To Stand

Last night I started reading a book by Maya Angelou. This morning I finished it up. Maya is very frank about a lot of things. This is a woman who has seen hardship. She talks a lot about courage.

I see in my mind this woman I want to be. I am learning about what I am passionate about. But the courage is not there yet. At times, I feel so bruised and fragile that the smallest touch from someone makes me flinch and sink to my knees, desiring to hide and seek cover.

I think about yesterday. How it took everything in me to text my friend. "I'm not doing ok. Last night was awful. I kept getting flashbacks of stuff all night. I don't know how to navigate all of this. I feel awful. I don't even want to go to church today. I feel like I'm falling apart. I wish I could mourn and grieve and cry like normal people. Instead the pain weighs down on me and I just want to run away and not see anyone for days." Her loving response was begging to help me.

I went up to the church and met up with her. We decided to go and sit outside. I leaned against the coffee house wall while she got something out of the vending machine. Even just standing there and holding myself up felt like almost too much to bear.

My back was turned to the door and I heard someone come in. A young man came up and started to walk past me, but then turned around to face me. He stuck out his hand and introduced himself. I was frustrated that he stopped to talk to me. I was numb and shut down, but I could hear myself responding in a somewhat cheery voice.

He was soft spoken and had a strong accent so it was a bit hard to make out what he was saying. "Hello, my name is Matthew."

"Hi." I was short and straight to the point.

"What is your name?" Crap, I thought in my head. I forgot how to even participate in normal human interaction. I didn't even introduce myself.

"Emily," I replied. He was so friendly, but I just wanted him to go away. I knew that was wrong. I knew that the person I was in the moment isn't the Emily that genuinely loves people.

"Are you going to the class?"

"No, I'm not. But it's right in there." I motioned towards the auditorium. It was getting pretty clear that I wanted to end the interaction. And I hated myself for it. Still he was so kind.

"It starts at 2:00, right?" He smiled at me.

"Yes," was my quick reply. He walked in the opposite direction away from me. I was relieved that he was gone. But I was so ashamed of myself. This was not loving people. I was borderline rude. Here was some random man that I never met before, doing his best to engage with me. To make me feel included and welcome.

Here I am, a member of this church for over 6 years, but in a spot of feeling though I'm falling apart once again. I had nothing to offer. Our roles should have been reversed. I should have been the one being welcoming and inviting.

I hate when I'm like this. But it's where I am. So bruised and hurting. I can only lean on the truth that God is with me. He brought me here for a reason. He has me where he wants me. And I realize that the days like this are so much fewer than they used to be. God is bringing healing. But some days are still unbearably painful. New revelations make life more difficult once again.

I think again to Maya Angelou talking about courage. I feel ashamed that I feel like that has always been something I lacked. And how right now my deficiency is even more clear.

And then I think about how in the thick of my depression, when things were the darkest and most desperate, I couldn't even stay in the auditorium during worship. The screaming from the enemy was so loud in my head I couldn't bear it. The shame of feeling like I didn't love God if I couldn't even worship him.

How Jon told me that I had to fight with whatever I had. That now if all I could do was look at the words on the screen, then that was okay. I was worshiping God by fighting to stay there. That was a pleasing offering to him. I didn't want to buy it. What would people in the church think if I just stood there? If I didn't sing or raise my hands? Goodness. Why do I always worry about what people think?! He reassured me it didn't matter. What I was going through was difficult. I answered to Jesus. And He was pleased with whatever I had.

I clung to those words as I fought to worship on Sundays. Some days I could only read the words. Some days I could only stare at my feet. Other days I felt a few seconds where I had the ability to sing before the enemy swooped down with his condemnation once again.

But I learned something valuable. I learned that God knows where I am at. He knew the strength and suffering it took for me to stand there. He watched me go out on a limb that one day I raised my hands again and sang out loud. Even though my head felt like it could explode with the lies and resistance. Even though my arms shook with the fight it took to raise them against the weight that wanted to hold them down. To an outsider it would have looked like a small act of normal worship. But to my God it looked like the biggest offering of love I could offer. Those times of worship took courage. Who cares what it looked like from the outside?

And so I cling to the truth that God is with me. That he sees me. I chose to believe that he has me where he wants me. I pray against the shame I feel so strongly right now. And I remember that some days it's okay to just stand. That standing where I am is the greatest offering of love that I can give to my Father.


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