pressed but not crushed: an honest look at running on empty.
I was given more than I can handle. I cannot handle the fact that my daughter was given a terminal diagnosis. I do not understand God’s ways, and why suffering happens when He is so good, but I know this is not God. Some events in our lives seem very unjust, while others seem to have a “greater purpose” and may be easier to stomach. I suppose this is where the phrase “all things happen for a reason”, comes into play. But Florence didn’t get a cold last month for a reason. There is no good in that, no lesson to be learned in the ICU again. It’s unjust and common, the cold, the senseless suffering. I’m going to come out and say it, with all my 28 years of wisdom: not all things happen for a reason.
When the world shatters under our feet again, when the familiar smell of those yellow hospital face masks floods our nostrils, when we see the faces of ICU nurses and remember their names, we seek Him hard. When we sleep in the dark with the hum of machines and monitors, feel the springs from the cot, digging deep into ribs, when we see the imperfect things again, we dive very deep. We seek out our hiding place, and sometimes we have to seek for hours, to calm the quick anger in our hearts. This is discipline, and this is where we walk out our faith. We walk until we meet Him and receive. It’s not always easy. Sometimes its far easier to dissolve into another world, another mindless task, and shut out the systematic knocks of fear on our hearts. Just cope, just breathe, run on empty.
We have always come home from the hospital with our girl in our arms. I have imagined, if only for a second, what it would feel like to come home empty handed. I’ve nailed down the plan, the people we would ask to clear out her room, so that when we do return home, we don’t find a pile of her laundry, her sweet smelling pyjamas strewn across the crib sheets. It’s painful enough to have to come home to an empty crib, knowing that she is alive in a hospital bed. The house, oh, it aches with sorrow. What would it feel like if…
I stop myself. I rewind and shake those thoughts away. I come back to Him, okay Lord, forgive me, hold me.
And still, I find myself groaning. I want to do it in my own strength. I want to handle it, like other mothers “handle it.” Their lives “seem” to be a package of normalcy, wrapped up in finger foods, bruised knees, and toddler milestones. Oh, how I crave these moments. Finding our new normal is never easy, because the old normal always flaps back into our face when we venture out into the world.
At the end of the day, I can’t cope on my own. My strength, it’s dissolved far before dinnertime, while the rest of the world (or so it seems) is buzzing through life, coping with the little hiccups, and posting pictures of bliss to Facebook. Maybe they are faking it, running on empty too, coasting down a hill. But I’m stuck on the side of the road, with no where to go but to God’s gracious arms.
I always end up close to Him, probably later than I want to, when I’m far too needy with my scraped knees and bloodshot eyes. I don’t ask questions, but I seek the same grace, the same holy water to douse my flames of anger.
Here we are again, God. I’m still the same wreck, but slowly being moulded, made new.
Often happiness is based on our needs being fulfilled, dreams coming to pass, new life surfacing. Where can I find continual joy in this race when it seems like my hope has been deferred? It has looked the same for so long, too long, and I can feel a layer of fatigue and frustration settling over me. It’s so easy to accept this yoke, to become a slave to sorrow and fatigue. But I can’t run with it, I can barely move an inch. This yoke keeps me on the couch, keeps me wrapped tight in a blanket, keeps me on my knees.
This isn’t the yoke I am meant to shoulder.
I will always meet with Jesus, because I’m depleted and wrecked for Him. And each time I come, I feel His anticipation, His heart of love spilling out over me, through me. This never changes. This is where I find continual joy, in fact I can greedily dig into deep wells of it. I rest assured, knowing that the burden bearer, the one that stamps the yoke of my slavery into a million little pieces, has covered me yet again.
There is a loaded dishwasher, full of clean dishes that I can’t bring myself to put away. There is a layer of dust along the windowsills, and small puddles of condensation seeping into the cracked white paint. There is a fridge that needs stocking, and a deep clean with a scrub brush. There is formula that needs mixing, tubes that need flushing, saliva that needs wiping, a bum that needs changing.
I sit here, with eyelids drooping heavily, marked by a sleepless night because the nurse cancelled her shift last minute. I sit here and feel the early noon sun warm on my cheeks. The light filters through the lace curtains, and it’s hot in this south facing corner of the kitchen. I am tired, and the sun is making me desperately sleepy. Florence is nestled in her bed, sleeping soundly for the first time in ages. In my physical fatigue, my mental exhaustion shoots through the roof. This is often the mundane cycle of motherhood.
Just yesterday I pounded the carpet again, cried hard until I saw a drip of mascara salt sink into fabric. I paused and sighed deep, tried to gauge how many tears had stained the carpet. I’m anal, and a bit of a perfectionist, so I stopped crying, although I wanted to howl throughout the night. I rolled my eyes heavenwards, a small smile tugged on my lips. I got up, scrubbed the spot clean, put my pyjamas on, made myself a steaming mug of herbal tea, and mustered up enough gusto to sing one line: great is thy faithfulness, Lord God Almighty, morning by morning new mercies I seek…
The house was silent, nothing by the odd car driving past, beaming headlights onto the wall.
Here I am, God. Depleted and broken, holy and full.
Trust God from the bottom of your heart;
don’t try to figure out everything on your own.
Listen for God’s voice in everything you do, everywhere you go;
he’s the one who will keep you on track.
Don’t assume that you know it all.
Run to God! Run from evil!
Your body will glow with health,
your very bones will vibrate with life!
Honor God with everything you own;
give him the first and the best.
Your barns will burst,
your wine vats will brim over.
But don’t, dear friend, resent God’s discipline;
don’t sulk under his loving correction.
It’s the child he loves that God corrects;
a father’s delight is behind all this.
Proverbs 3:5-6 (MSG)