As the sea ebbs and flows washing out the discarded and then setting upon another distant shore the same unwanted junk. It doesn’t disappear, just floats around out there bumping into other rubbish following the current until being carried back up on dry land where it will inevitably be ignored by some, dismissed as someone else’s problem until it is either carried back out to sea to repeat the process or retrieved and properly disposed of. Ignored or discarded does not make it invisible. There will come a time when all our junk requires that we deal with it.
Throughout my life, I have moved through each catastrophe and crisis methodically and diligently. Gathering up the broken pieces, discarding the ones with sharp edges, and creating a new mosaic, something beautiful out of every smashed experience. What I didn’t realize was that the “sharp edges” would eventually reappear, slicing away at me until I finally step into consciousness and deal with them. Having barely breached my 41st year, I found myself with bloody painful wounds from repeatedly tossing the sharp edges back out to sea. Having already ignored and wished them out of existence many a times, here they are. Only now, the pain is real and the cuts are deep, they are visible and the jagged edges of childhood trauma, repeated abandonment and self-loathing have torn away at my flesh and rendered me incapable of managing my day-to-day life.
My hands are full, carrying the load of broken pieces with both arms tight up to my chest, leaving a bloody trail for all to see. Tiny fragments are lodged into my skin as I pull my swell tighter so none of the pieces will fall. I don’t want anyone to see them. I don’t want anyone to ask questions. I don’t want help. Anxiety builds up inside me like steaming hot magma burning its way to the summit. Fear and helplessness erode my confidence as I begin to realize that the buildup of pressure will inevitably lead to an explosion. Self-assessments are the norm for me. I have always taken frequent inventory of myself. My outside persona, my own limitations and my personal strengths, both real and imagined. One of my many coping strategies that has allowed me to function and appear “OK” to everyone that knows me. Suddenly though, my analysis uncovers a flashing red siren that drowns out my self-talk. It’s so loud I can’t hear myself think. I am reaching overload at a rapid pace and with every breath I want nothing more than to drop the load and step into the explosion. Step into the uncertainty, the vulnerability of letting it all hang out. To finally let the parts and pieces fall where they may and deal with the cleanup rather than the constant deepening pain of lugging it all around.
The ugly truth is that I am angry. No, I am furious. Pain and suffering have been with me so long they have bonded with who I am. For the first time in my life I don’t feel strong and capable, but weak and fragile. I am lonely and afraid. The depression I have spent my life running from has overcome me and my muscles have begun to atrophy as a result of being incapacitated in the thick dark sludge. I am wasting away and I don’t know how to reach out. I don’t have the words to ask for help. I don’t know how to trust or who to turn to. I am lost, alone. I worked so hard at shutting everyone out that I have succeeded in complete isolation. Maybe that yearning has always been there just buried far beneath the obstinate view that I don’t need anyone. I can do everything on my own. Now I look around at the desolate landscape of relationships I have created and wonder who was the last person I wiped away? When was the last time I shared my authentic self? Does anyone have a clue about me besides God?
Suicidal thoughts flood my mind on a daily basis. I don’t know if I have anything left to overcome this monumental undertaking. My stamina exhausted and my bag of tricks empty. All I have left is myself and this armful of busted fragments leftover from abandoned tragedies.
And then, as I occupy my only safe space, alone in my room under the weighted covers of my imagined security, soaked Kleenex scattered in my bed and existing on coffee and Marlboro cigarettes, I see it. I have seen it before, I have even highlighted it and quoted it on several occasions. But right now, in this moment it has a different meaning to me. It is as if I have put on my glasses and removed all the fuzzy parts revealing only clear and legible print.
“This is what the LORD says: “When seventy years are completed for Babylon, I will come to you and fulfill my good promise to bring you back to this place. For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the LORD, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. Then you will call on me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you. You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart.” – Jeremiah 29:10-13
In a portion of a letter to the exiles, Jeremiah a faithful servant of God, told of God’s promise of future restoration of Israel and Judah after a certain period of exile. Now having read this section of scripture probably a half dozen times, the holy spirit prompted me to dig deeper into the meaning and application of this particular promise related to my life and my current circumstances. I gladly accepted the dive in as a welcome and much needed distraction from my exhausting sorrow.
First, the reference to “seventy years” is representative of a human life span and “completed” would imply a life lived out. What follows life but death. So, death in either a symbolic or natural way must occur before returning to “this place”. For me, this means dying to myself, relinquishing everything I have, repenting for trying to do everything on my own and letting go of who I have always believed myself to be, who I want everyone to think I am and accepting myself as a child of God. Next, revisiting all those broken places and experiencing each gut wrenching event. Not alone but alongside my one true Father and seeing events through his eyes. Trusting in HIS plan for me. Finally, anchoring myself on his promise that harm shall not come to me but instead a hopeful future. This scripture urges me to call on him, seek him wholeheartedly and he will hear me.
Sounds so simple. I am teetering on the verge of oblivion. Even as I write the words I feel the anguish stirring. Even with this insight, where do I start and how do apply this information to change my current trajectory? Then, a soft but definite voice said “come clean”.
I knew instantly what that meant. Over the years, I have told many lies and covered up situations and circumstances to hide from the world what I was actually dealing with. Shame and guilt has led me to invent reasons and hide from certain truths. Now the only way to alleviate the building pressure is to pull back the curtain? Be completely and brutally honest? To get real? To remove the mask and delve into what might be? Why after so many years of hiding does such an unveiling seem so enticing? Surely there are certain things I will take to my grave and others I will fulfill so they won’t remain lies just delayed truths. I can’t tell ALL. I mean that would be revealing that I am a fraud! That all my accomplishments are products of an imaginary life I’ve created. Even so… What is the alternative? To remain in this misery and either eventually give in to the overpowering thoughts of ending my own life or continue this facade and live out my days in secret and certain isolation??
Here it is. My moment of reckoning. Let go and hope Gods promise will materialize or stagnate and wither away under the pressure? What do I have to lose? I have done it my way and I know where that leads.
God, claim me. Here I am with all my brokenness. Catch me, I am not falling. I am about to jump!