Sunday, September 13, 2015

Courage for the Journey When Life Stinks

I read, [1]Finding Me, A Decade of Darkness, A Life Reclaimed, by Michelle Knight with Michelle Burford. This book describes Michelle Knight’s nightmare of captivity by a man, she knew, who performed horrific acts on her and others he kidnapped, keeping them against  their will for a decade.

What drove her to survive? After finishing the book, heaping doses of COURAGE, I determined, were deep within her. Courage to have faith that this plight of cruelty would not be the end of her.

Her strength and determination astounded me. To experience something so deplorable; yet, find restoration and purpose regardless of what she suffered by another human being.
She wrote, “What doesn’t kill me can only make me stronger in my heart . . . I think surviving with my head held high is better than lying with my head hung low . . ..” (page 187).
Faith and hope along with determination, to find the strength in one’s soul, roots one with the prospect to preserve. Actually that is in our DNA to fight for life. I don’t know of anyone who enjoys grief, suffering, abuse, or those things in life that jolt us off our path. I know I don’t.

And even though most of us do not experience such atrocities, which compare with hers—still each of us have a unique way in how we react to stress, heartache, and the unexpected. But what we all need is courage to face the challenge when life stinks.

I loved her prayer in that chapter, which read in part . . .

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“Dear God … I will not let this tragedy bring me to my knees or define me all my life [determination]. I’ve got the right path in my sight [hope for something better]. I don’t want to live forever feeling this pain all over again [courage to rise above her emotions],” (Brackets my interjection; Page 187).

We can learn some qualities from her prayer, which we can relate to any situation we face:
  1. Her tragedy would not define her as a person
  2. In her mind, she had a resolution for a better future
  3. She refused to forever feel the pain caused by her abuser

This is the will to live. The will to hope. The will to not give up.

When we allow our predicaments to dictate who we will be, this is sure death of our healing journey. Certainly, this young woman had her grim moments; however, the will to survive kept her motivated to fight to live. The desire to reunite with her child, urged her everyday, to keep her eyes on her rescue as well her faith in God, in spite of her torture.
"Stretch out Your hand from above; Rescue me and deliver me out of great waters, . . .," Psalms 144:7; NKJB.
Not Defined by Our Circumstances

Fear and emotional pain is more apt to sink its claws deep in places that debilitate us. A positive out look, when in our uncomfortable state of being, is hard to muster. When I'm in such a place, I want to crawl in bed until the stinky mess clears. And there is nothing courageous about that but diffidently a good idea for the moment.

My tendency is to allow the heaviness to define my actions and my thinking.

Even though I’ve been taught this, wrote about it, and told it to others, the journey is the means not the end result in which we are striving to obtain, even when another causes our situation. Other people’s choices can bind us into despair, if we let them. Not keeping despair as a life-time partner takes resolve to choose forward progress.

Michelle Knight’s courage kept her alive. It bound her to believe something was possible regardless of what things looked like. To stand on the possibility she would come out of this without an adverse change of the inner person she was before her capture. This is a lesson to learn.

Courage is to move forward, even if they are tiny steps. To muster even a little strength to get through each second of the day. And not allow our situation to sap us of our energy, continually.

Some of the ways to define courage is:

  • Bravery
  • Valor
  • Fearlessness
  •  Intrepidity
  • Boldness
  • Heroism
  • Gallantry

When I read those definitions, I thought what a hard act to follow.

Courage is a means to travel through loss, abuse, and sorrow. It’s doing the hard things, like waking up everyday with determination to face the challenges presented to us. Courage makes a choice to do something even when despair demands you to crawl in a hole and hide till the storm passes. Courage helps us to lift our heads high by keeping hope as an anchor.

"This [hope] we have as an anchor of the soul, both sure and steadfast, and which enters the [Presence] behind the veil, . . .," Hebrews 6:19; NKJB.

Times I’ve Needed Bravery

Bravery is not my strong suit, at least I don’t think so. For any of you who have experienced divorce, you know the pain associated with it. It’s like a death.

I’ll never forget the first meeting with the Mediator, when I felt the reality our marriage was headed for dissolution. Being in the room with the man I vowed to love and live with, tell death do us part, was more than I could bear.

I tried to be brave but dread and fear enveloped me like a cocoon. I had to drive home to our empty house knowing he wasn’t going to be there. The pain of that hour was like shards of glass lacerating my heart.

I wept violently as I drove. I knew the road I was taking had a steep cliff and the thoughts kept pouring in . . . just drive off that cliff. Could the death of our marriage be worse than death itself? It was a surreal moment in my life that stunk. What was there to live for? Driving my car off the cliff seized me immensely and the burning tears kept me from seeing clearly. I jerked my car to the side of the road.

Uncontrollable sobbing caused by body to tremble. I wanted to throw-up. Could I be brave to call someone and tell them I wanted to drive off a cliff. It took me a moment but yes, especially as I thought of my loved ones. After several calls, I finally got through to a close friend. I told her of my urge to speed my car over the cliff. She talked me through my pain and gave me enough strength to press on in spite of the agony I felt.
© kikkerdirk

Another time I needed bravery was going to church. Sounds odd, I know. However, understand church was a memory of loss. Loss of a marriage that was surround by spiritual contentedness, church family, people who loved us and we loved them. But it was not only church but a reminder of a union—a marriage Sacrament, blessed by God. And when in church, I was reminded that a spiritual union was severed.

One day, I decided I’d confront my fear and tread the doors of a church. On my way, I kept saying, God I’m going to church, God, I’m going to church. I don’t know if I was trying to convince God . . . or myself. It was more like the Mantra of courage to keep going and not turn around, for the heartbreak was unbearable. For me there was a sadness of not having my lifetime partner with me.

Of course, there are hurting people in every pew, because life delivers the unexpected slams and jams.

When I walked in, surrounded by strange faces, my chest tightened. I found the worship familiar, which put me at some ease. I felt the presence of God and a whisper, Diane; see that’s not so bad, is it?
"So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand," Isaiah 41:10; NIV.

God a Good Friend

When in those dark places, it takes lots of will power to remember God is like a good friend we’ve not seen for a while. When we reconnect it’s as if no time has passed. The Lord is like that. His ear is close to us, no matter how simple the prayer or even if they are infrequent. He hears. He picks up right were we left off with Him.

There is comfort in knowing God meets us where we are. And I mean He meets us right were we are . . . emotionally and spiritually.

Back to church . . . although I felt God’s presences that day, my pain was not any less. I wish I could report God’s company filled me so, I didn’t have a lonely bone in my body but it didn’t.

Loneliness is a vise on our thoughts, which keeps us looking at what we had rather than a hopeful future.When plan A fails, God always has a plan B. I'm walking this out.

My courage was taking a step to press through my fear. Michelle, while her fear and violence occurred everyday, also took that step to hope in a rescuing God.

When our journey takes a swift turn, one has to make a determination for a new redefined self, and to me that is like pulling my own teeth with a wrench. Yet being reminded God knows our whereabouts and that we’re more valuable to him then we can imagine, can assist in dredging through whatever undesirable stinking path we are on.
"Not even a sparrow, worth less than a penny, can fall to the ground without your Father knowing it. And the very hairs of your head are all numbered. So don't be afraid; you are more valuable to him than a whole flock of sparrows," Matthew 5:4, 10-12; NIV.
89045132Hope button on modern computer keyboard
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Wondering and Wandering

The message at church that evening was based on a book [2]The Story, with a Foreword by Max Lucado and Randy Frazee.

The sermon featured chapter 6, Wandering, go figure—That first year of separation, I felt so lost, not knowing my direction or my identity. I speculated the Israelites felt somewhat lost too. The place Moses was leading them was only 11 miles away yet it took them 39 years, and several generations later, to reach their destination. I thought how many years will I wonder in my heartbreak or anger. God help me if it’s 39 years. That would be a lot of wasted time.

I can only agree that the Israelites sabotaged themselves at every corner. They complained. We also are prone to crumple. The Israelites looked back to their captivity of slavery, thinking it was better then wandering. They didn't consider the future God promised them. Isn’t that like most of us, to be discontent with our life when things go wrong and don't go our way—we whine. Looking back and not being in the now and hoping for a restored future.

I perceived from Michelle Knight’s writing, she believed she’d be rescued. She held on to a hope that her slavery would end and just when she was about to give up, God showed up.

Quoting the Pastor, he said, “Wandering is when you find yourself between where you started and where you want to be.” He also quoted from chapter 6 of The Story, “God is more concerned about who you are becoming than were you are going.”

The question the Pastor posed to us was, “How will you choose to live in your wandering?” Good question.

He also reminded us that, “God is not in a hurry.” Although . . . we are in a hurry. We’re in a rush for an answer, for change, for the sorrow to stop, for rescue, for peace, and the list goes on. We want relief from our place of emotional pain, frustration, trouble, and our worry.

Knowing God is not in a hurry can give us peace as well fixing our thoughts that time is on God’s side and thus ours.
“He heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds,” Psalm 126:5; NIV.

What Doesn’t Kill Us

God wants to see me through my journey. He desires to see us all through our excursions.

God will not intervene into a person’s motivation. Therefore, accepting where we are today— not an easy task, even though we don’t understand or like a choice someone has made that's changed our world, is part of healing.

I’m certain God will give us the courage to move forward, and the strength to endure when we ask. His continued help is there even when we don’t feel it. That reminds me of the old Hymn, "His eyes are on the sparrow, I know he watches me."

In the deepest part of my soul, I want my prayer to echo Michelle Knight’s and live her motto of, “What doesn’t kill me can only make me stronger in my heart . . . I think surviving with my head held high is better than lying with my head hung low.”

Courage is the means of traveling through our valleys. The process of the journey is more important than the end results. Although the trip provides certain amenities, like emotional roller coaster rides—without the fun, it’s about what we discover. The self discovery of who we are and the depth of our faith. Trauma will change us, good or bad, or strengthen our inner person for the better depending on our outlook and desire.
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When I used to peer counsel woman in unplanned pregnancies, I’d speak to them about what a crisis meant. I’d share that at this pivotal moment she’s at a crossroads. The Chinese Character for crisis means danger or opportunity. The crisis might lead one into danger if all the avenues are not considered; even so there is always an opportunity to change the outcome.

Courage to face each day regardless of the pain is a chance to grow. A spiritual mentor used to say to me, “This to will pass.” Knowing this journey will not last forever helps to focus on the light at the end of the tunnel. Sometimes that is hard to hear when you are in the midst of it.

There is nothing to be ashamed of when we lose faith or when we feel God has forgotten us. Or to feel less of a Christian when angry at life or God, especially when life is not what it's supposed to be.
The Psalmist penned, "Why do you stand afar off, O LORD? Why do You hide Yourself in times of trouble?" Psalm 10:1; NASB.

God's Word reminds us . . .

" . . . weeping may remain for a night, but rejoicing comes in the morning," Psalms 30:5; NIV.

He is our stronghold . . .    

“The LORD also will be a stronghold for the oppressed. A stronghold in times of trouble . . .,” Psalm 9:9; NASB.

He is our help . . .

“The Lord is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit,” Psalms 34:18; NIV.

He too, does not want our circumstances to define us

I’m convinced courage to journey when life stinks is only possible when our faith is in the God who, “. . . [makes] everything beautiful in its time. . .,” Ecclesiastes 3:1; NIV; (Brackets mine).

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     That’s what I’m holding on to as I muster courage to journey through my life changes and stress that seem to be constant and unwanted.

     Please take a moment and share with me times you've experienced the need for courage. What did you do? How did you hold on to hope?

[1] Finding Me A Decade of Darkness, A Life Reclaimed; Authors Michelle Knight with Michelle Burford; Published by Weinstein Books A member of the Perseus Books Group; Copright 2014 by Lillian Rose Lee

[2] The Story, The Bible as One Continuing Story of God and His People; Published by Zondervan; Latest print 2001

How about you? What have you learned in traveling through painful moments of your life? How did you see God move for you?

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