When Hard Things Became Invisible Things
New Year’s Eve 2015, I put my dog in the car with an overnight bag for a one-night stay at the Red Roof Inn at Jacksonville Beach. A few days previous I had conducted an internet search for the cheapest dog-friendly hotel in the state. I would have gone anywhere, I just wanted to be away from my place and preferably near the ocean because God always feels the most present there. My reality was this: I had an insufficiently paying job, grandparents in bad health, and the love of my life up to that point had just left me with the parting sentence, “I don’t love you enough to marry you,” three and a half years into our relationship. I needed to get out of town.
After paying the $45 it took for the night, I had $11.74 left in my bank account. Happy New Year.
I drove the two hours completely numb, letting the yellow and white lines guide my way through the dark. I checked in and laid on a questionable mattress for a while, but it wasn’t long before I started writing. The ink marking my journal under the date 12/31/15, three weeks after the explosion of my life, were simply three verses. No prayers, no supplications, no rambling words from a broken soul. Just three verses:
“For I am about to do a brand new thing. See, I have already begun! Do you not see it? I will make a pathway through the wilderness for my people to come home. I will create streams in the desert.” Isaiah 43:19-20
“Nothing is impossible with God.” Luke 1:37
“Now glory be to God! By His mighty power at work within us He is able to accomplish infinitely more than we can ever dare to ask or imagine.” Ephesians 3:20
My heart’s cry for the year became the NEW IMPOSSIBLE HOPE, birthed straight from these three. In the darkness, He set the course. It was like a huge, unmanned ship in the middle of the night in the middle of the ocean. I was too broken to do anything but breathe, so He took hold and charted the course with these three truths.
The next morning, January 1, 2016, I drove slowly down A1A, riding the coast of the Atlantic. The verses came one after the other, again and again and again whispered to my soul. The windows were down, salt blowing in, and my dog rode beside me, constant and steady. For part of the day, I drove, tears streaming down my face. At times, I stopped to marvel at the vastness of God’s creation and praised Him for His might, and the glory of the ocean in front of me. At times, I stomped my feet in the sand and I screamed at Him about how much I hated His plan. And at times, I sat torpidly, silently – broken, unfeeling, and defeated.
In truth, this is a very accurate depiction of the year that followed. The ups and downs were numerous and dynamic and sharp and just because I had those steering verses didn’t make the pain easier to handle. I repeatedly excused myself from work to cry in the bathroom. I couldn’t eat for days and weeks at a time. I rocked myself to sleep with grief more times than I can actually count. I sat, with Bible open and heart raw, asking God to heal my wounds and bring joy back to my life. It was in those days, with His promises before me and a heart bleeding out, that I began to see truth in places I hadn’t before. I think sometimes it takes a heart in that state to hear Him clearly… a testament to our frailty.
One of the first revelations He let sink into me, was that somewhere along the line I started to let hard things become invisible things. I can’t blame the person I was in a relationship with, so I’ll suffice it to say that we were both very, very good at this. In the process of healing from the loss of our relationship, God started to show me that this was a huge flaw between us. If a truth was hard, it was ignored. If finances were hard, they were avoided. If a life decision was hard, it was swept under the rug. If a health issue was hard, it was disregarded. It was so prominent in me that when I started to gain weight due to the stress of it all, I wouldn’t look in a mirror for anything. My brother and I were sitting on a couch looking at pictures of a family vacation and I got up and left him to reminisce alone because I couldn’t bear to look at myself in the photos. At that point, fear was in control of me. I didn’t open mail if I didn’t know what it was. I didn’t answer the phone unless I had to. I couldn’t look any truth in the face for fear of finding a flaw I wouldn’t be able to process, handle, or quick fix. All my hard things were too much to face, so I let them become invisible… and they grew exponentially and assumed ultimate control over me – down to even being able to check my bank account balance.
My hindsight has been 20/20. God has given me the real-deal, gut-wrenching, bone-breaking truth. Face your hard truths now. There is nothing more important to healing, growth, or progress then looking in the mirror and dealing with what’s not right. A previous boss of mine often says, “Just because something’s hard, doesn’t mean we shouldn’t do it.” Simple, yes, but also profoundly true. I was in a staff meeting when I heard her say it for the first time and it hit me like a wave from behind. It smashed me down face-first into the sand and took my suit with it. I sat in my office chair exposed. That’s exactly what we did in our relationship, and it’s a skill I mastered in the time we were together. My finances were in ruin, my body was a mess, and my emotional and mental states were barely hanging in. The only thing I consistently did was spend time with the Lord, and I’d later find out that even that was not quite right.
It’s not hard to identify the heart of this issue is a lack of courage. I started reading in the Old Testament and was methodically working through the exodus from Egypt and the possession of the Promised Land. So many times God tells Moses or Aaron or Joshua or Caleb to be “strong and courageous”. It struck me one day that the Promised Land would have been just ‘land’ if someone, in this case Joshua and Caleb, didn’t lead Israel in to possess it. God is commanding them to be strong and courageous and move forward into the promises He’s laid out, but it takes action to move forward and do the work of possessing in order for that to be realized. And let us not forget that possession of land meant battle to the death with whoever was living there at the time. And possession of my land and yours, means a battle to the death of our old selves. And that will absolutely require courage.
Have the valor to stare your truths in the face and address them. Have the courage to fight your wrongs until they’re gone. It is honestly some of the hardest work I’ve ever done. But it started with facing the reality of where I was. That was a reality I’m not proud of, but it’s the very thing that created the story you’re reading, and the story I have the privilege to share about God’s preposterous faithfulness and unrelenting pursuit of holiness in me, and in you. I want that; you want that; and it starts with not letting hard things be invisible things.
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