I wake up slowly, eyes fluttering in the darkness, knowing it’s still too early. My slowly-waking consciousness tells me I’ll be starting out on the wrong side of bed today. The pounding up the right side of my head means that my vision will be distorted, my movements slow and deliberate, my speech slurred a bit too much, and I will need the bottle of pain meds all too soon. I head out to the chiropractor for a previously scheduled appointment and he twists and turns and tugs and says “relax”. You’re kidding, right? I’m trying to relax and you’re just all serious about hurting me more. He inquires, “Do you clench your teeth?” and I know I do. Some days my jaw is sore from the clenching, from the anxiety, from the not trusting. He works the muscles, loosening and relaxing what is tight and sore.
I think back to previous years of living tight, my muscles all pulled inward into knots and tight-ropes, and I wonder how I got here again. I thought I was past all that – the anxiety, the fear, the worry of not doing enough. Yet, here I am again. I wonder if I’ve brought this on myself and I know I have.
In looking back, I am reminded of what I have forgotten. I have forgotten what it is like to live in that place. As I walk with a friend who is in the depths of struggle and despair, it’s easy to want her to be free and whole, now. I forget that the process, the journey is important. Yes, the destination is important too, but not to the exclusion of the journey.
I wake up to the realization that I have idolized the destination. I want to get there today, not tomorrow, not next year. I want to be there without engaging in the sometimes painful journey it takes to get there. I needed to be reminded of what it feels like to be between a rock and a hard place. I needed to be reminded that even as we make progress, it is so easy to default to old ways and old patterns and old beliefs. Our propensity is to go back to what is familiar, to what we know. We may lose sight of the destination, able to see only what is in front of us right here, right now.
It is there in our lostness that God meets us once again, inviting us deeper into the life He longs for us to experience. Not deeper into pain and heartache, but deeper into healing and wholeness, although sometimes the path to deeper healing and wholeness is through the wilderness of pain and grief. Even there, He is with us, inviting us ever deeper.
I think I can truly say “thank you” for the mercy of a great God who uses our weakness and frailty to remind us of who He is and to remind me specifically that the ideal is just that – ideal. And that the ideal is hardly the reality in any one of our lives. Our reality is hard stuff, days of darkness and sometimes losing our way. The fantastic reality is that even there, God is present – with us. He might even be saying “relax”.