Saturday, September 20, 2008

I don't believe in "If" anymore

This excerpt from my book A Firm Place to Stand has been on my mind lately and I felt I really wanted to share it with you. It is a reflection on how I used to try to survive with my symptoms and the difference believing God has made to me:

With the greatest determination, I used to cling to what was left of my mind’s composure. I felt as though I were hanging from the edge of a high rooftop, white-knuckled, panicky with fear. How long can I hold on like this? Can I maintain my strength? What will happen if I let go? Exhaustion overwhelmed me. Far below was the hard ground and no one to catch me if I fell.

But I did fall – quite often. These experiences were devastating and difficult to recover from. The support I received from family, friends and my doctor was helpful, but I was alone in the battle.

Rudyard Kipling’s poem If was like a bible to me during many years of my illness. I described in Riding the Roller Coaster how meaningful this poem became, how I patterned my life after its good counsel, how I carried it with me for many years. It encouraged me to become a productive and responsible person. I still think highly of the poem and try to go along with most of its advice. I follow through on my dreams, don’t worry about what others say and try as much as possible to “…fill the unforgiving minute with sixty seconds’ worth of distance run.” But I no longer listen to the challenge Kipling leaves us with these words:

If you can force your heart and nerve and sinew

To serve your turn long after they are gone,

And so hold on when there is nothing in you

Except the Will, which says to them, “Hold on!”

For twenty-three years, I tried to live out those lines when I was in crisis. I tried with my best willpower to survive the mental turmoil that overtook me. I was determined to be strong, hanging on to whatever I could, but not finding much of substance. Those were times of anxiety and fear.

Coping with crisis finally changed for the better when I could no longer deny that God is real. I realized I didn’t have to depend on myself alone. I could relax my grip and trust in someone much stronger than me.

The faith I learned to have in a God who loves me too much to let me go helps me cope better with stress. Extreme difficulties no longer develop as often. Sometimes I still have a fear of falling, and for good reason. But today I have a Bible that tells me, “Don’t be afraid, for I am with you. Do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you. I will help you. I will uphold you with my victorious right hand.” (Isaiah 41:10, NLT) Remembering this gives me comfort when I need it. I am not as afraid anymore.

Challenging periods will always be part of my life. There will be times when I’ll have trouble. I may even fall. But I know that when I do, there will be someone there to catch me and stay with me as I recover. I’ll never be alone again.

Hanging on the wall across from my bed is a photograph of a child’s small hand resting comfortably on her father’s big hand. Underneath are the words from Proverbs 3:5, “Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding.” During tough times, I look at that photograph and feel a sense of peace. No longer is there a need for white-knuckled fists, no longer a need to rely on my own inadequate strength.

1 comment:

Jena said...

Thank you, marja, for reminding us to trust on god and lean on Him for understanding. we often lead ourselves and become lost.