Friday, February 20, 2015

Praise for Heaviness



I'm usually pretty connected to my emotions. Though I'm not prone to wearing them way up at the surface, I spend enough time inside my head to understand the seas in which I swim. 

Still, days come along, like Tuesday, and I just don't know. I walk around feeling blue at the edges. I can't put my finger on it. It's not as much a consequence as a bone-deep condition.

Blogs and social media would have me blame the latest tragedy in Libya, but Tuesday was a rare day where I hadn't read a single headline. I didn't even know. And once I did, well, it all got worse.

There's so much heaviness right now. It's everywhere. 

I felt this way through most of December. It's not depression, not even a personal sadness. It's shrapnel-wounds from the hard lives around me. It's impossible to avoid, and I know I'm not the only one. It doesn't have as much to do with where we live or who we live near or the folks we call our friends. It has to do with being human, and living in a place we weren't created for.

We're all refugees, and we're lonely for home.

"Put on the garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness."

The lyrics from my tambourine-swinging days bloomed in me as though they'd never left. It's been decades since I sang that song, proof that truth digs deep roots.

My affliction was heaviness, origins unknown. 
The antidote could only be praise.
But what does that look like? How do we manage? Is it fake-it-til-you-make-it? Claim you're fine when you know you're not?
I'm no good at pretending

I went about the business of life, making dinner, folding socks, writing words, checking Instagram, feeling blue. Put on the garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness. It kept coming back.

My faith often feels so different than the way others' looks.
As it turns out, my garment of praise was my new yoga pants.

I dragged my rear to class for the first time since December on Wednesday morning and flailed through an hour of (surprise!) PiYo. (I thought I was showing up for Power Barre. But when you're me, it's really all the same.) You already know this about me, but I'm the very worst at these things. I blame my scattered center of gravity and my irresponsible wingspan. I'm the opposite of athletic and possess the strength of a kitten. I'm just whatever about it. My vanity abandoned me years ago. Just understand the risk you take if you put your mat beside mine.

When the madness was over, we fell into Child pose, and I cried. It was involuntary. Immediate. No one could have known. In that moment, I saw those twenty-one men with the courage of Christ in the last light of their earthly eyes. I saw my friend's brother, fighting for wholeness. I saw moms sobbing for their children and neighbors hooked on meth and kindergarteners who tell me they're tired at school because they're too scared to sleep at night. The lights were dimmed, my body tired, and all I had left was this, "Just stay with me, God. Be near."

Wanna know what happened the exact next second? 
Mary J. Blige happened.

"Oh, won't you stay with me? 'Cause you're all I need."

The song doesn't exactly stay on-message for its duration, or even past those two lines. Doesn't matter. God sent Mary to my pain, an immediate answer to my brokenness. You'll never convince me otherwise.

I always thought of praise as the act of lifting my hands as I sing (I'm an unabashed non-hand-lifter.) I never knew where I fit in the scheme of praising the Lord. 

I have a better idea now. Praising means refusing to roll over and despair when all the world is gripped in darkness. To praise is to remember the victory that already belongs to us, even when our reality makes us sad. Praising means soldiering on in the face of dismal odds and getting out of bed every day because God gives us the strength to do hard things. Praise is sitting in the dark with my tears but knowing I don't sit there alone.

My garment of praise is the acknowledgement that God is only good and I don't have to understand his ways in order to keep believing. 

He is enough, and my ordinary life is the best praise I can offer. 

"To appoint unto them that mourn in Zion, to give unto them beauty for ashes, the oil of joy for mourning, the garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness; that they might be called trees of righteousness, the planting of the LORD, that he might be glorified." Isaiah 61:3 KJV

37 comments:

  1. beautiful. you put to words the way I have felt for years.

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  2. All I can say is yes. I find my heart here too! I don't have to understand his ways!! I'm just clinging and doing my best to praise. Thanks for your words!

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  3. All I can say is yes. I find my heart here too! I don't have to understand his ways!! I'm just clinging and doing my best to praise. Thanks for your words!

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  4. I just love your turn of phrase. I so enjoy reading your heartfelt writings and your sharing of who you are. Know that I, a nonbeliever, also feel the heaviness of the world and struggle to find the humanity and justice I know exists. My Mentor, an Orthodox Jew, once gave me these words of wisdom, "the world sucks, buts sometimes it don't. Those are the moments we live for". Peace.

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  5. You put your finger directly on my pulse and wrote it. Thank you.

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  6. The timing of me reading this was unbelievably perfect. In a state of weariness lately -wanting to praise and unsure if I really am. I realize now that I am.

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  7. Yes. All of this. Especially: "My garment of praise is the acknowledgement that God is only good and I don't have to understand his ways in order to keep believing."

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  8. Thank you for pointing me in the right direction during these incredibly dark days. How fitting we are beginning the season of Lent where I hope we are continually reminded of our need for The Cross and His Coming.

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  9. Thank you for sharing your definition of praise. Timely and truth-filled.

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  10. It strikes me that trust could be substituted for praise in that last big paragraph, but I guess praise is really just acknowledging/confessing - to God, to myself, maybe with others - that God is the One worthy of trust. You think?

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  11. Thank you for this. It's exactly how I feel. It's so heavy here sometimes. I don't raise my hands to sing either!!!
    Adore you.

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  12. thank you for your words. sometimes during this long, seemingly unending winter season of my life (both literally and figuratively!), this kind of prayer is about all i can muster: "Just stay with me, God. Be near." thank you for speaking to my heart, and reminding me that that simple prayer is enough. and that god is always more than enough.

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  13. yup. keep sharing. we need that truth.

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  14. This was such a heavy week for me too, for very similar reasons. The 21, young mamas dying of cancer, and just the realization that we aren't promised absence of great pain here on earth. So much wrong in the world! And yet. And yet. We are called to Joy AND pEACE. I am so glad Grace met you in your tears. Praise God. And praise Him that you wrote this post and through it I am ministered and encourage as well. Thank-you.

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  15. The praise verses that have gotten me through these days are Psalm 100:4-5 in the Message (of course):
    "Enter with the password: Thank you! Make yourselves at home, talking praise. Thank him. Worship him. For God is sheer beauty, all-generous in love, loyal always and ever." After I read that, I cried. And then the heart that felt nothing for weeks let little bursts of thankful out. He continues to be faithful and being let in on the password of thankfulness, was one of the best gifts.

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  16. wow, you took me back with that lyric. my brain rehearsed the entire chorus for me while i read the rest of your post.

    i think what we're feeling is from God. He has our attention and He using it to call us closer to His arms. Deut. 33:27.

    i LOVE that God used Mary J Blige to let you know He heard you!

    hugs from frozen Atlantaland. we're not cut out for this, but somehow we're getting through it.

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  17. Yes, oh yes, I can relate to what you write. And that song, I grew up on it. :) And funny, in those heavy moments, God has brought that song back to me a time or two. He loves us. He sees the frailty of our hearts... He sends us what we need. He shores us up. Thank you for carrying others' burdens through empathy and compassion. May you feel His closeness and joy as you walk this road He has called you to... though heavy at times, it's one exciting journey you're on! Thanks for sharing it with us. :) ~julie

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  18. Thank you for putting words to all of this. Feeling so much of what you say, here where I am. Grateful for you, Shannan.

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  19. best post ever!

    "We're all refugees, and we're lonely for home."
    speaking my language, sister.

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  20. Yes yes yes. So much truth.

    Also your strength of a kitten line was amazing!

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  21. That was beautiful! The victory is His!

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  22. Winter can be depressing, the media and just life's struggles. I too have to look to Him each and every day.

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  23. This post resonates with my heart. My next blogpost will contain a link to this. Thank you so much for putting into words what so many of us are experiencing and true praise in spirit and truth.

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  24. Yes, I am feeling the heaviness too. You are an amazing writer and your words are a gift. Thank you for the reminder to put on the garment of praise!

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  25. So, so needed this. There seems to be so much trouble, near and far, and I start to feel that there is no way out from under any of it. It makes me want to hole up like a slug. But this "Praising means refusing to roll over and despair when all the world is gripped in darkness." Yep, right there, that's it. Thanks for the reminder, and thanks be to God.

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  26. One of the best posts ever.

    I am so grateful for you, sister, and the voice you put to the longing I feel too.

    Not alone.

    Heaven is soon!

    ~me

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  27. What an amazing post. This is what I do when I have a spirit of heaviness. I praise God by thinking of words to describe Him. My thoughts turn to Him, not myself. I start at the beginning of the alphabet and go from A-Z. (As best you can with a few letters that are not as easy.) A is abundant, B is breath, C is Creator, D is divine, E is everlasting, F is friend, G is good. H is holy, etc. It changes each time. It's whatever and wherever the Spirit leads. I do this often, whether I am up or down. It's my way to give praise to my Redeemer. And many times , I lift my hands to the heavens just because my heart is overflowing, and I cannot help myself.

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  28. Shannon, I know and am exactly where you are right now in spirit. "Even before there is a word on my tongue,/Behold, O LORD, Thou dost know it all. Thou hast enclosed me behind and before, And laid Thy hand upon me" (Ps 139:45) Prayers dear one.

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  29. Oh. My. Nail on head through and through. I grew up singing that song and banging a tambourine and I too now refuse to raise my hands. ;) My proof that truth digs deep roots came when I overheard my 6 year old singing, "You are my hiding place. You always fill my heart with songs of deliverance..." and I immediately joined her, " Whenever I am afraid I will trust in you. I will trust in you. Let the weak say 'I am strong in the strength of my Lord.'" As if it hadn't been a few decades since I last sang it. Apparently she's learning it in kids choir and I'm so blessed to have it back in mind. I'm encouraged that all the scripture songs my lids listen to and sing will be brought to their minds by the Holy Spirit when they need them most.

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  30. People often feel that they have to do such magnificent things in order to praise the LORD. Of course the big things make Him happy but it's also the small things, He enjoys every moment with us, in our good days and bad. I relate my relationship with Him a lot like with my own son, I love every moment that I spend with him, they are not all great but just being around him makes me happy, Loved reading this post.

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  32. I commented earlier but somehow can't say what I mean. You're so on target - all ways and always- speaking what I'm feeling. Thank you.

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  33. Wow. Way to nail it, Shannan! Thanks for this.

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  34. catching up here tonight and once again, you've written my heart.
    love the way you live and share the goodness of Jesus right in the thick of the hardness of real life grit.
    xo

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