“When Letting Go Means Holding On” an essay by Denise on ‘Cultivating’ – an online Publication

Permit me to urge you to treat yourself to soul-nourishing fare over at ‘Cultivating’ — a delightful literary and visual smorgasbord. The theme of the Fall issue of this online publication is ‘Letting Go’.

I was once again privileged to have an essay, When Letting Go Means Holding On, published in the reading/journal section.

There I relate the events leading to my migration to America and share aspects of the struggle to hold on to the promises of a trustworthy God, when letting go of the familiar feels like free fall.

Song of the Ages, Pt I: The God Who is Near

     Confronted by my weakness in every aspect of my being, I sat dejected and desperate this Christmas Eve morning in my bathroom.

     “God, help me! I am in pain. I feel unable to control even my own thoughts”, I wrestled internally.

     Surgeries, medication, doctor visits, MANY doctor visits, had brought me more questions than answers, “God, where are you?” I questioned.  Please, I cannot go on like this.  I know you are real, I’ve seen you at work over the years, in my life, in our family, but what of now?  What of this?  Where are you?”  The last question hung in the air, for I knew that my own devotion had fallen off.  I was not doing the things that I had done at first, the things I knew to do.

     crying-out1So, I opened my mouth and voiced my petition, instead of just thinking them. I felt immediate relief, however small.  Solid ground — the sound of my own voice calling out to the God who is there — was like a patch of ground to stand on in the swampy morass that tended to be my brain in the early hours of morning, as the effects of fluctuating hormones, pain and semi-sleeplessness drove me desperate from my bed to the bathroom to get a grip.

     My ceaseless, anxious thoughts — C.S. Lewis’ mad dogs, my despised bedfellows in the wee hours of my middle-age mornings — had followed me into the bathroom.

“God, you are the Great Shepherd, right?  You keep your own.  I get it, about the brokenness of our physical bodies due to the fall, physical illness being just a part of the human journey to be coped with — You may or may not heal …but this struggle with my mind is another story. Your Word tells me that ‘None can pluck us from your Hands’. That must mean You are in this, somehow. I am not left to the devices of my enemy”.

     My thoughts raced again, collided and fell apart in scrambled heaps on the floor of my ‘menopausally’addled brain.  This frame of mind was not new to me.  I recalled previous seasons of panic and anxiety that had held me hostage for months.  I remembered having been just as desperate then for relief, and the similar vein of prayers.  Yet, here I now sat unable to recall exactly how or even when I had emerged from previous sloughs of despond and fear. I despaired afresh over my carelessness, my inattention that had let my mind drift from the truth.  I cast about in my head trying to regain a thread with which to lash my mind to the mast of the tossing boat that had again become my world.

     I was not even being able to fain control, unable to be that duck: calm on the surface but paddling like crazy below.  The battle resumed inward, “What of the list of believers (growing to my knowledge) who apparently wound up in error and or shipwreck — Hannah Hurnard, and hymn writer Nahum Tate, my most recent and troubling discoveries. Are you not able to keep our minds?” I questioned.  Yet even as I recalled the Faithful who suffered with depression: the Spurgeons and Mrs. David Livingstones, preachers, missionaries, writers of great hymns who yet suffered mentally, physically and emotionally?  I felt panic rising, and groped for a cord of truth to steady myself — “I have not sold my children a bill of goods about You.  I know you are real, and that You care.  Save me!  Save my soul!”  I whispered my scream in the early quiet.

     Aslan-Shasta2From the corners of my mind, quiet witnesses from the Scriptures began to speak up.  Jesus’ words to the disciples when they had asked about people who had died due to falling towers and the vindictive actions of Rome’s tyranny, and to Peter when he had asked about the destiny of the apostle John — Your answer: “What is it to you?” Essentially, “Mind your own life story”.  C.S. Lewis set that principle to classic allegorical narrative in His Narnia series, ‘The Horse and His Boy’ volume. “I speak to you only of your own story”, the great Christ figure, Aslan the Lion, had explained to the young character when he had questioned Aslan’s seemingly harsh dealings with another.

     I turned my heart to consider the most recent pages of my story …words, thoughts, songs, insight given as I had read and reflected on Scripture; ideas that had comforted and given perspective.  A song written earlier in the week had been cycling, again and again in my head, like a playground taunt as I tossed sleepless.  I could not turn it off. “You, write a song?” My enemy taunted, “Those ideas, thoughts, worth anyone else’s time or attention?  How ostentatious!  How helpful they have been to you right now?  Is this a trustworthy brand of truth?” The vile voices argued that I was living a lie — that I was incapable of living the truths my mind apprehended in the Holy Bible.

“Join the song of the Ages,

Join the dots, look at history’s pages.

Jesus Christ, Sovereign One, Straddling time, Son of David, God’s

own Son!” *

The song persisted, nonetheless.

     Resolutely, I turned on the Bible App on my iPad and clicked to my current reading passage in Genesis, where the Song of the Ages starts.  I had recently begun reading again, from the beginning, determined to fill in the gaps I had become too comfortable living with.  Gaps the enemy now romped in, splashing me unexpectedly with doubts and unanswered questions that I feared were unanswerable.

     jesus-in-the-gardenI was at the Flood.  The Scriptures record that God, Creator God, was exceedingly troubled that He had made Man.  My mind drank in THAT contradiction — the Eternal Creator exceedingly TROUBLED.  It was the second time in my scriptural study that I had noted an unsettled emotional state being experienced by the Divine One.  Jesus, in the New Testament, as He had approached the time of His pending suffering and death on the Cross, had declared to his disciples that His soul was deeply troubled.  Jesus’ situation, I felt I had somewhat understood.  After all, He was about to bear the full weight of Mankind’s sin and separation from the Father.  I got that.  But Creator-God?  Exceedingly troubled?

     But I was forgetting that this was Father-God of the earlier chapters of my reading in Genesis, who had come down daily in Eden, in pursuit of fellowship with his children, who had watched them increase in wickedness, after the fall, to where the Scripture records in superlative terms that “EVERY thought of man’s heart was ONLY evil CONTINUALLY.”  The God whose very name and character is love, who keeps watch over mankind, is quick to hasten to the side of the one who wants to ‘walk with Him’ — Abel, Enoch, and now Noah — the only one in his generation who ‘called on the name of the Lord’ and thus found ‘grace’.  This God was emotionally invested in His interrupted fellowship with Man! I took comfort in that fact and leaned in to catch the tune the Master Composer was weaving this final day of Advent, assured that the One who wove the story of a peasant girl, grungy shepherds, and rich wise guys into Earth’s redemption plan also had a place for this dark thread of my current journey.


* These are words from a song I wrote for this blog titled Song of the Ages.  Got to my ‘Poetry‘ page to read all of the lyrics to this song.