Tuesday, October 27, 2015

Scorched


Two weeks ago, a friend detoxed off meth on my bathroom floor while I scrambled between rubbing her back and tucking kids into bed who prayed for her, believing she'd caught a fierce case of the flu.

She cried and shook and puked her guts out and my heart was all hers, but my eyes watched from somewhere outside my body in the atmosphere of how did I get here? What's the next right move? How can I do anything other than somehow make things worse?

I have an incredible capacity to detach. I noticed it five or six years ago, and just like the false bravado that fills streets and jails, it has served me well.

But I'm not saying it's healthy.

The past year has scared me stiff with the ways I've absorbed the pain around me. Unspeakable things have happened to people dear to us. We rally and console and do what we do, but I have not shed tears, and I begin to understand why so many faces are often so flat. I sort of see how, over time and repeated exposure to things that cut, the soul gets scorched and life distills down to two basic emotions - apathy and rage.

Last night I drove home from my Monday night class, thoughts ripping around in my head, the usual list of things I need to do, conversations I still can't make sense of, and how I think God should solve the problems blanketing my city.

Sirens tore through town, and I edged over to the curb, then drove toward home.

That's when I saw the smoke pluming thick in the night sky.
That's when I saw flames shooting out a living room window like a thousand tongues of injustice.

That's when the dam inside me broke.

There are infants whose cries are not answered, who spend their lives in front of television screens while their beautiful mamas believe this is the best they can offer. They know what they've seen, their heritage is survival. Their kids will grow into untrusting adults. They will believe they don't belong, will inscribe hatred onto their skin, will carry the scent of sorrow, will choose the distraction of attention over the discomfort of love.

God help them if they make friends with the needle, because I'm losing hope that anyone makes it out of that alive.

These cycles, they are breaking me. I cannot find my place in these waves of loss and pain.

Who lived in that house? How broken are their hearts today?
And my truest, ugliest, most unfair thought of all: what were they cooking?

Maybe it's my ability to compartmentalize pain that keeps me sniffing out the wayward flowers tangled up in chain link fence across my neighborhood. If that's what it takes for me to believe, on most days, that there is always hope climbing out of the cracks, pushing toward the light, then I'll hold on until my bones are dust.

Because driving home last night, I lost almost all of my faith, and when Jeremy Camp sang to me on the radio "There will be a day, with no more tears, no more pain, no more fears", I wanted to punch something.

That's great for you and me, Jeremy. What about everyone else?

What about the ones who were never taught to believe? The ones not taught to care? The ones who turn toward death because it trumps what they know of life? I was shown that God is good. What about everyone else?

What if my son is one of the unlucky ones?
What if my friend ends up in an early grave?

What's the point of yearning for heaven when others are doomed? Why are our tears the only ones that get wiped away? There was a time when the thought of eternity was only good, back when I was surrounded (or so I thought) by others on the express route. Now I wonder what the rush is. I honestly don't care if it all seems backwards. I'm grasping for time on behalf of those who still don't know, and I'm frustrated, because I can't make them believe or heal them up.

Today my faith hinges safely on the belief that God can return hope to me. It probably won't be today, but He'll wait with me, and it won't be long.

My prayer today is not that He will fix the battered hearts. I have no words, and I'm tired of repeating myself. If it's true that He loves them more than I do, then somewhere in the mystery, he has a plan. Heaven help us all if He's waiting for me to ask one more time.

My prayer, my only prayer right now, is that He feels gut-punched, too. I just need to know He's in this with me, and with them, sitting very near while this poison leaves our bodies, absorbing part of our pain with proximity.


36 comments:

  1. I have been plagued with some of the same thoughts, so all I know to do is sit with you and repeat and repeat Jeremiah 32:17 and Lamentations 3:22-24 for starters.......

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  2. I'm so thankful God sits with us when we are out of faith and that He pursues us all the while. You are doing important work. The enemy is playing for keeps, but Jesus is the resurrection power and death is not the end.

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    1. I love this, Beth. Indeed, He does sit with us when we are out of faith, probably longer than He wants to...but still, He waits and He loves us through. What a mighty God we serve who came to this earth to do the impossible and we are the impossible! Jesus is the resurrection power...such comforting words.

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  3. THIS is the vulnerability of faith that I crave. Thank you, S.

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  4. I don't think I really came close to understanding God's love until I had adult kids, able to make their own (sometimes) bad decisions. It suddenly struck me how much it must hurt God to see us flounder and search and fail. God loves us but he won't make those decisions for us. As for your lack of tears in the face of tragedy, some of us, myself included, simply go into "fix it" mode in the case of an emergency. The emotions turn off and we know that if we don't handle things nobody else will. It's a gift, because if we all fell apart in those times, who would rub the back of a friend detoxing? We all doubt, if we didn't it would make our faith useless.

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  5. dear Shannon, I have read your blog for a while and I love it. I hear you. human suffering is brutal. it is so hard to watch and to experience. i am a social worker for the past many years in child abuse and neglect. i have the word "annie" tattooed on my wrist b/c that is my daughter's name and also for the sweet mamas who love their children and want to get back to them but can't b/c the emotional pain of their own lives and childhood is too much to sit with. so they use needles and alcohol to numb the pain. "annie" is from the song Sweet Annie by Zac Brown about a person who loves someone he wants to get back to but he can't b/c of his own addiction. the sweetest thing you could do, you did. you sat with someone and rubbed her back while she was detoxing. you were with her. that is skin on... my words for body of Christ. that is pretty much all i have. i don't have the power to fix anyone. but i can be with them. sometimes being present with someone and being a witness to all the hell they are suffering and going through is what we all really need. thank you for your raw writing and for not spinning it. not everyone makes it. and i don't understand that and i don't like it and it rips me to shreds. there is no spinning human pain and suffering. it is horrific. thank you for being there for your friend. thank you for sharing your heart. <3 ashley

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    1. thank you so so much for this.

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    2. dear sherry, you are so very welcome and thank you, too. thank you for you. <3

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    3. Ashley - Thanks for this. Your words of understanding are such a solace to me!

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  6. Oh, S, this breaks my heart, yet fills my heart at the same time - your heart flowing over into mine. Thank you for articulating what needs to be said, for shining the light on the shadows, for shaking us awake, and for pulling us from our comfort zones. I've been in the fire and, like steel, the longer the firing time, the stronger we become. Thank you.

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  7. I keep typing and deleting, typing and deleting. instead of saying words that won't adequately express my feeling, let me just sit here and witness the ugly with you and tell you that I'll look for the strength to ask one more time if you will too.

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  8. i have no words. except i get it. and thank you for your brutal honesty. no words can make this world better. only Him. and one day it will be PERFECT. that's our only hope today.

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  9. I love that this comes after your last post and I hate that this comes after your last post. Beauty and Brokenness... mingling and inseparable. I was going to add "this side of Heaven" but I don't really thing so... Our Brokenness will one day be healed but Jesus' physical brokenness will last and in that, we can experience true beauty. Anyway, thoughts all over the place. Thanks for getting them flowing.

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  10. This post really hits home with me today. A teacher that I work with became sick and was test for pneumonia. She tested positive for it, but they found something else. Something much worse. A black dot on her lungs. I feel so helpless, but I have been praying for this kind woman. This very woman who chose to smoke for over thirty years but never expected this would happen. I ask God, how can I help?

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  11. Constant exposure to the things you are seeing take a toll. It is as real as post traumatic stress. I'd recommend therapy for what you see and how to process it and also recommend taking a first responder's course for Mental Health First Aid. You need to know how to recognize danger signs in yourself and others.

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    1. Thanks for caring and offering this wisdom, friend. I'm listening!

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  12. This kind of hopelessness has become a regular occurrence in my heart as well. The last time I encountered this, I was reminded that God patiently waits through our wickedness, our sorrow, our failures, our sin, to give us every chance to return to him. The waiting still sucks. But here’s what I lean on through these seasons.

    For the creation waits in eager expectation for the children of God to be revealed. For the creation was subjected to frustration, not by its own choice, but by the will of the one who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself will be liberated from its bondage to decay and brought into the freedom and glory of the children of God. (Romans 8:19-21)

    The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. Instead he is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance. (2 Peter 3:9)

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  13. This helped me as I sat in the parched earth that was the land of dreams that held my Mom and Dad. Their suffering almost broke me and shattered my faith:
    I know no Lord why you utter no answer. You yourself are the answer. Before your face questions die away. What other answer would suffice. CS Lewis.
    I have no idea how it helped me, it just did xox
    http://www.thesimplelife.co.nz/2015/05/letting-go.html

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  14. We were once privileged to be taught by a wise and loving man who in spite of living most of life in a body wracked with terrible pain and suffering, continued to testify to the goodness of our God. He once taught on how to go on living when God does not heal you, and he said that often there is nothing that anyone can say to fix it or make you feel better, but you just want someone to sit on the mourning bench with you. you.did.that.

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    1. Thank you. This mourning business isn't quite the "ministry" I had in mind for myself. Ha. But yes, there's value here.

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  15. Jesus called us the Salt of the Earth. You are the SALT to these neighbors of yours. So even when you think you're not doing anything, you really are.

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  16. You my sweet friend are awe inspiring. You may not feel it, but you are. You are feet to the pavement, and arms to the neck, and words to the heart encouragement from God to all around. When your heart breaks so does Gods. Prayers, warm coffee, and hunts to you!

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  17. WOW...

    This post will stay with me for a long, long time.....wow.

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  18. Oh Shannan, I can't stop reading this post. Tears every time. Asking for you & yours today.

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  19. Isaiah 33:2 - Lord, be gracious to us; we long for you. Be our strength every morning, our salvation in time of distress.

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  20. Thank you for this. I needed it today!

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  21. “For my thoughts are not your thoughts,
    neither are your ways my ways,”
    declares the Lord.
    9
    “As the heavens are higher than the earth,
    so are my ways higher than your ways
    and my thoughts than your thoughts.

    Isaiah 55:8-9

    Bless you Flower Patch Girl

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  22. Oh Shannon. I was just laying in bed unable to sleep because of a family (that my family has been involved with...trying to hold up so they can catch their breath!...for nearly 10 years...yet their lives keep going in a downward cycle. Never upward.) .....I just want to FIX every problem. I want to hug and love them. I want them warm and well feed. I want them to follow after Jesus with passion. But they make choices, too....oh boy do they. So...as I lay in bed tonight Jesus sweetly whispered to me...to get up and read a FPFG post. Now I have had a hug from YOU and from GOD. Thank you. Praying for you.....and those you touch.

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  23. this was like a gut punch and I know exactly what you mean. all the amens. "My prayer, my only prayer right now, is that He feels gut-punched, too. I just need to know He's in this with me, and with them, sitting very near while this poison leaves our bodies, absorbing part of our pain with proximity. "

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  24. God loves us all unconditionally.

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  25. I know you have lots of comments already, but my brother just sent this to me and it seemed more than coincidental... it's exactly what you're doing right now. "The Real Cause of Addiction"... http://www.huffingtonpost.com/johann-hari/the-real-cause-of-addicti_b_6506936.html

    "So the opposite of addiction is not sobriety. It is human connection.

    "Loving an addict is really hard. When I looked at the addicts I love, it was always tempting to follow the tough love advice doled out by reality shows like Intervention -- tell the addict to shape up, or cut them off. But in fact, I learned, that will only deepen their addiction -- and you may lose them altogether.

    "I came home determined to tie the addicts in my life closer to me than ever -- to let them know I love them unconditionally, whether they stop, or whether they can't."

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    1. A dear friend sent me the same article months ago and it was SUCH a game-changer. I keep meaning to share it here! Thanks for the reminder/nudge.

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  26. you are doing what you're made for... and that's sitting on the bathroom floor... and going to parenting classes... and reaching out to your community... and taking care of what you can. don't quit. ;)

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