Friday, August 22, 2014

Drinking coffee with a head cold

I've been struck down my a wicked summer cold for the past five days. I sit here sniffling, head aching, trying to get the thoughts that are clogged in my head down on paper before the inspiration is gone. I'm on my second cup of perfectly brewed, fair trade and organic Ethiopian coffee and I can barely taste it. But still, I measure and pour precisely. All the makings are there for the most delicious cup, but I can't taste it because of my summer cold. 

And there it is. My faith is often like drinking coffee with a head cold. 

Each morning I wake and pray, straight away. Right when my eyes open, before looking to the right at the glowing numbers on the clock, before pressing the home button on my phone to see if I have any emails or texts that need attention. My eyes open, I stretch and release the slumber, and start my morning conversation with the Lord. Honestly, it's usually a string of thoughts and blessings and thankfulness and requests and then it's up and out of bed and off to precisely measure and scoop and brew and sip before the children wake up. 

Since I've started seeking a more intimate relationship with the Lord, I have been trying to make sense of my past, trying to understand why I make the decisions that I do. 

Before we moved back to the States from Japan a friend invited me over for a glass of wine. I happily obliged, enjoying the hour of freedom, sitting and chatting with a lovely lady. She mentioned that she was celebrating this weekend because it had been one year since something terrible had happened to her, and instead of wallowing in the remembrance she wanted to celebrate that it was behind her; make that same day, one year later, one that was full of fun and laughter instead of confusion and tears and hurt. 

As she shared her story from one year ago, I found myself nodding, listening and, all of the sudden, remembering. This same thing had happened to me almost 15 years before. It wasn't a repressed memory, just a forgotten one. And I wondered "Why wasn't I outraged when this happened? Why didn't I tell someone other than my 17 year old friends?". I have been praying about this event, asking the Lord to lead me to the lesson I am meant to learn from it. 

That's the thing with stories of hurt. It's hard to tell them without sounding like a victim or without blaming others. This is a story I want to share to show where it eventually lead me. To show how the Lord used this event, used that evening of conversation and wine with a friend, used my morning prayers... to lead me to the answers I was seeking. My 'A-Ha!' moment in prayer. 

But it's hard to tell of a-ha's without telling the story. And so I will share. After 15 years I hope I share facts and not hurt feelings, events and not blame. Because this event was woven with so many others that shaped my spiritual journey, right up to this morning during prayer. And it's a story I want to share, in hopes that I might understand it even more. 

This is a story about how trying to walk with the Lord without trust is like drinking coffee when you have a summer cold. 

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It was my junior year of high school. I had been dating my boyfriend, my FIRST EVER boyfriend, for a few months. It was all fresh love, puppy eyed and idealistic. My beau was away for the weekend on a school trip and I was spending time with one of my best friends from my church youth group.

My parents had been divorced since I was in the seventh grade. I lived with my Dad, but at this point both of my sisters were seeing their now husbands and my Dad was spending most of his waking and sleeping moments with his now wife. I was usually home alone. Always the goodie goodie, it never occurred to me that I could get away with a heck of a whole lot with little to no parental supervision at home. The worst I would usually do was stay out past curfew.

This particular weekend happened to be the Friday before my SAT's. And my friend from youth group invited me over to his buddies house to watch a movie. He went to a different school, where he was popular. He hung out with the cool kids, and I was more than a little intimidated walking into the home of the rock start soccer player. We enter the kitchen and there he was... the fella I had a crush on since my freshman year. He was a year older and very popular. I was pretty sure he didn't know I existed, but here we were, in the same social setting, because of mutual friends from a different high school.

Someone pulled out the lemon vodka and started mixing drinks. Always the goodie goodie, I had never really had much to drink besides a sip here and a sip there. I take the shot of straight vodka that is handed to me (and the ones that followed), not wanting to seem uncool to the soccer playing studs from the other high school, let alone the popular kid from my school whom I had crushed on in a real way for years.

(SIDE NOTE: Who the heck did I think I was drinking vodka for the first time the night before my SATs?! I was enormously hung over and barely made it to the test the next morning. I kept falling asleep mid problem. And then, the fates smiled down on me and SOMEONE CALLED IN A BOMB THREAT. No joke. The test was canceled and rescheduled a few weekends later. I mean, what the heck, y'all. Did that really happen?!)

Anyway, back to the story.

I remember my friend driving me home. I remember not being surprised that no one from my family was home. I remember falling asleep in my light wash Express jeans and aqua colored Roxy shirt with the yellow wave across the front.

And then I remember waking up with someone in my bed. Someone kissing me. Someone's hand down my pants. I remember feeling pain.  I remember seeing the face of the popular kid from my school, the one that I had the crush on for what seemed like and eternity. I remember saying 'If you can tell me my first and last name, you can stay.' I remember watching him walk out of my house.

And the thing that I was most worried about was 'What am I going to tell my boyfriend? What if he gets mad at me because of what happened.'

I never told my parents what happened. I did tell my boyfriend, and he was mad, but not at me. I told my girlfriends, who had to fill me in on why I was probably sore, what his hands were probably doing to me while they were down my pants. I had no idea that people did that. Always a goodie goodie, I was not a very sexually active teen. Hands were for holding.

As my friend from Japan was telling me about her experience, I started to become outraged for her. I was shocked that she did not demand justice and that she did not do everything she could to see that jerk burned at the stake. And then I started to become outraged that I MYSELF didn't do anything when the same exact thing had happened to me when I was still, basically, a child.

Like I said, this was not a repressed memory. It happened, and I dealt with it the way my 17 year old self knew how to deal with it. And since my friend told me her story, which caused me to remember that the same thing had happened to me, it's been on my mind. I think about it almost every day, praying to understand what I am meant to learn from that event almost 15 years ago.

This morning started like all of my other mornings. Wake. Stretch. Release slumber. Pray. The memory of that night started to lurk in my peripheral thought. And then I heard it as if the Lord was laying right next to me, whispering the word.

Trust.

After all that I have been through, I feel the need to protect others from my pain. I don't want sympathy or to be made to feel like a victim. And I don't want to sacrifice the relationships I have now with people who have been the cause of pain in the past. And I don't trust that anyone can really take care of me or my feelings or my past hurts. I want to be strong, and to handle my problems on my own rather than to be let down by others or worse, burden them.

I take things that have happened to me and I hoard them. I tuck the pain away in a little pocket and call it handled. It eventually pokes back out, and I have to quietly shove it back in. Or, sometimes, the hurt and pain stain the pocket that they are tucked away in, leaving a stain on my mood. My character. My overall SELF. Stained from years of pain and hurts stuffed deep inside of me, in a little pocket where the seams are ripping and tattered.

And then I hear the whisper. Trust.

I pray for a deep relationship with the Lord. I yearn for closeness. I read the bible, I read words by people much smarter than me. I perfectly measure and pour and brew, waiting for the perfect cup of coffee.

But as I hoard my pain and my hurt, I am not trusting in the sovereign grace that was granted to me by the Lord.

Trying to walk with the Lord without fully trusting him is like drinking coffee with a head cold. All of the makings are there for a perfect cup of coffee, but you can't taste it. All the makings are there for me to walk side by side with the Lord, he's waiting for me, but if I don't trust him fully and give all of my pain to him, then I am not experiencing the relationship the way that He made me to.

And I see this beautifully woven story before me. How my past met with my present, how it took a new meaning when I looked at it through prayer. And how the Lord gently whispered to me 'If you want to walk with me, you have to trust me. Give me your pain, give me your hurt. Trust.'