn’t noticed me. I was glad. I wasn’t sure about what to do next. Should I keep walking to the river? Should I say hello? Something inside me kept telling me that he had been waiting for me all this time. My heart was intrigued. Was it a coincidence that he just happened to be sitting there? I had never seen him before yet there was something about him. Outrageous thoughts began to overtake me. I wanted him to run to me, to hold me in his arms. He had this look about him – this ‘je ne sais quoi’ – something alluring, something enticing and appealing, that radiated from inside his spirit as if it was connected directly to my own. I couldn’t turn back now.

The decision was made. She walked toward me – tentatively at first. I could hear her heartbeat. She didn’t know it yet, but it was beating for me. It had always beaten for me as mine had for her. She wanted me to turn my head toward her, to meet her gaze but at the same time she was reticent. I respected that. I could wait a few moments more, although nothing inside me wanted to wait any longer. The earth sounded her approach to me. I looked into the water, restraining myself from jumping to my feet. She would know the exact moment of truth because I would tell her – I would tell her from my spirit to hers, “Come to me. Come to me.”

Even had I wanted to turn back, my feet would not allow it. They had charge over my entire body. My heart beat so loudly; it resonated through the ground. I was sure he could hear me coming. I was glad, but I was tentative. He was looking upon the water. Our spirits spoke to each other as I made my descent. His arm reached out slowly, his hand reaching for mine as if it was waiting for me. I heard a small still voice within me whisper, “Come to me. Come to me.” He stood and began to walk in my direction. I didn’t understand why, and I didn’t care. All I knew was that everything inside me wanted to run to him.

She was more resplendent than anything I had ever seen. She was ready. There was nothing more urgent for her than to be in my arms where she belonged. She wanted to run to me. I smiled at her, inviting her to take my hand. This was the moment I had waited for yet it was just the beginning.

He was magnificent. There was nothing left inside me to hold me back – I wanted nothing more than to let go – let go of anything and everything that had ever kept us apart. This was the moment I had waited for. My purpose, the reason for my creation, was unfolding.

She ran into my arms. I held her. I held her so tightly, tightly but gently – reassuringly. I wanted her to be confident in my love. I wanted her to know that, from this point on, I would never let her go. I loved her more than I loved my own life. I would lay it down for her and her alone and I needed for her to know that. I needed for her to understand that. Yet how could she? She was mine, finally. I’ll spend the rest of my days living to show her that I am completely hers.

I wanted him. I needed him. I knew as I began to run toward him that I had found the one I had been looking for. I had found what had been missing, what had kept me from being fully alive. I had no shame. I was spiritually naked before him, hiding nothing. I sensed that he knew more about me than I knew about myself. I felt loved, so loved by him. I knew he would have sacrificed everything, his very life, to express that love. I knew I’d never fully understand. I gave him my heart. I gave him my mind and my soul with every bit of strength I had. I knew, as I stood there, wrapped inside his arms sheltered beneath his wing, that I would spend the rest of my days living to show him that I am completely his.