And to that I say Amen. Glory Hallelujah. Give me that crutch. Because I am crippled. More like paralyzed, actually.
William Ernest Henley wrote, I am the master of my fate; I am the captain of my soul. Yet he was a man who grew up in poverty and had a leg amputated as a result of tuberculosis. Ironically, the poem was also chosen as the last words of Timothy McVeigh, the Oklahoma City bomber, before he was executed.
I would love to know: Did they really believe it? Or just want to? Did Stephen Paddock believe it as well? Or any of those he killed? Or those who died--or lived--in the fury of the hurricane?
Should we believe it? Is it really a statement of courage? That those of us who came from dust and will inevitably return to dust actually are masters of anything?
I haven't written in this space for three weeks. In my ten years of blogging, that's a record for me. And that's because in these last weeks--months really, but mainly these last weeks--have been spent coming to grips with my dust-likeness. That I am not the master of my fate. That I am most certainly not the captain of my soul.
Sixteen years ago, I went through a season of Anxiety. And I say it with a capital A, because there's no other good word to describe it. You can say, I'm anxious about that interview. I'm anxious about the bills. But that's nothing compared to Anxiety. It's like equating "feeling down" with Depression. You just can't compare the two. Anxiety is all-encompassing, life-consuming, soul-sucking.
That was sixteen years ago, and after two years I had victory. Then it entered my life again a few months ago, and has sought to control me these last weeks. My life circumstances, ironically, are going great. My kids are all thriving. My husband is incredibly supportive. I'm doing my dream job. I'm not over-stressed. But as anyone who has experienced it knows, it doesn't matter what's really real, Anxiety becomes the center of the universe.
I'm fighting hard, from many different fronts, and I have tremendous support. I'm also managing to stay functional most of the time, even if "functional" sometimes feels agonizing.
But if there is one thing--one gigantic Truth that has ground me to the dust--it is that I am not in control. Any sense of being master or captain of myself has dissolved into a blubbering mess on the bed. I am nothing but a few molecules surrounding a soul. That flesh has no real power, and that soul has no control over what happens to me.
And when I'm there--here--I have three choices.
1. Live in denial; convince myself that I am in control even though I never will be.
2. Live in anger and frustration that there is a God, but he doesn't care.
3. Trust that there is a God who is there and is not silent.
The last time I went through this, sixteen years ago, led to a Crisis of Faith. I had been raised to know Christ--and I had personally tasted of his goodness--but my foundation was not strong enough to endure the bottom falling out of my world. It led to an intensely personal quest for Truth. True Truth. Like, historical, scientific, philosophical Truth. Not just something that made me feel better.
It was excruciating, but I found it. I found it in the Jesus of the gospels and the words he left behind for us. The foundation was solid underneath me and my fear slipped away.
So this time around, that foundation has remained secure. I am not questioning the existence of God and his Truth, as that is settled for me. But this time, my question has been, Does he care? I am weak, desperate, helpless. Will he show up?
Yes. That is what he has been doing. Quietly, gently, slowly. He is asking me to be patient. But I am tasting the promise of manna. His daily provision of what I need. How what I think I need is not necessarily what he knows I need. How the knowledge of his presence is more important to him than my productivity.
If you had asked me before Anxiety if I believed all of that, I would have assured you that I did. But really, I've been living my life as my own Captain, a lot of the time. It feels good to live that way--secure, confident, comfortable. Sure, God is there, but it's nice to have a contingency plan.
So I've got to tell you--this is scary. Really, really scary to thrust my trust and my hope and my life into the belief of an invisible God. Because do I really, really know that he will come through? That he will deliver me? That he will never leave me?
I think that's exactly why he has brought me to this place. Because I have no other place to go. I have no other options. I have no other hope. That's exactly where he plans to show up. And he is. Oh, my friends, He is!
I don't like writing this way, from the middle of the hurricane. It's a lot easier to write from the end and wrap up all the details and praise God for how he brought me through. But here I am, holding on for dear life, not knowing the ending. He was there yesterday, so I'm going to cling to that crutch--that blessed, sturdy, life-giving crutch--that he will be there tomorrow.
We attend an all-African church, and the preacher this morning was a friend of ours from Cameroon, who is also the French teacher at HOPAC. He read aloud these words from Deuteronomy in his rich French accent, and they filled my soul.
And you shall remember the whole way that the Lord your God has led you these forty years in the wilderness, that he might humble you, testing you to know what was in your heart....And he humbled you and let you hunger and fed you with manna....that he might make you know that man does not live by bread alone, but man lives by every word that comes from the mouth of the Lord.
Know then in your heart that, as a man disciplines his son, the Lord your God disciplines you....For the Lord your God is bringing you into a good land....in which you will lack nothing.