March 4, 2014

When Life Leaves You in Triage Mode



So I invite numbness, which seems like the lesser of two evils. I stop looking for things that make me hope for change. I don't want to engage with others in my suffering. I'd rather read People magazine or a shallow novel. I have perfected the pursuit of amusement. A-muse is Latin for without thought. And I'm not that interested in thinking right now. I'm not interested in figuring out solutions to my suffering or engaging with any aspect of my suffering. I just want to be distracted from it. ~Wendy Alsop
The disturbed mind and affections, like the tossed sea, seldom calm without an intervening time of confusion and trouble. ~Charles Dickens
I think I must have a deep-seeded hate for the most common questions we humans ask one another: How are you? How can three small words throw me so off-kilt? No question on earth has made me lie more. 

I'm thoroughly convinced that whoever espoused that "God will only give you as much as you can handle" clearly had to have had the easiest, secure, pain-free life on earth. It's just plain, down-right horrible theology. God always gives you and I more than we can handle. We don't become aware of our great need to cling to Him any other way.

Metaphorically speaking, a bombing attack came over me and my little corner of the world roughly three and a half years ago. Maybe if you've had a time in your life too; that time where it's quite literally just one bad thing after another. And we're talking varsity level bad things here. Not my car broke down, then I was late for that meeting, there wasn't any more coffee left, I failed a test today on cell division, taxes are due soon, and whatever other petty things we complain about on a day-to-day bases. Those aren't bombs. Bombs look more like a serious illness, financial ruin, job loss, disability, death, poverty, abuse, years of infertility, affairs, divorce, and anything else that leaves a wake of despair and some serious clean-up left in it's wake.

Bombs have people reading the book of Job and Lamentations for fun. Bombs leave a person questioning. Bombs honestly make you angry towards God. Bombs leave you debilitated in bed for long periods of time. Bombs mean one thing, point-blank: suffering.

Again, I've experienced first-hand a bombing attack. So if you ask me in person how I am I'll likely lie and utter those two words we know so well, "I'm fine." If you ask in writing, my love language, I'll scribble these words across the paper: "I'm in triage."

Triage is the time after the bombs have gone off, and through the dust haze you start to see and assess all the damage. Triage means seeing all the wounds and injuries and deciding what to treat first. Bleeding skulls override twisted ankles. Triage means the adrenaline has run out and the nerves in your body start firing off pain signals. No pleasure signals, just the constant pain signals.

This is suffering.  
This is depression.
This is fear.
This is grief.

Such short descriptions, and yet I have so much trouble in admitting to their validity in my own life, because in some strange, unexplainable way, confessing them nicks my pride. 

Because I don't want to appear or be weak. 
I want to be able to pull myself up by my bootstraps.
You know work hard, put in the effort, and get the pay-back.
The truth though? 
I. Can't. Do. It.

I dislike the phrase "God will only give you as much as you can handle," but its brother I just out-right hate with a vengeance: "God helps those who help themselves." If it were true, that would make God horrifying and everything He's said about grace a lie. This is why I'll always be pro-dependence because we're all totally depraved in every way.

At the beginning of the year our pastor said something in one of his sermons that has really stayed with me for the past (roughly) eight weeks: "God is not a butcher, he's a surgeon." Here's the thing about triage: It usually involves surgery. And here's the thing about triage I have to keep reminding myself: Recovery doesn't happen overnight. Recovery is a slow, difficult process. Sometimes it even takes years.

Well meaning church people will likely prescribe numbing as the cure. Hear me say this: That. Doesn't. Work. It's not the prescription slip God will hand you. In fact I'd take a step further and say that though others will give you permission to numb, God never grants us that permission. Here's what he does give you and I permission...

God gives us permission to not be OK.
God gives us permission to lean into the pain, not avoid it.
God gives us permission to scream, to wrestle, to be angry, to struggle, and to then be utterly exhausted.
God give us permission to have a shipwrecked, grievous heart.
God gives us permission to experience despair when it forces us to learn that all our hope in in Him alone.
And God most certainly gives us permission to be helpless.

Comfort in scripture is not typically equated with God fixing everything the way we think it ought to be. Comfort is having a Savior and a friend, Jesus Christ, who will remain with you through the bombing, through the triage and surgery, and through the recovery.

I am not much of a lover or fan of Hemingway (quite the opposite actually), but I guess the last encouragement I feel I can offer is found in this beautiful quote of his:
You are so brave and quite I forgot you were suffering. ~Ernest Hemingway
So you're feeling weak and forgotten? Regardless of whatever is going on in or around you, in you're suffering do these two things: First, take true comfort. And second,  know that there's another thing you can do very well in this season, something that I believe God is primarily asking of you and I: Be brave. Do not fear. The most frequent command in all of scripture God gave us.

*On a more practical note, maybe this week when your out, pick yourself up a copy of C.S. Lewis' book, A Grief Observed. Not because it's going to fix anything, but because God may let you experience some comfort through Lewis' words as I have. And it may put into words what's hard to untangle in your heart and head if you're in a similar spot. It's short enough to read in a few hours over a cup of coffee or tea in bed.

1 comment :

  1. "Courage, dear heart." CS Lewis.

    I have nothing to say except that I know this all too well but you've put it in much more simple terms. Thank you.

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