You may have realized that I have been pretty silent the last few months. Yes, that is partially due to the crazy busy cycle that is teacher life. There is no doubt that the endless cycle of children being children, teaching said children in their childish antics, and grading the results of said teachings is more than enough work to fill my time and mental space. And we have, in short, told people life is good. And to be honest, life is good. Some days are harder than others, but isn’t that life in general?
But the secret (and I wear my heart on my sleeve, so this may not be quite so secretive) is that while life has been busy and enjoyable and full of community and life, it has also been extremely draining and spiritually immobilizing. A few months ago, not but a month or so into living in Shanghai, I began to feel this dryness take over. I began to question what it means to be a person of faith. Every single thing I used to do to connect with the Father began to feel empty and dead. It felt like I had followed Father, tethered to his heart and to the things that kept that connection stable, all the way to this land we are living in; and then I was abandoned. It felt like every connection I had made, every rope that connected me to the Father was severed. On one hand, that was good because it made me realize that my walk was not firmly planted but rather relied on the latest and greatest from John Bevere or the Spirit exuding from inside my mentors. On the other hand, it felt lonely, empty, and dry.
And to be honest, this should have driven me to seek the Father deeper. It should have driven me into His presence, but every time I did try, I was met with pain. I was met with an ache of emptiness and longing. I began to write it out, penning a new song.
I find myself in the driest place I’ve been, wondering where you have gone. I long to sit in the presence of my King, but it seems that something is missing. Where are you? I need you. I want to worship as before, my face on the floor, in your presence. I want to seek you at my core with open heart, open door, in your presence.
And that helped for a time. Still, when I created space to be quiet and still, it hurt or it was empty. The Truth felt meaningless. Everything felt meaningless. The Father felt distant. And as I dragged myself out of bed around 10:30, committed to seeking Him in the early part of today, I found myself experiencing the exact same pain. A pain that can only be described as a bad breakup. It felt like my heart had been ripped in two. The flesh of it remained beating in my chest while the spirit of it was caught in a cry in my throat that simply prayed, “I miss you.”
Then, as has been the cycle for the last few months, I attempted to continue my day and forget the pain. I messaged some warriors and moved on. After my haircut, I open up my phone to a message from one of those warriors. It was a helpful reminder that I knew but needed to probably hear. It was just enough to help the purge of my heart through fresh tears and readjust my gaze.
Then, as I began to walk around, I stumbled upon a CrossFit. This may not seem like much, but another area that has been a struggle is feeling sluggish and defeated about my health. I had gone from a 6 month life change of nearly 60 pounds to feeling bloated and disgusting and weak again. It’s been nearly a year since I worked out at my gym back home, and I have found myself looking back to who I was and how I didn’t want to go back to the old me, but that is what transition did. I reverted to the old comfort of McDonald’s and not-so-baggy pants. It is only by the grace of God that I haven’t gained every pound back. So when I stumbled upon CrossFit, it was like a light dawned. Something new, yet familiar.
And as this story winds down, we went to community where I discovered a women’s retreat that is happening which shares the exact same name as the community of women I used to be connected to. And it felt like Father was screaming out into my depth of despair, reaching from heaven and saying, “I’m here, and I DO see you!”
And THEN, if that hadn’t been enough to renew my hope, one of the songs at community touched on this EXACT thing, the faithfulness of Father. The lines that wrecked me, like a stream from my heart spilling through my eyes were these: “Your promise still stands. Great is your faithfulness, faithfulness. I’m still in Your hands. This is my confidence. You’ve never failed me yet.” And it was like I was being picked up out of the desert, even if for a moment, given fresh perspective, and completely reset into the knowledge of the Father’s eternal presence in my life, regardless of whether I “feel” Him there.
In a moment, I went from one of the lowest places I have ever felt to being in the very place I have longed for–in His presence, held tightly in His loving hands. Will the pain return? I hope not. Will the desert remain? Possibly, but I am going to press on to the next stream with a renewed gaze and an expectant heart.
Be encouraged. Perhaps things are changing. Perhaps you feel dry. Perhaps you feel distant from the Father. Perhaps nothing is as you thought it would be. Perhaps you are disappointed and hurting, but the Father is good. He is faithful. He will never leave you and never forsake you. He isn’t a breaking up Father. He is real, and He is near… always.
Check out the song that was played at community here: Do It Again by Elevation Worship