When I said “Come sit on the bed,” she just planted her legs straight like prison bars and asked why. I patted the comforter next to me and mustered up my best impression of a mother who has no intention of giving up. She plopped down heavy with a sigh and buried her stone face in fingers.
It was time to tell her.
How once upon a not-so-very-long-ago, before she was born, life crushed me down hard until even in sleep I couldn’t escape the pressing weight of it, my dreams filled with thundering, mile-high walls of water, rising and curling overhead and the sense that I was a goner. How I’d wake in the middle of the night with the words Help me, Jesus wedged in my throat.
And how I kept drowning a little more each day until I knew I’d come to the end of me.
Our business was in trouble, our marriage fragile at best. And this is the form it took when I hit rock bottom: gripping the stair post, I opened my mouth expecting to release a guttural yell of fury in my husband’s direction. But all that came out was a whisper. “I can’t do this anymore.”
It took years to arrive at that giving-up place. I hadn’t even recognized the slow letting of lifeblood as I served my idol—the need to keep up appearances. I believed if I could but stretch my arms just a little bit wider, I could hold my whole world together and everyone in it. I played God.
Then mercifully, one night just after I quit playing, he crashed through. Seized me with a resounding God-voice that penetrated my body and spirit with avalanche force. Don’t ask me to explain it any better than that, but here’s what I felt as much as heard him say:
It was stunning, and the best sort of news for one who was finally ready to say “I am not.” Not perfect. Not the hero. Most of all, not the one in control.
Why is surrender so hard? What are we all so afraid of?
As the movie Henry Poole Is Here opens, Henry (played by Luke Wilson) has just learned he’s dying of a rare disease, and his plan is to go on a permanent bender until the end comes—preferably, all alone. But a neighbor notices a stain on his stucco wall resembling the face of Christ, and soon people are trespassing into his backyard to receive healing by touching his wall. In the film’s climax, Henry tries, and fails, to muster enough faith to reach out to the wall for a miracle of his own. He’s miserable, he’s dying, he’s got nothing to lose. But he’s stuck in the same pivotal crisis of faith we all face sooner or later, and unable to grasp for hope from the only one with the power to give it.
Instead Henry rages, hacking at the wall with an ax and all the force of his anguish. And here’s the thing I relate to: the wall, the one he didn’t have the courage to reach for, gives way and comes crashing down, burying him in a heap of stucco and dust. He expressed his desperation to God—and I wonder if that isn’t the highest form of reaching out—and got toppled by the full force of a saving miracle.
I think some of us imagine that to bend open the prison bars, to take a heart out of its place of locked-up safety and hold it out as an offering to an invisible God, is the most vulnerable act imaginable. Most of us will rightly say that to risk our hearts on other human beings is worthwhile. But to risk rejection from the God of the universe? Scary stuff.
Probably Henry thought the only thing worse than to die without exercising faith would be to find out before he died that his lack of faith was justified. The idea of God failing him in his time of greatest need was unbearable.
Anyway, after I told my daughter about how, when I was in that giving-up place, God broke through and showed himself real and present and trustworthy, I realized that the telling was also for me—that to tell is to remember, and to remember is just what I need.
Because now it’s time to trust him with her heart.
Our children will grow up and make their own choices about who and what to risk their heart on. I want my amazing, beloved girl to be overcome by an avalanche of hope. Today. Now. But she alone will decide if and when to risk vulnerability with God. She has to come to her own awareness that she can’t control her world.
Meanwhile, I must look up and let go. I can’t control her heart; I can only influence it. But how?
Testify. Pray. Love.
I’ll hope she heard my testimony, hope she tucked it away for her journey. I’ll remind her that she is a miracle.
I’ll pray like crazy that she comes, sooner rather than later, to that thin place where his love can break through, that Father-child reunion. Pray she doesn’t go too far down before reaching up.
And I will love God more . . . with all my mind, my heart and my strength. Because he holds all things together, so I don’t have to. And because he holds my heart, I will trust him with hers. I will love God most of all.
God holds all things together. Col. 1:17
God holds all things together. Col. 1:17
Have you been in that place called Rock Bottom and lived to tell? Is it time to share your testimony of hope with someone? Could the telling be for you?
[This post first appeared on December 3, 2014.]