Faithinflipflops

Living simply, loving deeply!

Archive for the tag “healing”

Dark Night of the Soul

I know most of the time I come across as positive and that everything is always going well. After all my blog is named “Faith In Flip Flops”! What’s happier than summer and flip flops?  This is not Sunny and Happy Heidi. This is raw. This is real. This is me. I do not know if I will actually publish this or not on my blog. I am transparent but this is even deeply personal for me.

I was up all night crying. I rarely do that. I can count on one hand the times I have done that (the death of my mom, my dad, and my brother are three of them). I cry easily when it comes to things that move and inspire me, but not from pain and anguish. I hate the empty feeling that envelopes me when I am all cried out. So I avoid at all costs.

Last night was triggered by a discovery that is quite personal and not really important to the story. The trigger is just what re-awakened a part of me that has been lying dormant in me for years, the broken part – the part of me that is so full of pain, hurt, anguish, and anger that it makes it difficult to breathe. It is the part of me that drove me to party in high school before I encountered Jesus. It is the part of me that drives me to find comfort in food, spending, and every other self-sabotaging behavior that helps me keep the pain at bay…to keep it from crashing over me like a tsunami.

Last night was a dark night of my soul. It came so suddenly and unexpectedly.

 

All I want to do is withdraw from people and life and lick my wounds.

I have been on this journey to wholeness my whole life. And as God has peeled off layer after layer, He has brought me peace and comfort. But He has never brought me healing.

This past year has been a journey of overcoming self-destructive behavior, especially in regards to food and how I treat my body. The attacks have intensified this summer. Our church is currently in the midst of a month long season of prayer and fasting. My last time of an extended time of prayer and fasting (a complete food fast for 40 days back in 1999) led to one of the most difficult seasons of my life. I haven’t really fasted consistently since. I know what it brings to the surface. And it ain’t pretty.

I feel so broken and helpless. And crazy.

While showering this morning, I had a moment of clarity. This broken part of me cannot be healed. God can comfort and bring insight, but the pain, hurt, and anguish is real and has had a real impact on my life.

Sidenote: I come from a denomination whose theology believes in healing. I believe in healing. It is a gift of the Spirit. But the reality is no one gets out of here alive and no one gets through life unscathed. When God heals it is for His name sake and out of compassion. This me-centered Gospel Western Christianity has embraced is frustrating and does not work in most parts of the world.

Back to the shower…the realization that this part of me cannot be undone, or healed, or erased. It has to be faced. I thought of Jacob from the Bible who wrestled with God. I read the story again this morning.

Jacob’s name means deceiver. He was a deceiver. His whole life he had consistently made poor choices and done some shady things. He betrayed his twin brother Esau. The story finds Jacob having to face his brother in the morning. This is the first time in years encountering him since he betrayed and screwed Esau over (with the help of his mother).

Jacob truly thought his brother could kill him the next day and rightfully so. He sent everyone and everything else ahead and he stayed in camp by himself for the night. And wrestled with God. All night long. Jacob would not give up.  When God saw this (Jacob’s tenacity) and that He could not win (God couldn’t win? What an amazing thought)…He gave up. Scripture says God had to say to Jacob, “Let me go”. Jacob insisted on a blessing before letting God go. Before God blessed him, He asked Jacob “What is your name”. Jacob had to say “Jacob”. Basically, Jacob stood before God, dripping sweat, bloody, hip hurt, scared, and tired and he confessed, “I am a deceiver”. He didn’t hide it from God. He was honest and raw. God changes his name from Jacob to Israel, from deceiver to one who fought with God and man and won. How do you beat God?

But God also marked him. He touched his hip. Jacob had a limp from that day forward. So he would remember. The pain was a reminder that the deceiving part of him died that night…that dark night of his soul.

Everyone knew Jacob’s deceptive ways.

Jacob could have blamed the way he grew up. He grew up in a dysfunctional home. His dad favored his brother, Esau, because he was a hunter and a manly man. His mom favored Jacob and pitted the two against each other. But he didn’t play the blame game. He was a deceiver because he chose to be. And God brought Jacob to the end of himself so he could rename him.

I will always walk with a bit of a limp – with pain and anguish that sometimes gushes out. But I take responsibility for the wrong ways in which I have tried to cover and appease the pain. The sinful ways. The ways that have left me empty and hurt and even more broken.

God has always been in the business of changing names. He changed

  •             Abram to Abraham
  •             Jacob to Israel
  •             Saul to Paul
  •             Simon to Peter (John 1:42)

All had broken, less than stellar pasts.

What would God change my name to? Am I ready to have my name changed?

I don’t know where I go from here but I am completely undone. The pain and hurt still come crashing over me in waves. I have to trust as every wave that is crashing over me, it is cleansing and taking the parts out of me that need to go. Following Jesus isn’t easy, safe, pretty, or graceful.

 

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The waves crashing over the break wall at the mouth of the Vermilion River. Depicts how the waves of pain and anguish feel.

It is actually, at times, heart-wrenching, hard as a hell, and ugly. My ugly cry last night was not for weak of heart. My puffy eyes this morning are not attractive. Nor is my mood.

But it is worth it. I want the tenacity of Jacob or as my friend, Cristi texted me today, I want to be fierce, strong, and brave. I want to wrestle with God and win. Pain will mark that journey. No way around it.

I want to be like Peter and come to the conclusion he did, “Where else would I go? Jesus, you alone have the words of life?”

I may not know where to go but I do know the starting place even as frustrated, angry, and hurt as I am and that is to the foot of the Cross. I take my hurt, my broken pieces, and thoughts there. I find it ironic that I am leading our congregation in communion this Sunday morning.

I feel so ugly and insecure and trying to hide all of that at the same time as trying to fix it myself leads to self-destructive behavior. I want to be free. I want to be enough. I want to be valued. I want to be fought for. (How’s that for real?).

God has brought me full circle. It is 20 years since I graduated from College and went into ministry. For the most part, I have enjoyed every moment. It has been hard and messy but amazing and fruitful at the same time. I would choose it over and over again though it has cost me a lot.

Eighteen years ago, after a dark season, instead of admitting I was broken and wounded, I indulged in self-destructive behavior. I don’t want to do that again.

I have spent most of the day in the sanctuary of our church, setting up for Sunday, preparing for communion, and writing. I am reminded how much I need a tribe of people around me. I am thankful for Pastor Jim and my friend Cristi who have allowed me to be incredibly raw and real. I haven’t been fired yet. And especially Cristi, who gets my inappropriate way of talking about things. I am an open person but in my life, I have never experienced a friendship in which I can confess my sins, fears, and insecurities and not feel judged. Or have it used against me. That is what James was talking about in Scripture when he admonished us to confess our sins one to another so we can be healed. I am also thankful for another unexpected friend that has helped me through this season in ways in which they have no idea. Their impact has been immeasurable. I hope I can someday repay the favor.

Texting Pastor Jim I eventually said this, “God is good but He is definitely not safe”.  (From a quote from my favorite book by C.S. Lewis). He responded “No He is not safe and we are not either. I wore a T-shirt yesterday that said “Pursue peace – Prepare for war” words to live by”. He went on to say, “You are that kind of dangerous also. Don’t be surprised or over reflective of your weakness. Rely on your strength…it is what makes you dangerous”

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I now understand why King David wrote so many Psalms. He wrote himself off the ledge. I write myself off the ledge. Even in the midst of this, God is good and He is worth it all. And I am grateful He allowed waterproof mascara and foundation to be invented.

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Personal Reflections on 9/11

9/11. This day impacts me every year. It impacts all of us. It has been 13 years since the planes were flown into the towers, the pentagon and a field in Pennsylvania. It seems like yesterday that our security was ripped from us and we realized that we were not untouchable on our own soil. It seems like yesterday we lost over 3,000 of us in less than an hour. It brings me to tears every year. It is a day of reflection for me. It is the day that began the closing of one chapter of my life, preparing for the next.

I was living in Waynesboro, VA at the time on staff at a church. I had just come through a tough season. The battle had been challenging but I had overcome. But not without a cost. I was left with some war wounds…wounds that penetrated the deepest part of my soul.

The Tuesday morning of 9/11, the air was crisp and cool. The sky was pure blue, not a cloud to be seen. It was the perfect fall day. How something so evil could happen on such a beautiful day still amazes me.

I met one of my friends from the church at one of the overlooks on the Blue Ridge Parkway for morning prayer and coffee before work. We were sitting over looking the valley when a man came out of the camper that was parked at the overlook (which was kind of strange). He was all excited and flustered. He told us  that a plane had flown into one of the towers in New York – that something big was happening.

My friend worked at a local radio station and knew she had to get to work right away. I rushed home and turned on the TV just as flight 175 crashed into the second tower. I sat on the couch and watched in disbelief at the drama unfolding before me.

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The horror of seeing people jumping from the buildings, trying to escape the fire stays with me to this day.

I remember calling my dad in Ohio and one of my sisters at work and other family members and friends. I needed to make sure everyone was ok.

I didn’t go to the office that day. As I sat on the couch that Tuesday morning and afternoon, I knew life had changed — that the world had shifted and that something had shifted inside me. I felt like this chapter in my life was coming to an end. Within a week, I resigned from the church that I dearly loved. I resigned having no idea what was next for me. I knew that I would finish up at the end of October and go home for a couple of months to re-group. After that, I had no idea.

What I didn’t realize is that I needed time to heal from the wounds of the past year. I needed time to rest after a season of incredible stress and strain. Just because you win a battle does not mean there aren’t wounds.

After being gone for 9 years, I came home. 

To the house my family had lived in since I was 4.

To my roots.

While I was re-grouping, Pastor Jim asked to meet with me. I remember sitting in the pre-school room, in chairs made for 2 year olds. It somehow seemed fitting. He asked me what I wanted to do, what my plans were. I had offers but I was tired. Bone-crushed, mind numbed, soul-drained tired. And I was enjoying spending time with Jesus because I wanted to, not because I had 3 sermons a week to prepare for.

“Sometimes God’s plan doesn’t come in writing in the sky or some emotional epiphany but it just seems right. In the book of Acts, the disciples sometimes made decisions simply because it “seemed” like the right decision. It seems right that you would come on staff here in Vermilion”

These words from Pastor Jim were water to my soul. I had had a lot of emotion over the past year. And I was tired of it. The church had a need for a Children’s Pastor and I could meet that need. I had a need for healing (though I didn’t know it at the time) and the church could meet that need. It seemed right. There was a large staff so I did not have a lot of responsibility to carry. I would have to work a job outside of the church which I desperately wanted to do. It seemed right.

9/11 brought me home.

     To be with my brother his last two years of life before he passed away from cancer.

To take care of my dad at the end of his life.

To have both of them come to know and trust in Jesus at the end of their lives.

To perform the funerals of 14 family members in an 9 year period.

To pastor my family.

To watch my nieces and nephew grow up.

To witness and be a part of an amazing work that God is doing in and through our church.

To re-awaken dreams I have had since I first trusted Jesus at the age of 15.

To be a leader in the community that I grew up in and that I love dearly and pray for daily.

To a season of personal fruitfulness.

To become friends with my sisters as adults.

To work my way out of debt (so very close).

 

One of my favorite books that I have read in the past year is John Piper’s Risk is Right: Better to Lose Your Life than to Waste It. In the book, he has a chapter on being more than a conqueror (from Romans 8). He says that a conqueror is someone who “strikes down his foe.” Someone who is more than a conqueror “makes his foe his slave.” (page 49) Being more than a conqueror is to use the very thing the enemy meant to defeat us with, destroy us with, and dishearten us with and turn it around to bring honor and glory to God – and hope and healing to people. 

On 9-11 our enemies tried to defeat, destroy and dishearten us. They did not succeed. Passengers stood up and took on hijackers – saving countless lives. First responders ran into the burning, collapsing building to save people. In the midst of unspeakable evil, glimpses of goodness stood in stark contrast to the evil.  Americans came together as one. We were more than conquerors. We used the very thing the enemy did to us to bring forth good.

There is an enemy of our soul that tries to defeat, destroy and dishearten us. I have a friend who just lost one of her new born twins. She could be bitter. And no one would blame her. But she has used this heartbreaking tragedy in life to bring honor and glory to God. And through it, she is bringing hope and healing to everyone she comes into contact with.

What I learned from 9/11, is that even the most awful things that happen in the world can work for good if we let it. Romans 8:28 says “And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose.” The good and the bad can be woven together and work for good if we allow God to do it. 

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Life in the Broken Places

Life in the Broken Places

On my walk the other day, I noticed these flowers growing out of the broken and cracked sidewalk. God reminded me that out of the cracked and broken areas of our lives, beauty and new life can grow if we allow God to bring the healing only He can bring! So glad Jesus came to fix our broken lives.

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