altar’d state

I couldn’t help but title this one ‘altar’d state’ even though it’s the name of a store. 

 

I begged God to send me tools to

Build an altar of remembrance.

Desperate for a place to rest

When my mind often forgets.

he answered me through hallowed ground;

the holy earth opened wide and swallowed

I fell in

I fell into him

into the deep black swirls of mysteries that man hasn’t solved yet.

“What hell is this?”

In a still small voice,

He answered, “build it”

So I took what I had in the pit,

myself,

yielded.

I built from the mud of my suffering,

As I was building,

He was with me

In the soft wet earth under my fingernails

And the grime on my skin

sprinkled gold with his light from heaven

As the altar grew taller

The earth sunk deeper and deeper into herself

Like we all do under suffering.

And I got angry at God

Shaking my fists,

“I asked you to remind me of heaven

Not of this forsakenness”

And his still small voice said,

“This is it.

The upside-down kingdom.”

My suffering was my altar,

Bringing me close to Jesus

Because in an upside-down kingdom,

When suffering takes us under,

And fights to bury us in the earth

We grow closer to heaven.

touching his robe

Never have I ever felt more connected to a biblical character than the woman who sought the hem of Jesus’ robe to be healed in Luke 8.

She wasted her life to find the ultimate source of healing, and when she saw it, she did whatever she could to get to Him, crawling throughout the throngs of people in the streets. And when she touched the edge of His robe and felt His power, I can only imagine she wanted to cling to Him for the rest of her life because she immediately knew she was healed. When He asked (though He already knew) who had touched Him, she told Him incomplete honesty, believing that He would have nothing but the best of intentions for her.

His reply to her simply was “Daughter, your faith has made you well; go in peace and be healed of your disease.”

seeking healing

There’s not any degree of articulation that can describe the crushing weight of addiction. There will never be a combination of twenty-six letters that can adequately describe the way your breath quickens when you need a hit or the way your toes curl when you smell a drink and the slow, painful salivation of your mouth thirsting for a drink. (Even all of this, you see, is mediocrity.) And although I’ve never been addicted to a substance, I’ve been addicted to the blade when it breaks the skin and paints the roses red.

It’s been six months since I last deliberately harmed myself.  To be honest, I feel like a strange phenomenon-something they should make a documentary about, you know? Not at all because I’m anything extraordinary, but simply because after four years of being stuck at a red light, I’m now figuring out how to move forward, and I’m sure from an outside perspective, it’s quite a sight to see.

I was naive to think I could slam on the gas pedal and arrive at healing. The disappointment of that expectation slammed into my chest with such force, it knocked the oxygen out of my lungs. I had to sit in the car and attempt to frantically catch my breath with scrambling fingers, hoping no one saw me. But everyone saw. It was impossible not to see, really. They saw my desperate attempts to act like as if I’ve been driving my whole life. I wonder how many of my friends looked at me with big sympathetic eyes and just solemnly shook their head, as if to say “here we go …again.”

People struggling with addiction identify themselves by their addiction.  Due to their state of mind, we shouldn’t expect anything less. The focus of their addiction consumes their thoughts, which drives their actions. Especially if it’s a secret. But the Spirit has revealed to me in the last six months, the power of confession. Not just spiritually, but biologically, confession activates a special connection in the brain when the left (speech) and right (feeling) hemispheres are working together to confess thoughts/feelings. I’m never one to be the first to personally share things. (If I talk about myself for more than three minutes, I get uncomfortable that the attention is on me, and I feel like I’m self-absorbed. This is something that the Spirit is helping me to conquer. A community is built down a two way street, who knew?)  But when I was asked over coffee how long it had been since I took a blade to my skin, and I answered honestly-  life turned into blurred images, like the ones you see when you’re riding the tea cups. People tell you that you immediately feel free after confessing a long kept secret, but I’m not so sure. There was a sense of freedom, but like an illness, it got worse before it got better. The amount of shame was insurmountable, as it was being purged from my body. I had only ever seen my shame when I walked to the basement and looked at it through the darkness, but for the first time, it had been dragged into the light. I saw its ugly skeleton with sunken eyes, finally coming to an understanding that this friend I had was out to destroy me.

The past six months have been easily one of the toughest seasons of my life. There are days when I can feel the pain of the roots being pulled up from the pit of hell. Yes, there isn’t a better word for that darkness other than hell. I would be lying if I said I haven’t wanted to go back. But the grip of the hands of God- the hands that chiseled the mountains and deliberately placed a nucleus in its cell- is holding me, and I have to daily make the choice to let Him.

Through this He has taught me that healing doesn’t sweep over you like a sweet aroma. No, it’s the stench of bandaged wounds and bitter salts settling in a bath tub I choose to soak in. It’s the humbling process of learning to receive love, so I may walk out in freedom. I’ve come to terms with the fact that healing is something to be pursued. It’s not a force that will sweep over you and come when you call it, but it’s something you have to choose when you’re having a bad day. It’s like love in that way: it has to be chosen on the bad days. Really, healing is a form of love; it’s the process of learning to love yourself.

When my heart was grieved and my spirit was embittered,
I was senseless and ignorant; a brute beast before You.
Yet I’m always with You; You’ve taken my hand.
You wisely and tenderly lead me, and afterward
You will take me into Your glory.
Whom have I in heaven but You?
And earth has nothing I desire besides You.
My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart, and my portion forever.
I’m in the very presence of God, how refreshing it is!
I’ve made the Lord God my home.
Psalm 73