It’s too much.
For the last several months, being an American alone has been heart-rending.
Being an American and online has just about wrecked me.
I absorb too much. I feel too much. I care too much. Besides that, if you’ve followed me for long you know that the holidays are notorious for making me feel raw and skittish. Add to all of this that the fact that we launched our firstborn to college in August, we’re getting our second son ready to launch this spring, and I am working on two very important book projects, and all I want to do is hide.
I want to curl up until January first–or maybe the year 2020–and let the world and all its noise and hate pass by. I don’t have anything to offer anyone, after all. I feel empty and unworthy. One writing project in particular, one that I’ve poured my heart and prayers over for many months, has me feeling just. like. this. no matter what I do:
Dear readers, I wanted to give you a series of hopeful posts leading up to Christmas, but I felt paralyzed, numb to hope myself in many ways. So I decided to go offline until January first.
That intention lasted less than a week.
Because even at my worst, I remembered that it’s my heart’s desire to bring hope to the hopeless through my words. That’s always been my mission. My vision. Through my novels, my poems, my newspaper columns, whatever words I can offer.
Slowly I began to remember that over a decade ago I was voiceless and alone, struggling to understand how to cope with recovering from the abuse I’d endured as a child, trembling with the fear that I was broken and filthy beyond repair. I remembered that back then I took a chance and searched the internet–where I could be anonymous–for other survivors and I found tens of hundreds of others just. like. me.
But they were speaking. They were healing. They had hope. And their hope gave me hope in return.
So who am I to stay silent during this time of the year when so many people are hurting, and all the lights and glitter and jam-packed stores and Hallmark movies make it hurt all the more? Who am I to hide, when there are people just like me who need to know they’re not alone and that there really is hope out there, and hope for them?
Lately I’ve been so weary and burned out I’ve forgotten to even pray. But today, on an unexpected two-hour drive, I prayed.
I took a chance that the Christmas music I’d been avoiding might actually bring hope and not just empty nostalgia.
And sure enough, God met me through a song…
Everything inside me cries for order
Everything inside me wants to hide…
The sun hung low as I drove down the two-lane, Indiana highway. The melody filled the car even as brown, shorn fields blurred by, and my tied up, pent up heart fell to pieces.
If God is pleased with me, why am I so terrified?
I am terrified, after all. Oh, I have a real good game face. You learn to have a good game face when you’ve been through the things I’ve been through. But inside where no one can see, I’m terrified that all I’ve done to raise my precious boys won’t be enough for them now that they’re leaving home. I’m terrified that a lifetime of writing won’t be enough to finish the project I was so sure of when I started it. I’m terrified that I haven’t been able to hear God for a good, long while.
Someone tell me I am only dreaming
Somehow help me see with Heaven’s eyes
And before my head agrees, my heart is on its knees
Holy is He; blessed am I.
Before my head agrees, my heart is on its knees, indeed. Tears fell. All I could think about were the tiny, premature babies I’d cared for at work (I’m an RN) in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit, and how the Lord of all creation chose to come to us like one of them…God could have come with fire and earthquakes and lightning and thunder, but He chose to come as a helpless infant, cold and naked, completely dependent on infinitely inadequate humans to survive.
Holy is He.
Maybe He knew we’d be so exhausted from the noise that more noise wouldn’t–couldn’t–rescue us. Maybe He knew we wouldn’t be able to find Him–truly find HIM–without bending our knees. Maybe He knew we wouldn’t be able to see Him until we saw ourselves in the face of the helpless.
My heart cry crescendoed with the song that played through my car speakers:
Be born in me, be born in me
Trembling heart, somehow I believe that You chose me
I’ll hold You in the beginning, You will hold me in the end
Every moment in the middle, make my heart Your Bethlehem
Be born in me
Be born in me, Lord. Be born in whoever might be reading this today. Not just the way You were born over 2000 years ago, but be born in each of us this day, this hour, this minute…
All this time we’ve waited for the promise
All this time You’ve waited for my arms
Did You wrap yourself inside the unexpected
So we might know that Love would go that far?
I am not brave
I’ll never be
The only thing my heart can offer is a vacancy
I’m just a girl
But I am willing, I am Yours
I’m far from brave.
Lord knows there are still vacancies in my heart groping for earthly substitutes to fill what only He can fill–if I let Him. I’m just a girl and nothing more. But I can offer hope. Though my instinct is to run and hide, I can give to those who are hurting the same hope I needed years ago. The world shows no sign of slowing down or toning down, after all. Nor did it over 2000 years ago when Herod slaughtered toddlers and infants and women screamed in the streets and men tore their robes begging for a savior.
But the Savior did come.
The Promise was born small and helpless, to an aching, trembling, hopeless Israel then, and the same Promise to redeem us, to free us, to break the silence and the violence in our lives, that same Promise is here now.
God is with us.
God is with you.
He transcends the men, the women, the brothers, the sisters, the religion, the ideologies, the cold shimmering lights and empty silver bells that have let us down.
And because of that, I can’t stay silent.
Even if it hurts to write, even if believing feels too far-fetched, still I will praise Him.
Still, I will choose to believe.
Here’s the video of the song (below) I listened to in my car yesterday, Be Born In Me, by Francesca Battistelli. Maybe it will bless you, too.
Look for a new Facebook Live video from me on Friday (much obliged if you’d follow my author page there), and a few more posts and live videos throughout the month. And know that even if you’re feeling raw and alone and worn out–especially if you feel that way this time of year–Emmanuel is here for you today and always.