I have a wonderful friend who prayed for me yesterday. The story of our friendship is beautiful and miraculous, and gives weight to her prayers, but I’ll share that with you some other time. I’ve mentioned her because, before we parted ways yesterday, she reminded me that writing is one of the gifts I’ve been given to process through pain, and she told me to write from the depths of my heart in this new leg of the journey it feels like I’ve been catapulted into. She told me not to try and make it perfect or pretty, but to be honest and real about where I’m at and what it feels like. I decided to take her advice.
So, today’s entry is later than usual, and harder for me to write than most of Monday’s posts. I can’t promise it will flow like I aim for most of my blogs to. What I can promise, however, is honest vulnerability in the middle of a mess that I didn’t anticipate and can’t see my way through. I hope you will bear with me because, like you in your situations, despite the deep difficulty of doing so, I am believing for breakthrough.
I wrestled with what to title this entry, almost as much as I’m still wrestling with what on earth to even write about. I’m not sure where to start, what to aim for, or if there is even a clear point I can see from my view. I thought to call it “Setting Up Camp in Death Valley.” Then I considered, “Bellowing Giants and Fierce Winds,” or “When War is Raging On Every Side.” I also thought “This I Recall to My Mind” might be fitting, remembering Jeremiah’s determination to remember God’s past faithfulness in the middle of the greatest devastation he had ever seen (Lamentations 3:21-23).
Any of them would have been a good place to start, but I chose “The Light We Cannot See” because right now, the God Who is Light is shining in ways and places I am not able to be a clear witness to. Yet, I know He lives within me, and therefore He is here, lighting up the darkness that feels like a thick, black cloak over my life.
I don’t mean to be dramatic, but dramatic describes my current change of circumstances, and the repurcussions which are reverberating through my life because of it. Sometimes we get no warning before crushing blows hit. I honestly didn’t see what I am now facing as it approached, but when I come up for air and grasp for some kind of signal that we’re not alone and haven’t been abandoned in it all, I am reminded that God has walked us through the valley of provision on the way here. And that what I need, moment by moment, will certainly come.
I am in a tug of war between two realities at the moment: what I feel and what I know. I don’t usually like to speak from this place. I much prefer to ponder and pray and find some solid ground to stand on, so it looks nicer and sounds better. And so that I don’t spout untruths out of a heart that’s being whipped around in the raging winds. Although I must tread lightly through this unstable territory, I also have to lean into what I’ve been learning about the value of transparency and connection in the intensely hard moments of life. And while it’s important to be wise in where I choose to aim myself in connection (and I am), I also want to invite other women seeking breakthrough to get a glimpse of real, raw process. This is what it looks like to fight to believe God and to believe for breakthrough when everything in your world is giving you reasons not to.
This is where I am today, standing in a valley facing giants that have snuck up on me.
Yesterday we got hit by a windstorm. It threw our basketball hoop down in the driveway and knocked a chair off the porch. It tore up our front yard and ripped our flag. It knocked over a budding tree and ravaged the kids’ trampoline net. It was angry wind that seemed to come out of nowhere, and left in its wake a mess that reminds us it was here. It won’t be easy to clean up, especially in the front yard. We are going to have to do some groundwork and invest in new materials to replace what has been overturned and swept away.
My life feels like that right now. We have suddenly and violently found ourselves in the Valley of the Shadow of Death, and there doesn’t seem to be any clear exit sign on the horizon (I say we because when one person in a family and community goes through crisis, everyone connected to her goes through it with her). The process of this journey, which we had hoped we could pray away and fight quickly through, is going to cost a lot – on so many levels. I can walk through the mess of my front yard and forget that I have to face it once I’m safely in my nice, clean house. But there is nowhere I can retreat to hide from this.
So where do I go? What do I do? What do I know is true, despite what I see all around me? What does a Woman of Breakthrough do when she has to crawl through?
I have survived the past week by taking deep, slow breaths and living one minute at a time. I have pulled down every lie I’ve been able to recognize, and there have been many. The giants before me are indeed bellowing belligerently, defying my God, my identity, and my promises. I have worshiped to survive. I have cried. I have gotten angry and yelled back at the giants. I have surrendered everything I know I can’t hold onto (the list of which seems to be growing by the minute). I have renounced my tendency to agree with a victim’s mindset, and have determined that I will believe in victory, no matter what the road there looks like. Consequently, I have had to shake off the pitiful notion that this trouble is happening to me, and instead embrace the truth that it is happening for me. It isn’t an easy trade, but it is a necessary one.
Thankfully, I have seen the back of Jesus’ Shepherd’s cloak and buried my face in it when the winds have been too fierce and the devastations too great and the truth too hard to believe.
I have wept over what I don’t believe is fair or right. I have mourned over the truth that I am likely not the first or last to walk through this kind of loss and disappointment. Others have gone before me, and I fear now that I didn’t weep enough for them. I have tried to wrap my head and heart around the strange truth that we can fight with all we’ve got and still sometimes not obtain what we have fervently hoped and prayed for. I have wrestled with questions and confusion and pain that I can’t handle, and I have come out none the richer and none the wiser. I have no consoling, religious slogans to cling to. The Scriptures speak, but my circumstances don’t change. This is difficult and dangerous ground, to be sure.
But, it is also holy ground, because I am not alone.
I cannot see the stars, and I can’t always hear clear answers. But I have been blessed to know the God to Whom even the darkness is light (Psalm 139:12). And He has been so faithful to me in the seasons that have gone before this that I am able to be sustained by the simple fact of His presence. It’s funny how grace can only be found sufficient when every other option has failed.
While there is so much I don’t know, there is also a fair amount I do, because the reputation God has built for Himself is unquestionable in my life. I have tasted and I have seen enough to trust certain things about His character. So while I do not understand His ways in all of this – how or why He is moving and not moving like He is – I do trust His heart. I do believe in His goodness, His mercy, and His unfathomable love. As Tony Evans recently said, I have questions for God, but I don’t question God. I hope you can understand the difference.
Dear Woman of Breakthrough, I am on a journey that I wish I wasn’t. Last week, I was resting beside still waters and lying down in green pastures, enjoying the beauty of it all. This week, I am surrounded by fierce enemies and engaged in the fight of my life. But I am comforted and strengthened to know that it is the same Shepherd Who leads me into both places, and Who will lead me out, in His perfect time.
Waiting isn’t easy, and I am dying a little every day as I do, but I am reminded that God brings the greatest glory out of the deepest graves. I will dance upon this one, too.
Pray for me, as I pray for you, that we will not waste our sorrows nor our trials, but in them be transformed more and more into looking and loving like our Jesus.