I’m hot-headed, but Ellia never sees me lose my temper. While I value emotional honesty with my kids, I can also be very controlled, knowing that the girls don’t have the capacity to deal with the fullness of my raw emotional state. But now, my stress level is such that I can’t really help it. If I lid my anger, irritability leaks through the side. If I patch that side hole, anxiety will come out the bottom. There is a degree to which self-discipline and self-control will carry us, and for me, that train’s run out of tracks.
I can’t anymore. I can’t help but watch as the irritation, frustration, fear, anxiety and confusion ooze out of me. As sad as I am that I can’t control as before, I also understand that controlling my behavior has never been the point. In fact, I feel lucky when my own inability to cope jumps up and kicks me in the face. I’ve been trying to fabricate what only true communion can produce. My sin serves as a neon sign guiding all visitors to the chaos of my heart.
It’s gross. It’s embarrassing. But, it serves me like well-needed surgery. God becomes doctor saying, “We need to get that out before it poisons you.” In a daze, I realize I’ve been relying on my own strength. I held out a lot longer than I thought I could, but now, I’m done. How long have I tried to do this on my own? How long have I loved Ellia and Olive out of natural affection? How long have I been fooling myself into believing I’m operating out of surrender and grace?
Crisis works to replay my life in slow motion, pointing out where I took short cuts or faked skills I don’t actually possess. I could hide before, letting syrupy theological phrases drip out of my mouth to convince people I was just as spiritual as they’d suspected. But crisis calls us to the carpet, challenging each thought, prayer and song. Maybe not at first, but eventually, the self is laid bare. Our self-aggrandizing resources have run out.
This is a chance. This is my scheduled surgery. It’s up to me whether or not I show up. There is potential for transformation like I’ve never known, but it comes from being nakedly pressed into the unpredictable heart of Jesus. The loss is great—no more looking put together, no more relying on natural giftedness. The gain is better—the freedom that comes from running on endless grace in the arms of Love. There is always a cost. Always. Do I wave the white flag of surrender? Do I continue to try to make it on camp experiences and seminary research papers? Do I lay down my own will which stands as the enemy to peace?
The eyes of crisis see all that we pile on top of ourselves to avoid feeling naked. We’d rather suffocate under layers than face our own disconnectedness. I want to let the arms of crisis peel away the destructive and superficial religion, the empty phrases and tired clichés. I have to lay it down so that I can pick up the truth of my own neediness. Then, the arms of God can clothe me in himself.