For twenty-seven years, my home was in the same place, but the time had come to pack things up and move. Wasting no time, we got right to work; emptying drawers and clearing shelves- organizing boxes and labeling them for transport. I had lived in that house my entire life, so I knew it like the back of my hand. I could close my eyes and point out every decoration and knick knack. I could silently travel to my bedroom and avoid every creaky spot in the floor. I could walk to the basement in the dark and still find every light switch. So, when I stepped into the hallway to pack up some pictures, my eyes were naturally drawn to one that I had never remembered seeing before. I shouted to my Mother, “when did we put this picture here?” I expected her answer to be something like “a few weeks ago” or "the other day,” but instead she yelled, “that’s been there for most of your life.” It’s very easy for me to assume that something isn’t there just because I haven’t noticed it.
Does your life ever feel a bit like a ride on the subway? I know it does to me. Things get bumpy and it’s hard to keep your balance without grabbing for something. We’re pulled, blindly through dark tunnels, just waiting to reach the light at the end. One ride comes to a screeching halt before we want it to, and the next pulls forward before we’re prepared to go. It’s exhausting! We’re so focused on catching our breath before the next departure that we miss the voice saying “this is your stop.” We just keep on riding!
In 2012, my life came screeching to a halt at the end of a dark tunnel. The ride had stopped, but I never got off the train. I was dealing with the ugly feelings of an ugly breakup from an even uglier relationship. I found no victory in my new found freedom. In some ways, I felt more lost than ever. I was confused. This couldn’t possibly be my stop. The station wasn’t supposed to look like this. The light at the end should always make things better, but I guess too much damage had already been done. The train had reached the end of the line, but I had no strength to pry the doors open. A feeling of isolation overwhelmed me and I struggled to cope. I was lost in my unhappiness, listening to the echoes of every voice that had ever said “I told you so.” I had put myself on that ride and I was filled with regret; crushed by depression and plagued by loneliness. Every negative feeling only magnified the next. I couldn’t hide in my career because I wasn’t happy with it. I couldn’t hide in my hobbies because I wasn’t interested in them. I grew anxious and pessimistic about my future. The wind just left my sails. My emotions ran high. I felt angry all the time. I was tired, but I couldn’t rest. I tried to cling to God, but only so He would snap His fingers and fix this. I wanted to feel happy again and God was clearly holding out on me; like a vending machine that steals your dollar when you’re craving a quick fix.
Months crept by and my depression became the “norm.” I learned how to live like a ghost. I just took up space. I continued to serve in ministry, hiding behind masks of responsibility and leadership, but my heart was broken so my efforts were ineffective. I bottled my emotions as best I could in public and erupted in tears when I was alone and vulnerable. Everyday I prayed, but in hindsight, I can see the emptiness those prayers held. I was crying out for God to change my situation, but never crying for Him to change my heart. All along, He waited.
Autumn came and still no change. I woke up, got ready for work and slumped into my car. I wanted to pray, but it felt tiresome. My prayers had grown so robotic and empty- desperate words with no hope or confidence behind them. Was God even there or was this “faith” thing just time wasted on lies and false perceptions? I opened my mouth and tried to speak to the silence in my car (as I had done so many times before). With my expectations at their lowest, I gave up, gave in and surrendered. At the red light I prayed... “Lord, if You’re there, than you already know my situation. I don’t have anything left to say… I need You... now.”
Very few moments in my life have ever revealed God in a way that met MY expectations. Even fewer moments have ever felt “spiritual” enough to completely remove my doubt in the presence of a Holy Spirit. I certainly never expected any sign of life in the silence of my void. My faith had long been replaced by doubt and I was only continuing to pray to maintain a shred of belief in a God who would help me. The tunnel was dark and I had built my home in it, but somehow, in the stillness of that morning- in the quiet of my commute- at a solitary red light, God spoke to me. How do I know? How could I possibly know that it was Him and not a product of my own mind? Because my lips uttered words that I never could've uttered on my own. As if speaking to myself (through myself) I whispered, “you’re going to be alright.” That's all. No more. Just “you’re going to be alright.” Tears flooded my eyes, but I fought them off, choking down the lump in my throat and clinging to a greater fear that I had finally lost my mind. Wait, no, the tears were coming back again, only they felt different this time. They were void of all sadness. Instead, a weight was being lifted from me. I pulled the car over and wept... truly wept. At first, I didn’t know why. It was even a little scary at first, but finally, it all made sense. I was not alone in that car. My Father had arrived!
Adrenaline pumped through my veins as something beyond my understanding was taking place. I uttered no words of my own, but only repeated the Father's words… “you’re going to be alright.” When I needed God the most, He showed up! When my doubt and depression were screaming and wreaking havoc on my life, my loving Creator silenced the noise in a way that defied everything I had ever known. Even as I write this now, my eyes well up with tears. I cannot explain the magnitude of the peace I met that day. I was so weak- too weak to ever talk myself out of that hole on my own. The voice could only be my God. Peace transcended my comprehension, filling me in a way that I could never fill myself. The Lord answered my cry (just as His word promises) as if to say “I’ve been here the whole time,” and just like that picture on my wall, He’d been waiting for me to take notice.
I don’t know what your “ride” looks like right now. You could be approaching a speed bump or blazing toward a mountain. Perhaps you’re entering a dark tunnel or emerging on the other side. Just don’t miss your stop! Don’t stay there longer than you need to! Don't let doubt clamp the doors shut on you. I can’t promise HOW the peace of heaven will find you, but I can promise that it WILL. The Savior rides with you to say, “this is your stop. Get off and come with me.” Have faith. When you search, you will find a Savior.
“This is the confidence we have in approaching God: that if we ask anything according to his will, he hears us. And if we know that he hears us- whatever we ask- we know that we have what we’ve asked of him.” 1 John 5: 14-15 (NIV)
“But without faith no one can please God. We must believe that God is real and that he rewards everyone who searches for him.” Hebrews 11: 6 (CEV)