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