Tuesday, March 6, 2012

On Pits and Pity-Parties and A New View


I've been more absent in the new year than I'd planned to be in this space. There's been sickness. And exhaustion. But mostly I've been absent for another reason.

You might say I took an unexpected holiday. The dirt under my fingernails testifies to the locale. I had an extended stay in the pit. 

Though I've been out of the deep for a while now, writing has been difficult. And scary. I wrote this post last week but didn't have any peace to post it until today. I prayed. I sent it to my husband at work. And then I clicked on this post which had been sitting in my inbox since yesterday. Between my husband's affirmation and Ann's post, I sensed a divine "yes." 

I've had plenty to say but not much that I've wanted to share. There have been days when getting out of bed was my noblest accomplishment, days that were sunny outside but terribly dark in my soul. I courted despair and found a twisted sort of solace in hopelessness. 

Why anyone would want to stay in a place like that is, of course, irrational. The cause of my descent into the pit is irrelevant. You may be thinking:

Oh that's chemical. Poor girl needs some meds

Or, Oh that's spiritual. Poor girl is under spiritual attack or has some sin she needs to deal with. She probably needs to read her Bible and pray more. 

Or, She shouldn't have sent her kids to school. Now look, she's bored and depressed and needs to get over herself. 

Whatever. I'm sure all of those things are true in varying degrees {except the bored part.} But here's what I do know: I wanted to be in the pit. I succumbed to the descent and I willingly chose to stay put.

I had given up.

It felt as though what was required of me in this life was simply more than I could give. The cumulative effect of some really hard stuff, years of hard stuff, left me too drained to move forward. 

I gazed back at the past and felt crushed by the weight of the pain inflicted by others and the dysfunction I'd brought upon myself. I nursed hurts that spanned decades. I stared into the future and felt too exhausted and ill-equipped to tackle it. Pulling the covers back over my head seemed like the best alternative. Overwhelmed by all of the work still ahead, I simply gave up, surrendering to defeat. 

Why pack up all my baggage and move out if I'll just have to load it back up and move back in? Better to just save myself the trouble and false hope and eventual failure by staying put. 

That's the sort of fatalistic air one breathes in and out while living in the depths.

I hated the pit. And I hated myself in the pit. But at the same time, I didn't want to get out. There was something sickeningly comforting about darkness. The pit required nothing of me but self-pity and bitterness and I had perfected the art of both.

Ironically, my sad and sedentary self thought a lot about running {of all things} while sitting in the pit. I've been an on-again, off-again runner since I was 12 years old. Running is one of those disciplines with a plethora of built-in analogies about life and perseverance. 

I learned in adolescence that often, when you think you've got nothing left, you're wrong. I've learned to push on, to give it all I have. And I've applied those virtues to many real-life situations across the years. When I was nearly convinced I had nothing left, I dug deep and wrung out the few remaining drops of strength I didn't realize I had.

And that's why I was scared. 

For the first time ever, I knew there was nothing left. Not a single drop. If my life depended on one short, final sprint, I would have surrendered to defeat even if the finish line lay only a few feet in front of me.

A defeatedness took over and drop-kicked me in that dang pit. I could no longer see the beauty or relevance of rescue and redemption. Faith seemed meaningless. I felt forsaken yet wanted to be left alone, restless but exhausted.

Thankfully, Jesus never tires of rescuing us even though we may tire of asking Him to.  

Over the course of several days, I sensed a holy invitation to turn away from myself and grab hold of the outstretched arm of Christ. Through a series of rather ordinary, yet divine exchanges, I knew it was time to pack my bags and say goodbye to that ridiculous abode with the stagnant air that whispers lies disguised as truth.  

God issued the invite. I simply nodded and agreed to come out.

It's not all flowers and kittens and rainbows up here but the vantage point is entirely different. I'm learning in brand new ways what it means to rest fully and completely in Christ, to delight in being rescued, to know that God holds the future so tenderly and lovingly in His hands, to not fret over the approval of others, especially my own.

Expectation and performance and productivity? They are becoming distant companions. It depends on the day of course, but the more I practice kicking them to the curb, the easier it becomes. Issues of identity and worth that used to stare me down all day long? They are becoming shadowy outlines.

There is only one companion that truly matters these days and his name is Jesus. He was with me in the pit and He's still with me now that I'm out. He thinks I hung the moon. {Even though we both know that He actually did that.} He is just as wild about me on my best days as He is on my worst.

In His eyes, I am lovely. Even when I'm not. 

When the pit comes calling because the past is messing with my head and the future is mocking my hope, I run to Jesus. 

When my performances as a wife and a mother and a friend and a Christian are just train wrecks, when I feel the familiar tug of duty and expectation, I run to Jesus.

That's right, the girl who had nothing left is runningI'm back in the race but only because He's the one who's already run it for me and won. 

I don't run to Him so that He can tell me it doesn't matter if I snap at my kids or fail to provide them with clean underwear...

I run to Him for grace. 

I run to Him to be reminded of my true identity. 

Anything my life produces that's decent or praiseworthy is just an offering to Him and to others, worship that flows out of gratitude and love and His goodness instead of approval and fear and my performance

For years I've been trying to get this. But it took pain and the pit and praying desperately for the Gospel to become real before it could, well, become real. 

Don't get me wrong. Every day I still struggle and process so many things: guilt, utter selfishness, fear, doubt, and gut-wrenching relationship work. I'm still making peace with what my new life looks like, letting go of my kids and trusting God with the future of my family, knowing that in each and every season, He'll direct us in the way we should go.

Letting go, being still, surrender...they don't sound very taxing. In fact, they sound positively lazy from the perspective of this recovering performance junkie. But I'm finding that these are some of the most draining disciplines I've ever practiced because they are so counter-intuitive. 

Maybe you've been in a pit or maybe you're in one now. It's okay. I can so feel your pain and resistance. But you don't have to stay there. There is abundant life in the midst of chaos, beauty in the midst of brokenness. Though the daily yuck and the big-time crises overwhelm us, they cannot overwhelm Him. In my opinion, He does His most compelling work in the stories of redemption. I write to remind myself. 

Reach out your hand, friend. There is a better view. 

Psalm 40:1-3

I waited patiently for the LORD; 
   he turned to me and heard my cry. 
He lifted me out of the slimy pit, 
   out of the mud and mire; 
he set my feet on a rock 
   and gave me a firm place to stand. 
He put a new song in my mouth, 
   a hymn of praise to our God. 
Many will see and fear the LORD 
   and put their trust in him.


...............................

I happened upon a really helpful book while I was coming out of the pit: Get Out of That Pit by Beth Moore. I know, how appropriate. A friend loaned it to me a year ago but it didn't seem relevant until recently. I read it in a day and a half and it just provided some really valuable perspective and inspiration.  Beth is so good at providing the sacred kick in the pants I often need. And the woman has been in the pit a time or two or ten. 

I'm also re-reading and discussing Grace for the Good Girl: Letting Go of the Try-Hard Life by Emily P. Freeman with a small group of close friends. I highly recommend. You can read my review of that book here.

11 comments:

  1. I don't think I have ever heard (read) the experience of the pits described so soulfully. Everyone who has been in the pits has a personal journey. All the best to you each and every day.

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  2. well. yes to all of this. to sharing. to knowing. to getting up.

    i am beyond thankful for you.

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  3. The word "perspective" never appears in Holy Scripture, but I truly believe that it has profound spiritual implications for all of us. When Satan rips it from us, or distorts it while allowing us to have some flimsy hold on it . . . life sinks rapidly. When we allow Christ and His grace to provide it, life rises inexplicably and in defiance of circumstances.

    Sensitive, gut-baring post, my dear.

    LYF,
    MOM

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  4. I know we talked some about this yesterday, but thanks for writing this. It's good to see that someone further along in this than I am.

    Matt

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  5. Wow. Your honesty is awesome and I just want to hug you! He has come to set us free, free from a performance driven life! I have been wrestling with this for months and everytime I try to talk to a friend about it they just give me a glazed over "that's nice" look. :) Check out John Lynch's book "The Cure" or even this segment here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7azfoonNqpc

    It is amazing, and true! :) Love you Marian! Keep on writing! It's touching others and giving them courage!

    love
    amy zaney smith

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  6. Scooper,
    Thanks for the much needed reminder, well written.
    You are loved the most by Him who hung the Moon, and by others, too. Praying for you, sister.
    love ya!

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  7. Scooper-
    I was going to send you a FB message to thank you for posting your review of "Grade for the Good Girl"...I got it months ago... and started it but let it fall away. I should have kept reading. Because I was slipping fast into the pit...and it all came falling in on me last Tuesday--in the most embarrassing way for a performance junkie---in front of a whole lot of people--tears and babbling--- and awkwardness thick in the air . I literally cried all day long. I am at the point where I know I just can't live this way anymore...I refuse to live this way for my next 39 years...
    So now here we are on spring break and I am making my first read of the book...I know I will read it again and again...and mark it again and again...

    But now this post today make me wish I lived closer to you to join this group. I love how you put into words so well what much of my heart wants to say.
    ~kk

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  8. @ Amy Zaney Smith-- Thanks for posting the video. more of what I needed...

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  9. Talk about performance junkie....I have written and then deleted at least half a dozen comments to past posts. How unfortunate that I would choose not to engage for fear of not measuring up...not being knowledgeable enough...not having anything of value to contribute. Your journey is inspiring, encouraging, and all too familiar. As mentioned in a previous comment, you somehow put into words what my heart cries out. I suppose that is validation that your sharing is so worthwhile and desperately needed. I continue to be grateful for your transparency.

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  10. Thank you for sharing this as I am struggling to get back to living. All the words you have written here describe me to a "T". I am going to look into that book by Beth Moore. Thanks again for sharing.

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  11. Wow, I just realized that I am in a pit. That has to be blatenly obviously to others, but my fighter instinct is blinding me. The "holy invitation to turn from myself and to the outstretched arms of Christ"....that hit me.....off to wrestle with that, or maybe try and stop wrestling, just accept the invite..........jordan

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