I wrote this in July 2007. I was going through a difficult time in my ministry, in our marriage, and just in general. There was a point at which I had to decide which way I was going to go – renew my faith or let myself become a castaway (as Paul once put it). Looking back, I know I did the right thing and stuck with Christ. But it wasn’t easy.
Sometimes we dive too deep. At the surface, we think we are invincible – that we can hold our breath indefinitely and reach the bottom. So we take the breath and steel ourselves and go under and we swim. We kick and we stroke; and we deal with the pressure in our ears. We silence the voice in the back of our heads that tells us we need to turn back. And when our lungs start to ache, we just push harder until we get to the bottom.
And once we’re there, we turn around and realize just how deep we are. We realize that we expended more than half of the air and getting back is going to be a struggle against our own bodies and minds.
So, we push off from the bottom and keep our focus on the surface – rippling just out of reach. The oxygen gone, our heads begin to throb and our chests feel like they are going to burst. We push through the pain; we will our limbs to move while our vision begins to go black.
And then we break the surface; we open our mouths, expel the stale, used air and inhale fresh life. We feel it enter the bloodstream; we can almost sense it passing through our heads, clearing out the fog.
When You Are Still Under
There are seasons in our lives when we can see the surface but the pain and struggle of getting there overwhelms us and we feel like giving in. We are fighting forces and choices that will not release us, and the distance to freedom becomes magnified in our minds until it is insurmountable.
This has very much been the way my life has been lately. In fact, Ozzy put it pretty succinctly in “Crazy Train”:
Crazy, but thats how it goes
Millions of people living as foes
Maybe its not to late
To learn how to love
And forget how to hate
Mental wounds not healing
Lifes a bitter shame
Im going off the rails on a crazy train
I’ve listened to preachers
I’ve listened to fools
I’ve watched all the dropouts
Who make their own rules
One person conditioned to rule and control
The media sells it and you have the role
Mental wounds still screaming
Driving me insane
I’m going off the rails on a crazy train…
I know. It’s like a sin to quote Ozzy [I may be excommunicated – wait, TOO LATE!], but he got the idea down pretty well I think. Lately, my world has just been topsy-turvy. I have been questioning everything; rethinking so much of my life and wondering if there’s any sanity left in the world. Everything has just been running at a million miles per hour but I feel like I’ve gone nowhere. Somewhere, somehow – I got derailed. Maybe, we have gotten derailed.
And to get back to the thought of being under the water, I feel exhausted. What’s the point of fighting anymore? Fighting WITH; fighting FOR – what’s the difference, really? It might be easier to just stop swimming and let the water claim us; might be better to stop spinning our wheels if we’re off the rails.
The struggle isn’t all there is; and that’s the thing we have to remember. It is what I lost sight of. I was fighting to fight, not fighting to get to the surface. After awhile, being opposed to EVERYTHING made me feel that my entire purpose in life was to simply fight whatever the institution said or did. The battle became about the water instead of the air.
Of course there are times when we feel exhausted; times when there’s nothing left in us. But that’s when we need to realize that the only way we change the world is by pressing forward. The only way we get to the surface is by moving. We’re not meant to be in the water, so of course the struggle is hard. But it is life or death. You cannot just give up.
Keeping It Simple
Let’s think about what is really important. Faith, hope and love – those are the staples of our existence. They are what makes us human. They are the little pieces of the divine that God has allowed us to experience. They are the only thing we have to contrast this earthly struggle with. When we face hatred, depression, pain and struggles – what else is there to combat them?
Three things will last forever—faith, hope, and love—and the greatest of these is love. Let love be your highest goal! (Paul, 1 Corinthians 13:13-14:1, NLT)
We are wired to know God’s faith, hope and love. They are the touchpoints where God infuses us with meaning and purpose. When we come in contact with them, we experience God; and in experiencing his presence, we experience his power. (Which incidentally is why Paul put this list before explaining how the Spirit’s gifts work in 1 Corinthians 14.) When we experience his power, we not only survive but we break the surface and are reborn in the freshness of our first breaths.