(Blogger’s note: don’t tear up, M. — this has a happy ending …)
I feel a little sad for how dour most of my last several posts have been. I wish I could give you a lot more sunshine, light and slapstick humor. Alas, that’s not what I have in supply right now, so I have to make do with what I’ve got.
And what I’ve got right now is that I’m broken.
I think it happened a bit before Easter. It wasn’t anything in particular, just the effect of all the events of the last year or two exacting their toll, a piece at a time. It happens. I’m not sure what broke, or how I would even go about fixing it, but my emotions are on a more consistent low, I’ve been lacking in energy, and it’s been harder to get going on the things I need/want to do. I’ve dealt with depression before, but this is something different. And as much as I’ve done my best to keep a-soldiering on, as loath as I’ve been to admit it (even to myself), I really haven’t been the same since whatever snapped, snapped.
Sounds pretty bad, I imagine. Well, maybe it is. And then again, maybe not.
In my life, I’ve learned (the hard way, natch) never to assume that what looks like good or bad fortune in the short term will stay so in the long term. Some of what looked like the luckiest breaks I’ve ever had have, over time, turned sour if not bitter. And some of the worst disasters I’ve experienced have been blessings in (very thorough) disguise. I’ve found that it’s best to see how things play out.
I mentioned in my last post how I’d come to the realization that where I was is exactly where God wants me to be. It wasn’t really what I’d hoped to hear, but it did have the advantage of being the truth. If you surrender your life to God (and I have, to the best of my ability), you have to expect that He’s going to do some things with it, things that maybe you wouldn’t have chosen for yourself. That’s part of the bargain. But another part is that He’s trustworthy, that what He does will be to my benefit, eventually, as well as His.
So with that in mind, my reactive question has become, not “God, why are you doing this to meeeee?!?” but “okay, God, what are you hoping to accomplish here? And is there any way I can help?” Because, even when it looks grim, I’ve found that when I cooperate with Him, things come out remarkably well.
Okay, applying general principle to specific situation … what about my being broken? What good can this lead to? Well, as I read my Bible, God never seemed to break something unless it was to rebuild it, or to rebuild something else in its place. One empire comes down, another comes up on top of it. Someone goes through trouble or persecution, they end up stronger or holier or just better equipped to do the next thing. Guy gets sick, guy gets healed. It’s a recurring theme. So, to quote Buddy the Tyrannosaur from “Dinosaur Train,” I have a hypothesis: I am broken so that God can shape me into something better.
Now that doesn’t sound so bad, does it? It’s the process that’s the painful part. But I know of nowhere in Scripture (contrary to the teachings of the “prosperity gospel” heresiarchs) where it ever says that following God was going to be easy. Heck, look what Jesus went through! (You wanna be crucified? While your mom and some of your friends watch? Me neither.) If the uniquely begotten Son of God, born without sin, isn’t going to get fast-tracked, why would we ever think we’d get off easy? We aren’t called to an easy life — we’re called to His life. And His life includes being broken, and then remade into the image of His Son (Romans 8:29).
But the good news — the Good News, really — is that He will do that, remolding us to be like Jesus. Where that will lead us in the short term may not be a route we enjoy that much. But if we keep our eyes on the long term … well, there’s closer relationship with God, there’s greater inner peace, there’s a clear conscience and a positive influence on the world (whether the world is looking for it or not). And then, yeah, you die … and get to go to God’s home and stay there forever and ever! Where exactly is the downside, really?
I must’ve mentioned Corrie ten Boom before, because her name came up in the WordPress “Post Tags” function of tags I’ve used for previous entries. Corrie, if you didn’t know, was a Dutch spinster who, with her family, helped shelter Jews and smuggle them out of Nazi-occupied Europe during World War II. For her work, she got a nine-month vacation courtesy of Hitler’s boys, much of which was spent at the Ravensbruck concentration camp. While she was there, her father, sister and several other relatives died in captivity; Corrie herself only escaped the gas chambers due to a clerical error.
When the Nazis began pulling back in late 1944, they released her only to find she was too sick (edema in her feet) to go home, so she had to spend another week in the camp hospital before going back to the Netherlands. In her autobiography The Hiding Place, she talks about that week, including a showdown with two patients who had commandeered the only bedpans in the unit. She found out, asked them to return them, and one of them hit her in the face with a bandage they’d taken from their own gangrenous foot! (Yuk.) That sent Corrie limping to the washroom to try and get the stink off, and while there she found herself crying, thinking she couldn’t bear to go back …
But as she commented in her book, “I had learned a lot about what I could and could not bear.” She dried off, came stomping back to the ward … and saw the bedpans clatter to the floor. Showed them.
I think of Corrie as I look at my own situation. Mine may not be great, but it sure beats a Nazi konzentrationslager. And if she can deal with nine months of that, I can deal with my last nine months … and whatever else comes next. Being broken is not going to keep me from following God, is not going to steer me toward some so-called “safe” way, is not going to make me give up. No self-pity, no running away, no caving in, no compromises. Because I know that if I hang in there, I’ll see what God has in store for the long term.
And I know it’s going to be worth it. So tear me down, Lord, if you need to — and let’s see what you can make of the pieces!