Hearing the wild heartbeat in the storm

I didn't have enough hands
to hold the pieces of my brokenness
Didn't have enough tears
to dry out my heart

But on the other side of the storm
where the sunshine is wonderful warmth
I've much to live
and more to give
and laughter comes so easy

A half hour east of Chicago, my eyes were a sand-filled abyss of fatigue and my knuckles ached from clutching the steering wheel, as if I could haul myself out of the drag of slumber if only I pulled hard enough on the faux leather grain of the wheel.

The clouds stacked up for miles, tens of thousands of feet of mist piled in mounding thunderheads all around the city.  At 4 p.m., the last straggling suburbanites filed out of downtown with lights glowing in the gloom of the gathering storm.  A few fingers of cold air funneled up through the mountainous dome of the cloud and the rays of the afternoon sun glinted through in shafts of splendor.

Lighting our way to Chicago.

Keeping my eyes glued on the wet slick of the pavement before me, stopped in traffic, and wishing with all my heart that I were already snug in a hotel bed, I thought to the others who attended the Relevant conference, and wondered if their journeys home were as fraught with difficulty as my own?

It was so comforting there, to be in a large group of women talking openly about their relationship with the Lord, about their call to blogging, about the criticism they received and the late nights hashing things over with husbands and with God.  Yet I also watched women strong for their tasks.  Toting cameras, full-size laptops, with energy to spare.  I carried a small fabric bag, occasionally my HP Mini, some pens, business cards and a small 3"x5" notebook.  I was so exhausted, I fled home between sessions, skipped the evening concerts, and often found quiet corners to curl up in during breaks.

Is it cancer that has me constantly looking for rest?  My heart condition?  Laziness?  A different set of inborn abilities?

Elisabeth Elliot addresses this:
The God who determined the measurements of the foundations of the earth sets limitations to the scope of our work.  It is always tempting to measure ourselves by one another, but this easily leads to boasting or despair.  It is our business to find the sphere of service allotted to us, and do all that He has appointed us to do within that sphere, not "commending ourselves."  Paul said, "We will keep to the limits God has apportioned us" (II Cor. 10:13). Jesus did that - willing to become a helpless, newborn baby, to be a growing child, an adolescent, a man, each stage bounded by its peculiar strictures, yet each offering adequate scope in which to glorify His father.  Lord, glorify Yourself through me and in the place You've set me.  Let me not covet another's place or work or glory.

Sunday melted into Monday, and more long hours of driving stretched before me before I finally fell spent into the red couch in my own front room, surrounded by the buzzing flitting of the children left behind.  Tuesday dawned with work to do and not an ounce of energy to do it.  I longed to stay underneath the warm pile of down feathers I had made myself overnight.  Husband long awake and at work, children crying for breakfast, swimming lessons just an hour off.  I shuddered off the covers and hunched my shoulders to the morning chill in the yellow breakfast nook as I spooned thick yogurt into old china bowls and tried to breath in sustenance from the little beauties of my messy home.

At swim lessons, I look out the foggy window and watch the unceasing wind blow the leaves across the field at the rear of the building.  It struck me how fake this environment is.  Fifty years ago, this first autumn gale - the snow flying in between the sheets of driving rain, the leaves abandoning their perch of the last 6 months, the crackle of the dried earth as all it's seeds are swept before the bracing wind - would send farmers scurrying, housewives tending fires and stacking wood, battening down of hatches before the long winter.  Not housewives and children skittering like dried oak leaves across the few feet of pavement between minivan and pool shelter.

We live in a world that isolates itself from storms.  We go from attached garages to houses magically warmed by silent furnaces burning invisible gas, we swim in bathtub warm water on the coldest days of winter.

How does this affect our spiritual reaction when the storms of suffering engulf our lives?  Do we expect to live forever in warm, climate-controlled spiritual houses as well?  Do we know how to heat our spiritual homes in the dead of winter, or keep them dry in the fierce autumn gales, or protect them from the unrelenting winds and scorching heat of summer?

I walked into cancer with more tools than most women in their 20's.  Already the survivor of a heart condition in my teens and early 20's, I had already made my peace with the possibility of an early death; I knew how to wrestle with God about big questions; there was a time in my past when I took nothing for granted and answered every question I could with Scripture.

There have been days of this cancer-storm when it rained into my house, when I lost some siding to the wind, when I woke to windows buried in snow drifts.  Days when I felt like I was the only one standing out in the storm, while everyone else huddled next to fireplaces and raced to and fro from one heated building to the next.

Do you know the way your hair feels thick after it's whipped by rain?

Do you know the hot, turgid flush of the cheeks when they've been nearly frozen by an icy wind in a blizzard?

Have you ever felt the pins-and-needles sting as your legs come back to life from their thick, stiff gait after a walk after dark in winter?

How do those sensations translate, in your life, to the storms you've suffered spiritually?  

Hair thick on the 3rd day without a shower, as you turn back over to the cool side of your pillow, and realize there is a damp spot there still from the tears you shed two hours ago.  You close your eyes tight against the pain, and slumber washes like relief over your soul.

Cheeks burning as you face your accuser and wonder, deep down where your smallest internal voice lives, if you are right or wrong.  You search that still, small voice for some glimpse of Holy Spirit direction, and you come up empty.  So you turn your eyes down toward your shoes, and your soul screams a question to God as you walk away faster than you walked in.

The pins-and-needles in your legs come and go as you slap hard.  You've been sitting on this rock by the lake for hours and you still don't have an answer.  You watch a cloud sweep past the sun a million miles an hour and thousands feet high and wish you could drift like that, away from problems, towards the Son.

The truth is that there is more than the rain of tears washing you, in those days you cannot get out of bed.  There is something other than the neglected showers cleansing you and refreshing you.  
For we ourselves also were sometimes foolish, disobedient, deceived, serving divers lusts and pleasures, living in malice and envy, hateful, and hating one another....but after that the kindness and love of God our Saviour toward man appeared, not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to his mercy he saved us, by the washing of regeneration, and renewing of the Holy Ghost; which he shed on us abundantly through Jesus Christ our Saviour; that being justified by his grace, we should be made heirs according to the hope of eternal life.  ~Titus 3:3-7
And when you find no words at the bottom of your soul showing you which way to turn, there is license to lay down there, in that broken and wordless place, and beg for a word from the God who loves you.  The words of Haggai have often comforted me in that bottom-of-the-pit place when words are few: I am with you...Yet now be strong...Work, for I am with you...My Spirit remains in your midst. Fear not...in this place I will give peace...the Lord stirreth up the spirit. (from Haggai 1 & 2)

And when you look up at the clouds and wish to skate that close to the Creator, when all your dreams are of the wind, blowing cold and hard and you wake up and you still live in your house of cards (Mary Chapin Carpenter), when everything you long for is escape and freedom and being anywhere but here...

Allow your soul-self to be turned easily by God.  Don't fight Him every step of the way.  I learned the hard way that my success in those times of longing for escape depended on three things I neglected all too often:
  1. Pray without ceasing!
  2. Reach out to your husband (or wife) for help and support.
  3. Seek counsel from an older woman (or man) in the faith.

You have to find a way to experience God in the storm.  IN the storm.  The storm is not something you are surviving, until sweeter days come again.  The storm is simply what is for your life today.  Remember that God says, "Surely you will fear me; you will accept correction."  And the promise that comes with your acceptance of this storm in your life, it is so sweet!  The Lord has taken away the judgments against you; The Lord your God is in your midst, a mighty one who will save; He will rejoice over you with gladness; he will quiet you by his love; he will exult over you with loud singing. (Zephaniah 3:15 & 17 exc.)