|"Expansion" by Paige Bradley|
First, this will pass. It is an episode, not a forever condition, although the physiological factors underlying it may be with me for life. But this dark and scary pit is one I will climb out of, as I have done before.
Second, this experience will actually make me stronger. I don't buy the phrase "What doesn't kill you only makes you stronger," because sometimes it doesn't. Sometimes it leaves you weaker, damaged, and afraid, and the best (or worst) thing that can be said about it is that it didn't kill you. But this time is different. It's different because I am responding differently. Instead of waiting for the storm to pass, waiting to see the light ahead, I am taking a stand. I am shedding the shame and I am sharing, asking for and accepting help. New help - things I haven't tried before. I am determined to find a way to live my life so I am no longer walking along the edge of the precipice, liable to fall at the slightest push. I don't know how I'll do it, or how long it will take, or how hard it will be - but I will find a way. This time I am fighting back.
Third, God may actually have a purpose in this. It might not, in fact, be just the condition of my body, or just my life's trial to learn to live with, though it certainly is that. I'm starting to believe that God wants me to fight back, to learn how to be stronger, not for my sake alone but for others.
It's becoming clear to me that this trial might be similar to my struggles with infertility and pregnancy complications. When kept to myself, they are a heavy cross to bear. But when shared they become a conduit for empathy, for connection with other people in ways that would be impossible had I not experienced those things for myself.
Don't misunderstand me, this doesn't make my trial any easier, but it does give me hope and purpose, and those are powerful things. I may not be able to "beat" this, but I can come to understand it and let my broken-open heart fill with empathy and a greater capacity to love others.
“The heart that breaks open can contain the whole universe.” - Joanna Macy
Here's what God has to say on the matter: "The books on high will be opened and they will record the great messages that you have delivered, the charity that you have exhibited, the love you have shared, and the great things you have accomplished in this mortal life." And so on. (The rest is sacred and private to me.)
That has always seemed a tall order to fill, an impossible task really, to be the person He describes. But I'm beginning to see how He's making me that person. The process isn't easy; it requires me to go through some pretty hard stuff - I dare say some of life's hardest.
But what if those "great messages" are really one-on-one conversations with a person in pain, when I can simply and honestly say, "I know what it's like, and you are not alone." What if the charity and love and "great things" I accomplish are not with the proverbial ninety and nine, but with one - one precious soul at a time, for each individual is precious beyond measure.
To quote a hymn that's been on my mind, God sends blessings "through words and deeds of those who love." And true friends are His greatest gifts. What better friend can a person have than one who climbs into the pit with them and reassures, "You are not alone," while God does His work to help them find their way back into the light.
So all this breaking me - physically, mentally, and emotionally - may be for the express purpose that I know what it's like to be broken. After all, God asks us to lay at His altar a "broken heart and a contrite spirit" (see Isaiah 57:15 and Psalm 34:18). I'd always thought of these two things in relation to forgiveness. Contrite does mean remorseful or full of grief. But what if it can also mean something else? I'm a student of Latin, so I always search for meaning in the roots of words. Con means "with" or "together," and trite means "worn out" or "frequently used." Put the two together, and a contrite spirit may mean a spirit that is willing to be used by God, willing to submit to Him to the degree that we ourselves are so worn out that God is the One working.
It occurs to me that when I break, if I offer up the pieces of myself willingly to God, He will put me back together as He wants me to be. I am like a broken vessel (see Psalm 31). And each time I get put back together there remain a few additional cracks for Light to shine through.