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A guest post by Andrea Gaston

In my inbox, I have a folder labeled: *Waiting. Nestled under that is about ten other folders with different sub-titles and purposes. Some of these folders have become obsolete in their purpose and others have become a mainstay of constant use.
This system has given organization to the waiting; however, the organization has not resolved the waiting.
Similarly in the rest of my life, I shuffle things off to the side if they are not an immediate need. I have learned to compartmentalize and desensitize in the hustle and bustle of the busy present.
And this worked well for most of my life. This hastened ignorance of the need for attention to these places kept me afloat in the raging sea of anxiety and doubt and fear and depression crying out to God again and again for peace.

From where I sit now, I find that often times when I pray for peace what I want is relief; and these are not necessarily the same.

I was trying to run a marathon in constant crisis mode relying on the next quick fix of “peace” all the while hoping the mess underneath would work itself out.

But God, in his graciousness, let me crash again and again. He let me run myself ragged. He let me build my own fortress of safety – using tools like running, friends, even quiet times to build myself up and keep myself going. And then, he let my fortress crumble.

It was a Tuesday night nearing the end of September when all hell broke loose into my life. That was the night my plans, my expectations, my hopes, collided with an unexpected reality and I collapsed against an unyielding dam of fear.

The result was a blur of shock where sounds were muffled and words did not make sense. It was a time when sleep was a reprieve that did not come, when nothing seemed real or significant and numbness overwhelmed all sense.

In the senselessness, there was no understanding.

There were times when I could not curl into a ball tight enough to feel as though I could be held together. There were times when the water from the shower could not compete with the tears released behind the cover of the curtain.

There were times when I tried to dress up the pain in words of explanation so I could build a façade of strength to hide behind.

There were times when I yelled curse words strung together like a rusty melody – not even directed at anyone or anything, rather to release the anxious frustration of the waiting without knowing why – to release the anger I did not know I was capable of feeling.
 
I did not realize I was able to love another person so completely before I did. I did not know the depths of my own heart until it was opened and filled in that capacity.

Similarly, when the life that was planned for and was expected is no longer there – when the other part that once made me feel whole is missing – there remains a void as never known before. In that chasm a cold isolation seeps in too fast and too deep to resist.

I write in the past tense as if all of this no longer occurs; but it does. In waves and echoes, in the stillness of a moment, or, more often, in the unexpected flash of a reminder of what was or the hope of what was to come.

And there –  right there –  in that moment I have the choice.

I have the opportunity and freedom to choose. It does not feel like an opportunity and it does not feel like a freedom and it certainly does not feel like a choice.

But that’s what it is all the same.

I can choose to shrink into that darkness, believing all of the lies strung together making me feel covered in the coldest isolation and walk out existing in the worst kind of living hell.

Or I can choose to believe all that I know is true- anything I know that is truth.

Even the simplest of truths.

Somehow, when I feel as though I am at the edge of it all and the bottom of myself, when I feel hollow and empty as all of the richness of life fades and I am whittled down to my core, it is there I remember the songs and rhythmic prayers from childhood: God is good. God is great . . .Yes, Jesus loves me . . . Now I lay me down to sleep, I pray the Lord my soul to keep . . .

All of them stitched together to form the most basic and desperate prayer.
 
I think this is what it looks like to choose to treat the places of grief as sacred and pain as holy – to call God good even in the midst of the mess.

In the places of grief God is (finally) able to get to those places I have kept hidden, walled up behind years of self-protection and distraction. In the rubble of fallen expectations I can see my motivation more clearly – I can see God clearly.

The goodness in the grief is that I met God there.

In the place of grief, God lets me see my need for him. And he lets me ask the hard questions of him.

That is one of my favorite things about God – he invites me to inspect him. Whereas he does not always answer my questions, he still lets me ask.

What I am learning is to stop asking for what I want, but start asking God who he is.

And that can be a messy question.

Thankfully, he promises not to leave me or forsake me as I pursue him through that question and as he pursues me through the mess.

Find Andrea at her regular blog, http://agaston1684.wordpress.com/.