When life-wounds accumulate and try-harder hits another brick wall and unmet expectations distill into rage and dead ends outnumber passageways and your last best effort is not only inadequate but it’s also invisible–how do you respond?
I can tell you what I did.
I moved to a one-house spiritual cul-de-sac and declared, “I’m done.” I pulled down the blinds and surrounded myself with the red-lined pages of the bumbling narrative that was my story. I quit going to church. I ended long term relationships. I lost interest. I quit feeling. I ruminated on edited versions of the facts. I spoke infrequently to God and listened even less. I let my Bible(s) accumulate dust. I put away my camera and my keyboard. I gained 80 pounds. And I waited for heaven.
I sat down in the middle of my 50s something life and said, “I quit.”
I would learn that “I quit” isn’t the same as “It is finished” and giving up isn’t the same as surrender.
Inside the walls of my self-imposed exile I yelled the words heavenward in the silence of my head, “What story?” I tried to get God to admit that my life was little more than a series of starts that failed to benefit His Story.
Before you get sick to your stomach or close your laptop, allow me to share the reasons behind my pitiful resignation.
I had been surviving all my life–one thing after the other. I endured childhood sexual abuse, an alcoholic upbringing, rape, marital infidelity, the loss of a pastoral ministry, the loss of a marriage (after three painful separations), single parenting, financial challenges, ongoing and complicated family dysfunction, rejection from missions, remarriage, blended family strains, a child’s unplanned pregnancy, addictions of family members, death of my 18 year old niece, the premature death of my sister, the suicide of my 19 year old nephew, long bouts of debilitating depression, a PTSD diagnosis, marital loneliness, dashed hopes and derailed dreams. And recently, the break up of my child’s marriage.
From the most sincere place within me I respectfully informed God that I was very tired and that I was done. The dozens of prophesies and words I had received claiming a dynamic public ministry felt like mocking lies. Like Sarah, I laughed. Only mine was slightly more maniacal.
My world stilled. My soul dehydrated. My life atrophied.
Yet in those months that I couldn’t get off the couch or leave my house a trickling transformation began. My resignation slowly turned to surrender and surrender invited revelation and revelation resulted in deep repentance as the Holy Spirit gently revealed my grave sins of self-sufficiency and idolatry.
When a child experiences complex trauma and neglect her identity is sacrificed at the altar of survival. She is robbed of the nurture and emotional investment that teaches her she is seen, known, valued and loved. Without going into a long and incomplete explanation of PTSD, disassociate identity disorder or the crippling ramifications of codependency let me simply say:
I was living life with a lost self.
Prolonged survival can morph into self-sufficiency and results in a controlling, fear-based approach to living that refuses to trust. Though it is understandable, it is destructive. And it is sin.
Refusing to trust God is sin.
God and I had a nine-month staring contest and I blinked.
“You mean to tell me that all this work I’ve been doing is sin? Are you kidding me? I was just trying to serve You!”
In that way He speaks without words God said, “No. You were serving you.”
“You thought being recognized for having a public ministry would gain you the identity you felt you lacked; the recognition you craved.”
I blinked again.
Surrender will open your eyes.
He said, “I know who you are, my daughter.”
There was a three week pause where I wrestled with the truth. Then I responded, “Who do you say that I am, LORD?”
Today, I can irrevocably declare that being His is all the identity I need. And my surrender is all the permission God needs to completely restore my soul, albeit in His timing.
Sojourns can last a while. We, like little children on a long road trip, sometimes sit in the back seat and pester, “When are we gonna be there?”
Several times a day, when my old thinking rallies and my feet start out in search of meaning, I open my lips and declare softly,
I am Yours. That’s who I am.