Sunday, June 14, 2009

6 Months of Reprieve

For six solid months I was gifted with a reprieve from some of my deepest-seated inner struggles. I don't know why - it just happened. A reprieve from a struggle I've had since I can remember. (If you know me well, it's not what you're probably thinking.)

I'm talking about a certain reaction, reflex, relational paralysis that happens in my closest friendships. An learned response that tells me: "You are not loved. You are less important than other people. No one would stick with you if they knew what was really going on inside."

For most of my life, that has been my framework and foundation for how I see myself in this world. And when good people have attempted to meet me in my need, I have reacted badly time and again: self-sabotage, making accusations, inventing reasons why they couldn't possibly be serious about loving me.

I've been battling this, working through it, sifting out the lies and learning to unite my heart with reason for a few years now. Until last November, it was ongoing.

Then - abruptly, suddenly - it all ceased. I was free. Everything became as clear as day. For the first time, I found myself relating to other people in an almost completely healthy way, able to give and receive love without any sort of self-doubt or self-torture that used to accompany my attempts at friendship. It was absolute bliss: there are not words to describe how shocked I was to find that life could be lived outside of that prison of despair, perpetual fear, and paralysis that I had always known.

It was a gift - that's all there is to say. I didn't do anything to make it happen. It was a gift - a beautiful, miraculous, sensational gift.

But it ended. Last month, on an odd sort of night following an odd sort of day, the floodgates opened in full force and I fell prey to the darkest of fears and self-doubt. In an instant, I found myself right back in the thick of everything I had been so glad to leave behind. It was almost devastating.

But not quite. Because of those six months - because of that gift - I was able to look my fears in the face and with a resolution that surprised me, say: "NO. I do not have to live this way."

I prayed that night like I hadn't prayed in years - fervent, desperate, but with resolve to overcome my fears. I wasn't going to quit until I'd sent the demons back to hell. (That's a metaphor... or maybe not.)

I said:

"God, you have gifted me with 6 months of reprieve from the pain, longing, and disappointment that has shadowed my whole life. You picked me up out of the muck and mire and held me close, shielding me from the darkness that tries to overwhelm me. There wasn't a hint of it to be seen, felt, or heard.

And in doing so, you've given me a glimpse of what life can be like. You've let me taste freedom. You've given me reason to believe in something better. I had no proof that I could live unencumbered by the chains of mistrust and self-loathing - until these 6 months. Now I know what it's like; I've sampled it; I've lived it... for a moment.

But nothing worth having ever comes easily. And I believe that you showed me this way, this freedom, to give me something worth fighting for. Like you did for Moses, you took me up to the mountaintop and showed me the Promised Land. You let me know it that it is real - that there is more to hope for than these desert wanderings.

And because of that, I can't help but be filled with hope. I won't despair and I won't retreat. I will fight for freedom because it's the sweetest thing I've ever known. And because I believe you are a God who values the journey over the destination, I will answer your call to follow the the Way that is messy, unknown - yes, frightening - because I believe it will be worth it. You have made me believe it will be worth it.

There is one more thing, God. During these six months of reprieve, the interaction I've had with people has been revelatory. I've made the discovery that my story can make a difference for someone else. That because I have known the darkness and the oppressive weight of fear and doubt, I can speak to other people in darkness from my place of hope, from the promise of freedom. In a divine twist that only you could imagine, my personal history of pain can be a catalyst for a future of hope for many. I want to serve you in that way. I want to serve others in that way."

That was my prayer that night.

It still is.