I’ve been sharing lately, a little at a time, the journey on which God is leading our family since we announced the closing of our church.
But for those of you who admire my transparency, you should know: I shared those things mostly because I had to. There was nothing in me that wanted to look into the faces of our leaders, and later our entire congregation, and say, “We’ve been praying about it, and we are going to close the church.” In the days leading up to each of those hard meetings, I was plagued with so much fear.
The multitude of reasons a church closes, and how little of that constitutes failure on the part of the pastor is conversation for another day, but I will admit that in those moments, closing our church felt very much like failing. And failure, especially big, public failure, is quite literally the stuff of my worst nightmares. I actually joked with Jason about quietly sneaking away from Ozark in the middle of the night, and just never showing up again. In all honestly, that probably would have been my preference.
But if I had done that, if I had refused to face up to the fear of disappointing people and the painful end of dearly held dream, I would have missed out on so much good that God had for me.
I mean that from the bottom of my heart.
The love and encouragement and tangible sense of God’s presence in our living room as we met with our leaders was like nothing I had expected. It was like I was expecting to be pelted with stones and instead found myself wrapped in a warm hug. The unexpected gift of that one moment bolstered me to face the others that would come: telling our parents, telling our church, cleaning out our building, having our last service, saying goodbye, and walking into the unknown.
So in retrospect, I’m glad I had to walk through that broken suffering publicly. I’m glad I was forced to let other people in, to let them know what was going on with me.
But despite how surprisingly good all of that vulnerability ended up being for me, I’ve kept so many other things close to my heart, afraid to bring them out into the light and really be honest about how I’m struggling, and what God is teaching me.
I’ve alluded to it a handful of times, both here and on Facebook, but I haven’t been very public in sharing the fact that I faced some significant health problems over the last year. I told myself I was quiet about my health because it seemed like with everything else going on in our lives, it seemed like too much negativity to heap on people.
But mostly, it was because I didn’t want to admit any more weakness. Next to failing, my next biggest fear is needing help.
That looks ridiculous now that I’ve typed it, but it is true. I like being able to do things for myself, by myself. I do not want to have to rely on others. If I can always be the one giving, helping, serving, then I don’t have to admit my own neediness.
I couldn’t have articulated any of this a year ago, but through the things I’ve faced over the last year, the Lord is revealing to me more and more areas where I need to grow in trusting him and let go of my self-reliance.
And lately, I’ve felt like the Lord saying it is time to be transparent about more of the brokenness the Lord has invited me into.
About a year ago, I had this nagging cough that wouldn’t go away. I coughed and coughed all day long. It was “just a little tickle” I kept assuring people, even when I couldn’t catch a breath, or when tears were streaming down my face. The thing was, I didn’t feel sick. I didn’t have any other cold or allergy symptoms. Just this ridiculous cough that was starting to draw curious looks from strangers.
So finally, after talking it over with Jason (and making several paranoid late-night internet searches), I called my doctor.
“Is this normal?” I asked. He assured me it wasn’t.
And then that question I couldn’t avoid any longer: “Can you help me?”
He could, but it took a lot longer than they thought it would. I breathed into machines and sat under others while they took pictures of my lungs. They tried first one prescription, and then another. But instead of getting better, I was getting worse.
Now I did feel sick.
I couldn’t walk or talk for more than a few minutes without getting winded, and I perpetually felt like someone was sitting on my chest. I moved more slowly throughout my day and sat down more often when we went for walks. I often couldn’t muster the strength to make dinner at the end of the day. I found myself saying, “No more books, buddy. Mommy’s voice is too tired.” Sometimes, even sewing in front of the TV in the evening felt like too much work.
It was a level of weakness I was unaccustomed to. And I was surprised by how unsettling it was for me. On top of dealing with obvious fears like “what is wrong with me?” I found myself terrified of my weakness. All of a sudden, I needed A LOT of help. Around the house. With my kids. I was relying on others to do the things I was sure I should be doing myself, and I didn’t like it one bit.
Thankfully, by October, the doctors had determined I had asthma. I had a whole host of new tubes and bottles and inhalers in my medicine cabinet, but I was getting better. By December, after a couple more adjustments to my medications, I was basically back to normal. I was thankful and relieved to feel like myself again.
But it wouldn’t last for long.
Once I finally worked up the courage to begin writing this story, the words came so fast and fierce, I knew almost immediately that this was going to be too long for just one blog post. So stay tuned next week for part two of this story.