PEACE IN THE TENSION

She was paralyzed, frozen. She grasped the splintered rope tightly, its fibers digging into every inch of her sweating palms. Her breathing was shallow and determined. Her muscles trembled as she struggled to hold as still as possible, willing herself not to look down.

He was facing her, hands at His sides. She wanted to yell at Him, to lash out at Him for asking her to come this far. She knew she could not go back and He would not yet tell her where they were going. So she stood, struggling to balance and looking past Him at the line of weathered wooden slats.

She was tired. The bridge jerked and swayed in response to her trembling. She mustered everything in her to stay strong, to tell herself that she could handle this. An outburst now was out of the question. She would surely fall. She must focus.

She looked up at Him defiantly, her jaw tight, her teeth clenched. She wanted to hurl words at Him. To tell Him how hard this was, how unfair. He continued to glance towards her, His face calm and peaceful. His gaze cut right through all of it. Through her anger. Through her hatred. Through her constant struggle to steady herself. A tear slipped down one cheek as her resolve to fight Him begin to wane. Something cracked in her chest and at that very moment, His hand moved to steady her. 

She let out a jagged breath, averting her gaze as He braced her and gently wiped her cheek.

“Why? Why do I have to be here?” she asked Him, her eyelids squeezing tightly as more tears came.

“Because you need Me”  he said quietly “And I am Here.”

———–

“Oh my goodness!” they said. Every person I talked to.  “A concussion? How did you do that?”

I would have loved to have had some fabulous story. “Oh, well let me tell you…” I would have snickered, ” I was breaking in my new four-inch stilettos and….”

Groceries. I was making room for groceries. In my tiny new pantry – the kind with one door on the bottom and one very separate, very hard, very open door on top. I stood straight up and Whack!

Pantry: 1           Jenny: 0

I immediately crumbled to the floor, stars swirling around me like Wiley Coyote in a Looney Tunes cartoon.

Never mind that I was already in physical therapy for a bulging cervical disc. Never mind that I still had an entire townhouse to unpack. Never mind that it was summer and we had “get-it-in-before-school-starts” travel plans.

I have come to believe that God has a very interesting sense of humor.

Within 48 hours, my brain swelled to the point that I could feel every inch of it pressing out against my skull. I went to the local ER, praying for something – anything – that would stop the throbbing. A concussion, they said. No bleeds…you’re lucky. Take it slow. Rest. Let your daughter put away the groceries, they smirked. Oh, and Do Not do anything strenuous or stressful.

“Ummm…you mean like, life?” I wanted to ask sarcastically. I so did not have time for this.

So… for the next full week, I sat on my couch, surrounded by cardboard boxes that silently mocked me as I napped way too much and functioned in little spurts. I couldn’t read. I couldn’t drive. It took me six hours to watch one movie. I couldn’t even talk on the phone without being in a dark room because managing my brain and my eyes at the same time was just not happening. Trying harder at everything wasn’t going to cut it. I had to just…stop.

And then…I surrendered. It was a done deal and I decided that I could either be mad and make my head hurt worse or I could rest. And you know what? Once I made the decision, it was kind of peaceful.

I don’t surrender nearly enough. I mean, I am a girl who likes plans. I can see them and touch them and try them on and picture myself wearing them in the future. They can be  a little confining, but they’re pretty and they make me stand taller – a lot like four inch stilettos.

But I began to realize that while this concussion was not in my plans, it definitely seemed to be part of His.

Those of you who know me know that I am becoming accustomed to things in my life that I did not plan. Things that I did not want to surrender to. Doors that were left open – or slammed shut – that knocked the wind out of me and left me in a heap on the floor, stars swirling. I am willing to bet that you can think of doors like that in your life, too.

But at some point during my week of recuperation, God began to whisper to my heart that this time to rest – this time to be still and present on this “bridge” – had a greater purpose in His eyes. He was teaching me that I needed to stop gripping the rope so tightly and grasping for solutions and to learn to focus on one thing at a time. On Him. He reminded me that He had brought me “here” for a reason and that (Praise the Lord!) He wastes nothing. That going back was not an option, and that it was okay that it was not yet time to move forward. And don’t miss this…that He was ready and waiting to steady me as soon as I was willing to stop fighting and trust Him.

Please, friend, hear my heart: He seeks to give you peace in your tension, too. In the tension at work. In your relationships. In your marriage. As you fight to get your health back. In your daily struggle to serve Him. In the tension as you parent or are in the process of becoming one. As you adjust to new seasons in your life. In the maddening tension that is created when we simply do not know what lies ahead or how long we can hold on for dear life.

He seeks to replace that tension with something far greater – with Himself.

Are you willing? Are you willing to be where He is, no matter how scary?

My hope is that wherever you find yourself in your journey, that you will stop struggling to hold on, take a jagged breath, and let Him steady you too.

rope bridge

You will keep in perfect peace him whose mind is steadfast, because he trusts in You 

Isaiah 26:3

May His peace be with you

~ Jenny

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A rendering….

She struggled with it. The way it felt inside of her chest. The things it had spoken to her. The emotions it forced her to feel. The way that it had become both her greatest asset and yet, her biggest liability. The rooms it contained – some full, some empty…some locked. It was broken, yet beating. Bleeding out, yet still viable.

   Her heart had not stopped as she had thought it would…and in the stillness of it, she heard a whisper.

———

I put my pen down, pushed my mug back and sank down onto the warm patio table in front of me .

“God, why is this still so painful?”

It had been a week. A week since the papers were signed. A week since the beginning of the end had become so much more than a phrase to me.  A week since the blue ink had dried and my lawyer had hopefully called me “honey” in her dull brown office for the last time. Two years since I had sat outside on a morning a lot like this one and asked God why I felt like I just couldn’t reach my husband.

It was beautiful this morning. Late summer. Birds chirping. The sun filtering through the trees in the way that I loved so much, making the chlorophyll in the leaves glow and shimmer. The warmth of the sun had made me move my position from one chair to another and as I struggled to get comfortable on the outside, on the inside I was unraveling. I forced my swirling thoughts onto the notebook paper, determined to make sense of them, grasping for some nugget of truth to hold onto today. “Focus, Jen,” I told myself. But it kept happening. Somehow this vessel inside of me kept filling up. I struggled to manage it, to focus on my thoughts instead as it brimmed and drops began to splatter onto my black sweatpants. The vessel tipped, and I was poured out. Again. For the third time this morning.

“God, it feels like I will I cry like this every day for the rest of my life.”

I surrendered, not wanting to keep it in yet not wanting to feel it pouring out. I wasn’t just feeling the pain – I could see it. He was giving me a visual…a rendering…helping me to grieve.

With my eyes clenched shut, I watched myself opening a door. Faint light filtered in through a dirty window on the right side of the room. Broken pieces of furniture lay strewn across an old hardwood floor, covered in dust. Curtains hung awry on the window frame in front of me, ripped and torn. A heaviness hung in the air.  I walked to the middle of the room and hunched over, bracing myself as I began to cry. Slowly, I knelt facedown – my fists outstretched on the floor – as wracking sobs went through me in waves, so painful that they were silent. Everything was gone. I sank deeper and deeper into the tear stained floor with each wave until the tears stopped coming .

It was over.

Slowly I sat up, feeling the weight of the stillness. The vessel was empty again. I was dizzy but peaceful, my jagged breath the only sound in the quiet. Feeling something warm on my feet, I drew a sharp breath and opened my eyes. Reesie, my dog, lay at my feet on my new red brick patio. The sun was still warm. The album in my headphones had advanced several songs. 

I squinted in the light and picked up my pen again.

“God, give me hope” I wrote. “Lift my head as I cry so hard that I feel like I am becoming part of this patio table. Bless this heart and heal it. Let this destruction give way to love again. And joy. And beauty. Please help me trust You.”

It had felt like a blessing and a curse, this heart of mine with its rooms. I had always struggled with it. The emotions that it forced me to feel. How it felt so much at one time. It was my biggest strength and my greatest liability. It was broken, yet still beating. It was bleeding as it was torn in two and rooms were emptied. And I asked him…

Lord, why?”

Why do I love so deeply?

Why do I have to feel this pain?

Why have you asked me to walk this road?

And then in my mind, I saw her. A woman, weeping at Jesus’ feet. Weeping like I had just been. Broken, as I had just been. Praying for redemption, as I had just been.

I grabbed my Bible on the patio table and looked up “tears” to see if I could  find her story. And there in Luke 7, I read the most beautiful words.

“Therefore I tell you, her sins have been forgiven…for she loved much.” (Luke 7:47 NIV)

It was just like God to bring her to mind in a moment like that. When my heart had been pierced and was throbbing.  When the weeds of the day had been ripped out and the ground was ripe for planting. It was just like him to pour out the sorrow and make room for Truth. It was just like Him to remind me that the heart that I had was the one that He had specifically given me…and He knew exactly how to care for it.

Maybe you’ve been there. Maybe you are there right now. Maybe you’ve experienced a loss, a wrong, that cut so deep that your whole life has been thrown off balance. Maybe you are tired of facing the same challenges every day with little signs of hope or change. Maybe you are searching for courage to do exactly what it is that He has called you to do. Maybe you too are looking for comfort. Or answers. Something, anything, to grasp onto.

Maybe you too are tired of the vessel in your heart brimming with years of broken promises, disappointments, and dreams that are now shattered.

Whatever your maybe is…I promise you, friend, His is bigger. He longs to be with us and comfort us in the moments when our vessels become full and need to be emptied. He longs to replace the broken things in our hearts with “maybes” of His own. He longs for us to let Him into those moments that are so painful that our cries are silent and we are sinking into the floor.

The woman who washed his feet with her tears was forgiven, was saved, because of the depth of her love. And we are saved – and so beautifully comforted in ways unique to each of us – because of His.

“We love because he first loved us.” 1 John 4:19

“For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” Romans 8:38-39

~Jenny