#4: A Defining Moment, Fall 2016 (repost)
(This was the pinnacle moment of my 2016 summer, where all that pain led up to, as far as my faith was concerned. And I guess if this is where all that pain led to, then I don't regret it. You'll see what I mean.)
Have you ever been smacked upside the head by the heaviest questions you could ever ask yourself, knowing that the answers would define your future and determine the direction of your faith thereafter? ...
During the worst summer I ever had - the summer of 2016, the year that broke me - I was in such despair that I could barely get out of bed. I was afraid of everything - afraid of having another panic attack, afraid that moving around would make me throw up, afraid that I would lose my mind and end up in the hospital, afraid that I wouldn't get help from the hospital and that I would succumb to crippling anxiety, afraid of talking to others, afraid of not talking it out, afraid my mother would kill herself, afraid she would die heartbroken and alone, etc.
I was so broken and felt so hopeless. And while I knew that I wouldn't hurt myself, that suicide wasn't an option, I also knew that I was at the point people get to when they decide to kill themselves. I remember tending to the beans in the garden one day, wrestling with the suffocating pain and the feeling of having no way out and the thought that I can't keep going on like this, that it was breaking me too bad, when a realization hit me ... This is the point people get to when they kill themselves.
I knew I was at the point people are at when they decide that it's better to end it all than to face one more day of suffocating pain. I completely understand now why people do it, why they feel it's their only option to escape the pain, why they feel a huge sense of relief when they finally make the decision to end their life, and how they can calmly carry out their plan.
When you are in that much suffocating pain with no way out, the idea of suicide can seem like a breath of fresh air, like finally having hope that it can all be over soon.
As I said, I knew that it wasn't an option for me (yet deep down, I kinda wished it was), that it's not the right choice, the answer, for anyone. But if I didn't have the husband and kids that I have ... or if one more huge trial hit me ... or if I didn't have the Lord to help me moment by moment ... I don't know if I would have had the strength to hang on anymore. I was so tired that I didn't want to hang on anymore. Had one more little trial or heartbreak hit me at that time, ending it all might have been a very inviting possibility.
I understand now how someone can do that. And every time that I hear of someone who committed suicide, my heart tears wide open. (I'm still sad over Robin Williams. Such a tragedy.) I know what that despair, that hopelessness, that loneliness feels like. Had I allowed myself to see suicide as a real option, it could have been me. (While I wouldn't let myself daydream about suicide, I did daydream about meteorites falling out of the sky and crashing into our house or being on a plane that goes down or falling off of a skyscraper, closing my eyes, and enjoying every foot of the fall ... up until that last one. And I prayed all the time that Jesus would come back again. I still do. All the time. I want that to be the way I go out!)
There was a time during that summer when I wanted to give up my faith. I really wanted to be able to be done with it, to not believe in God anymore. I actually kinda envied those who didn't have faith, who were "in charge" of their lives, not waiting on some other Being to handle things for them, to fix things that were broken, taking His sweet time. It hurt me deeply to be waiting on Someone who didn't seem to be coming through for me, who didn't seem to be listening, who allowed such pain.
And I remember working in the garden one day, listening to their music on my MP3 player as a gentle breeze rustled the cucumber leaves. The song "My Jesus, I Love Thee" was on.
And as I went about picking vegetables and cleaning up dead leaves, a line from that song hit me so hard that I had to stop.
"I love Thee (Jesus) in life. I will love Thee in death."
That line cut through all my proccupied thoughts, all the fuzziness in my head. And I stopped ... and stood there ... and asked myself a question I had never considered before. The question to end all questions.
"If my life ended this summer (not that I wanted to die, just that I didn't want to be here on earth anymore), I would die as a Christian, as a follower of Jesus, claiming that He was the only way to heaven. All other options would be closed to me, the chance to change my mind. Is the Christian faith really the one I want to die in? Is Jesus really the one I want to die for, that I want to commit my soul to, that I would be willing to cling to in my last breath?"
As I stood there alone that day among the vegetables and the gentle breeze, I let the weight of that question press down on me. The all-important magnitude of it. The "no turning back once this question is answered" heaviness. The sense of "And now we find out what's really in your soul, the trueness of your faith."
Is Jesus really the one I want to cling to in my last breath?
Is Jesus really the one I want to cling to in my last breath?
I imagined dying, using my last breath to say "I still believe in Jesus." I imagined waking up in eternity, finding out if I had it wrong or right.
Did I truly believe in Jesus with every every fiber of my being? Enough to say, "I still believe," even when everything felt like it was going wrong? Could I say, "I will love Thee in death"?
Was I willing to die in this faith?
I paused for a moment, thought of everything that led me to this point. Of all the things I had been through with God. All the things I had heard and read and learned. Of the Word that I have explored for years and years.
Did it all make sense? Did it hold together? Could I truly plant my feet on it? My soul? My eternity? Would it hold me up?
"Yes!!! Absolutely, yes!!!"
Beyond a shadow of a doubt, Jesus is the only option for me. The Way. The Truth. And the Life.
He is the answer to all our questions. He is our salvation, the only way to eternal life. (Do you know of any other God who loves His creation enough to die for their sins? Just so they can spend eternity with Him in paradise?)
Everything else in life may break down around us, but Jesus will never let us down. He is the only one worth clinging to, all the way till the end.
Before that moment in the garden, I always found it uncomfortable to say stuff like "I love Jesus." It sounded mushy, goofy, strange. I mean, yes, I did love Jesus, but it was weird, trying to sound sincere saying you "love" someone you never actually met. It was a bit too awkward for me. Overly emotional. Gooey sentimentality.
But after that moment ... after that moment of deeply contemplating if I believed in Him enough to die for Him, of thinking about all He's done for me and what He truly means to me and how I can never turn my back on Him ... I can now boldly, sincerely, with all my heart, say "I truly, deeply love Jesus."
And I know now that with my last breath, whenever that day comes, I can confidently say, "I believe! And I will love Jesus with all my heart, to the very end!"
I know I chose rightly!
"The Most Important Question"
"Why I Could Never Be An Atheist"
"The Big Questions"
"A Little Girl's Nonsensical Sign"
"My Study Of World Religions"
"Support For Jesus and The Bible"
"Starting Your Own Relationship With Jesus")
Update on my mom, 3/10/19:
I heard she got out of the hospital last night, after trying to drink herself to death and then ending up hospitalized for an involuntary three-day suicide watch. She must have seemed okay enough because they let her go home.
Honestly, I haven't really wanted to find out how she's doing - because I don't want to hear she's doing bad, but I also don't want to hear she's doing good. Because doing good isn't necessarily a good thing. It might just mean she will have more time and more energy to regret what she's done to herself, to feel badly about life, to try harder next time to succeed in drinking herself to death.
Yes, God may surprise us. She may heal mentally and physically and get better and return to normal. But I am prepared for things to go bad again. And so I keep a little bit of distance so that when things do go bad, I don't get dragged along with it. I am just not strong enough anymore to deal with this kind of stuff too closely.
But I do want her to know that I care about her, love her, and am praying for her. And so I wrote her a note several days ago.
But ... what do you write to someone who tried to drink themselves to death? To someone who might not be too thrilled that the hospital saved her life? To someone who might just go out and do the same thing again?
What do you write?
"Get well soon"? "Sorry to hear about what happened to you"? "I hope you find something in life to live for"?
I wrote a simple "I am praying for you and I love you." And I added a couple Bible verses. I guess when I don't know what to say, I will let God say something. I can't do any better than He can.
"The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not be in want. He makes me lie down in green pastures, he leads me beside quiet waters, he restores my soul. He guides me in paths of righteousness for his name's sake. Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me." (Psalm 23:1-4. I wasn't sure how good it was to put "the valley of the shadow of death" when she's the one who put herself there and when she probably wants to go back there. But ... oh well ... I wrote it anyway.)
"The righteous cry out, and the Lord hears them; he delivers them from all their troubles. The Lord is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit." (Psalm 34:17-18. Haven't we all been there before? And if you haven't, you will be. So we can all be - should all be - understanding and compassionate when it comes to others who are brokenhearted and crushed in spirit. Someday, it will be us.)
I can't fix her. And at this point, she might not even want to get fixed. But if anyone has a chance at it, it's the Lord. When I pray for her, I don't even know what to pray anymore. And so I simply pray, "She's in Your hands, Lord. Surround her with Your heavenly angels, protect her from evil, and work Your will in her life."
Knowing she just got released from the hospital last night, I decided to also text her a quick "praying for you, love you" note. I don't want to call - and I pray she doesn't call me back to talk - because I can't handle the stress of talking to her at times like this, when she's in this condition. (This may sound selfish to some people out there, but I am barely hanging on myself some days. And I have to do what I can to be there for my family, my children. But I can't do that when problems I can't fix overwhelm me.)
I had hoped she wouldn't text me back at all, but if she did, I hoped it would simply be a "thank you." But she did text me back. And sadly, it was a rambling excuse about what's to blame for her losing it like that. I'm sure she's embarrassed and doesn't know what to say. I am sure she's trying to save face, in a way. But it's not a good sign. I can just hear the blame, the "not taking responsibility for her actions," the "not happy to be alive" sound of it all. It just sounds so hopeless, so desperate, so "it's just a matter of time before she does it again." (But maybe I'm wrong. I hope so. It was just a text after all. And it's hard to read the emotion behind a text.)
It's mentally exhausting, waiting to find out what will happen. When it will happen. Waiting to see if she will call me, throwing me into mental anguish. It's like holding your breath mentally, waiting for the tornado to strike. And I could tell it was really starting to get to me today. I just wasn't feeling good. I wanted to crawl in a hole and sleep, retreat from life. If I could, I would do nothing more than just sit and stare out the window and watch the birds fly around, for hours and hours. And then I'd get a cup of coffee, wrap up in a blanket, and read a book for hours more. And then I'd sleep.
On top of this, gardening season is almost here. A time I used to eagerly look forward to, that I used to love, that made me feel alive and hopeful and refreshed. And as I look out at the garden beds, I feel a glimmer of that hope and joy. A wisp of excitement that it's almost time.
But then ... I see the neighbor's moldy garage, just several feet past my garden. And I am reminded that nothing has changed, that the mold smell will still be there, that my desperate prayers and attempts over the past 4-5 years to get someone out here to clean that place up have resulted in nothing but severe heartache and depression for me.
And so I squash that tiny glimmer of hope and joy. And I resolve to look at gardening like a joyless, practical thing. Just grow the stupid plants so I can get some stupid tomatoes, but don't try to care about it or enjoy it because it only hurts you in the end. (I wouldn't even have started tomato seedlings this year if my father-in-law didn't need some.)
And ... I am bummed because of two missed opportunities for my sons, things that would have been great for them. Yet I - we - missed it by days, just after getting a bit excited about it, daydreaming about how great it would be. (Oh, and then there's the hummingbird thing that makes me sad. Sometimes it feels like nothing is safe.)
And today, my youngest son has a fever and a nasty cough. Which isn't abnormal for this time of year, but it just feels so reminiscent of 2016 when my mom was trying to drink herself to death the first time, when my son had a health scare at the same time, when everything felt like it was falling apart, like every hope was getting dashed and every dream was being beaten to death, when I felt like I was falling apart and couldn't get up.
But I'm hanging in there, by the grace of God. I'm just a bit emotional. A bit fragile. I find myself getting tears in my eyes just watching the fish in my tank, thankful to see creatures that seem to be happy just to be alive, without a care in the world. And reading Little Pilgrim's Progress right now, I was getting teary at two different spots. One was when the giant tried to get Christian to drink poison to kill himself, so that the pain would be over. And the other is when Christian gets to the river right at the end of his journey, the river he needs to cross to make it into the Celestial City. I look forward to that day, to making it to the end, crossing that last obstacle, entering the gates of heaven. I pray that Jesus comes back again soon. So soon.
But ... I know I will make it through these trials okay. I will make it through better than last time (God-willing) because this time I don't expect life to be different than what it is. I don't expect that I can handle it all, that I can fix it all, that I have to know what to do.
I can't carry all the problems in life, all the burdens. I'm not strong enough, capable enough. And so I am going to drop the pieces that I can't carry and let the Lord pick them up. I am going to say to the Lord, "You be strong enough for me. You carry the things I can't carry. Your Will be done. Blessed be Your name!"
I am going to be okay. Because even when things are not good ... God still is!
(One thing that's better about this time around is that we told our sons a little about what my mom is going through, about trying to drink herself to death. Last time, we tried not to tell them. But keeping huge things like that to yourself can be exhausting. And they knew something was wrong anyway, just not what exactly. But this time, we are being open and honest about it, to a small degree. And that helps a bit.
And here's a little blessing ... something on the bright side ... I bought some new fish finally, and they all adjusted to my tank. None of them died off, as happens sometimes when introducing new fish. So that's nice. Sometimes it's the littlest things that count, that help.
And about my sons' "missed opportunities" ... I have to trust that God knows best. Maybe it's not a mistake that we missed them. Sometimes God works like that. Sometimes He has different plans in mind, better plans, no matter how great we think our plans are. As I told a friend of mine when I was trying to figure out what the future holds for my kids, what I want for them and their lives, what I need to do to make things happen ... "I guess we have to leave room for God, right."
We don't have to do it all, plan it all, know it all ... sometimes we just have to leave room for God to do His thing.)
Some of my favorite City Harmonic songs for days like these:
"Praise The Lord"
"Love, Heal Me"
"Oh, What Love"
and there's more great songs in the post "My 'When Anxiety Strikes' Playlist"
Posts in this "series":