We've been facing a tremendous amount of discouragement lately and it's been coming at us from many directions. I think that last Thurs. night was one of of our darkest. You know it's bad when not just one, but both of us, are discouraged at the same time. Yeah, not so good. We must have spent at least an hour last night praying: yelling at God; pleading with God; asking Him WHY?! and WHAT?! and WHO?! and most of all, HELP!?! HELP!! NO, REALLY, HELP!?! On that note, we went to bed.
At 7:30 AM, the phone rang and there was John B. - the head of the church-planting organization that we are under - speaking word after word of encouragement. Let me tell you, we were so parched that it felt like someone giving us water after we'd been dumped in the in the desert - much unlike Chevy Chase's character in The Three Amigos who only offered, "Lip balm?"
I feel like a cat in a bag these days, panic-stricken, pawing around in there trying to find the way out. When I was a kid, my sister and I slept downstairs on the hide-a-way bed, in our sleeping bags, due to the high wasp population upstairs in our rooms. We had these army surplus sleeping bags that were practically airtight. One night we were goofing around and I hid in the bottom of my bag and the opening of the bag somehow got folded underneath me. At first I just sort of felt my way around to get out but when I couldn't find the opening I began to panic. My super military quality sleeping bag did not have one of those little air holes in the bottom by the zipper - it zipped all the way to the end. And it was getting hot in there. It was stiflingly hot and I was freaking out. I was old enough to have some notions as to suffocation and death so I started yelling for help.
"Get me out of here! I can't get out! I'm stuck in here! Somebody please! I'm gonna suffocate to death! HELP!!!!" Finally one of my parents came and untangled the sleeping bag so that I could get out. My sister must have slept through it all or was too little to know how to help.
The remembrance of the sleeping bag distress came to me the other day because it parallels my life. In the past year and a half I've been realizing that I'm stuck in the bag and can't find my own way out. As I've reevaluated my priorities lately it's become apparent that I've run out of my own resources to excel within the various roles of my life. All of those roles, not just one or two of them. I can't magically make myself communicate better or resolve conflict more effectively; or parent with grace and humor that I do not possess. I need help finding my way out of the bag. Most of us come to these places in our lives sooner or later and it's very humbling. I happen to be a person who is very motivated to change, grow, and deal with things even though I also happen to be a person who struggles against high levels of negativity and perfectionism.
I can't run out on my family as much as I want to some days because I feel like a failure. I am not a failure but I get sucked into believing that when I have mere moments of failure. (Who knew?! I'm not perfect?!?) I am reminded that idols come in many forms and that many of us have some ugly gargoyles named "Feelings" that sit enshrined in special alcoves; we scrape and bow to them all throughout the day and we lend them the power to control our minds and actions, and we give them permission to set the mood in our very environments. Are we gonna do anything about it? If we need help will we ask for help? Will we admit that these are gods that we have brought into power - not someone else's gods?
For me, I have to seek the help I need so that I am equipped to make the changes that I need to make. In that I also have to differentiate between who is offering lip balm and who is offering water - on so many levels. It was not likely that I would die of suffocation in my sleeping bag and it's not likely now that I won't find my way out of whatever this is with some help - if I am willing to receive it, that is.
Next time, the latest on where Jesus and I are in all of this.