I sat crying this morning as I prayed on a bar stool in my pub. I felt like a failure. I felt alone, scared, and utterly disgusted with myself for feeling guilty about my tears. As I spoke out in prayer how broken and wounded I felt, I clutched my bible close to my chest.
“Lord, what’s wrong with me?” I shouted.
The need to hear and feel Him close was stronger than anything else. The words Isaiah 61 repeated in my mind, getting louder and clearer as I sobbed. I pulled the bible away from my chest, unclenched my fingers from its spine, and fumbled my way to Isaiah. My eyes landed on chapter 61 through blurry vision and tear-soaked hands.
“Remember my promise,” He whispered as I wiped my nose on the collar of my t-shirt.
“The spirit of the Lord God is upon me, because the Lord has anointed me to bring good news to the poor, he has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and the opening of the prison to those who are bound; to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor, and the day of vengeance of our God; to comfort all who mourn; to grant to those who mourn in Zion- to give them a beautiful headdress instead of ashes, the oil of gladness instead of mourning, the garment of praise instead of a faint spirit; that they may be called oaks of righteousness, the planting of the Lord, that he may be glorified. They shall build up the ancient ruins; they shall raise up the former devastations; they shall repair the ruined cities, the devastations of many generations.” Isaiah 61:1-4, ESV.
There are days I smile and laugh more than most, these days encouragement comes so easy. Then there are days where I cry and wonder what I’m doing and why I’m doing it. More often than most, my days consist of a coexistence of both.
But this is what growth looks like, this is the reality of pursuing a dream. I am called to bring good news to those who are imprisoned in the same shame and fear I once sat in. He has given me a desire to comfort those who mourn, to speak for those who are silenced by their past.
I’d be lying if I said that on my worst days I don’t second guess everything I’m doing, feeling more like a hypocrite than a leader. How can I lead and bring others to Christ when I still deal with so much sorrow and pain? How can I write when I can't even figure out the difference between a run-on sentence and one that's well-crafted?
I want to quit. Throw in the towel. Give every stinkin' voice that told me "you can't" a reason to say "I told you so". So, I do. I bury myself in anger and frustration as I lay my head on my garage bar and weep.
Then a vision of me running in the hot sun, ear buds in, sweat trickling down my neck appears. It was me, on a break between my counseling appointment and my neurofeedback appointment a mere year-and-a-half ago. I had to get in at least a three-mile run or I’d miss a workout, and if I missed a workout, I spiraled into worthlessness and shame. The music in my ears was angry, the blood beneath my skin boiling, and the drive behind my steps was sheer punishment.
I hated who I was. I ran and ran until my feet bled and my throat produced nothing but hot breath. Food was restricted so I could feel the pangs of hunger, to punish myself further for being so weak and needy. The desire to stop, to over indulge on things that would numb the pain, they begged and begged until I caved. Then I would hate myself more for giving in, feeling weaker than before. A never-ending cycle of punishment. This was my reality as I walked through trauma counseling. This was the constant difficulty I faced as I stumbled through healing the wound of sexual abuse that festered and grew for over twenty years.
“Jesus, I can’t go back there,” slowly trickled out in broken, weak syllables as I sat on my bar stool.
The vision of that run combined with Isaiah 61 reminded me of just how much I needed Him. I wept as I read the passage out loud. Without Him, I’m weak, surrounded by sin that relentlessly beckons me back in the shackles of exhaustion and pain.
I won’t lie to you. I will be open and honest about the journey I’m on. There are good days and there are bad. The good ones are still mixed with tears and pain, triggers that make me want to clutch to bourbon and long runs rather than Jesus.
Then- there are days that are simply just bad. I struggle to get out of bed, find any joy, and I find myself curled up in the fetal position in a pool of tears. I isolate myself from people, drown my sorrow in self-doubt and contempt, and it takes every bit of energy to muster up the word “Jesus”.
But in the middle of this season, I am reminded that the coexistence of both the good and the bad isn’t just okay, but normal. Life is filled with challenges I’ve either just overcome, am in the midst of, or just about to embark on. And I have a choice with each one to face them, or not. I’m realizing that facing them is harder than not.
Facing the fears, the doubts, the hardship is all apart of growing and becoming the person God is shaping me to become. He’s lovingly pressing, shaping, and mulling me into the oil I am becoming so I can walk into the promise He has for me. And that kind of process is difficult, to say the least.
When I turn my eyes upon Him, my tears still spill down my cheeks, but in gratitude for His presence. The holy spirit reminded me that my strength comes from Him, not myself. Fear will continue to reappear, but if I face it with Him, it won’t win. He will. I will. We will move on, press on, becoming stronger and closer than the season before.
When I choose to take my faint spirit to Him, He replaces it with a garment of praise. He exchanges my mourning for the oil of gladness and places a beautiful headdress upon my head to replace the ashes that once covered me.
This journey isn’t easy. There are moments of doubt and fear, but as I continue to cling to Him, He continues to replace my shame with His everlasting love. I am choosing to put on His garment of salvation instead of the chains of bondage. I am holding tight to the promises He gave, instead of retreating to the ashes that once consumed me.
In Him, I am strong. In Him, I am capable. In Him, I am equipped. And in Him, I find freedom. I am not a hypocrite, but a leader. I am not bound by fear and doubt. I have hope because I have a father that loves me, right where I’m at. And so do you.