I hear a lot of people say that the fear of death and the fear of public speaking are two of the main fears in my generation, but I disagree. I think it's the fear of silence. We refuse to turn off our computers, turn off our phones, log off Facebook, and just sit in silence, because in those moments we might actually have to face up to who we really are. We fear silence like it's an invisible monster, gnawing at us, ripping us open, and showing us our dissatisfaction. Silence is terrifying. - Jefferson Bethke Jesus > Religion
Jeff was on to something. Silence terrifies me. It's the late nights when the rest of the world is asleep that are the prime times for me to get lost in my head. It's the days I'm too sick or in too much pain to leave the apartment that the loneliness hits me like a tidal wave and I forget the community that I really do have. I often chalk it up to being a result of my 100% extrovert personality, but the truth is, I think I spent so much time alone growing up believing I had no one that I could rely on that I can't stand to be alone now for fear of the memories and the scars overtaking me.
I had a seizure on Monday afternoon in the subway station on the way home from a doctor appointment. This was one where I had no aura or clue that it was about to happen, so I got off the elevator at my platform, walked out, and landed face first on the concrete. Physically, I was fine after a dose of morphine and several ice packs at the ER, but emotionally, I felt wrecked all over again. So yesterday afternoon, I texted Clayton, because he's the person I bounce my feelings off of when I need to get them out and have a friend on the other end.
We talked about a lot, but then, during it, I started getting this feeling that I just needed to spend some time in silence, no noise, no distractions. He agreed to text me after a few hours, because he knows just as well as I do that too much time alone can be a detriment to my sanity. Clayton texted me right on cue, asked me how I was, and this is how I responded...
"God's opened my eyes and my memory to a lot of stuff. How easily I forget what He's done. At first, there was a lot of me talking and rambling and wondering if my words were just stopping at the ceiling. But then my mind kept going back to the night I got baptized, and how alive I felt, how real and alive God seemed, how the guy who baptized me told me to promise him that I'd never forget how I felt that night. I think this is why I chose "fearless" as my word at the beginning of the year, without knowing what was coming. God isn't asking me to have perfect trust or expecting me to live without doubt. He just asks for my heart, same as He did that night in Nashville. All He's ever wanted was my heart.
"I was chasing healing when I'd been made well, fighting battles when you conquered hell, living free but from a prison cell." God is the exact same God as He was the night I got baptized. I feel like He's asking me to recall the girl I was that night, to rekindle the fire I had in my belly and live like I know I'm saved, because that's where the freedom is. He's telling me to be quiet, be still, be patient. To remember that even when I wonder where He has gone, all I have to do is look at the people supporting me through this valley to remember that He cares, because He is in each one of you using you to keep the flame in me from dying out and show me that I am not alone in this wilderness."
I had no idea at the time how relevant those words would be, but about 30 minutes after our conversation, I left the apartment to go get food and fell down a flight of stairs. It wasn't a good night for me mentally, and I struggled to remember the truths that I had just said. When I got home from the ER, once again everything turning out okay save for some nasty bruises, all I could do was sleep. I didn't sleep much because every position was so painful, but about ten minutes after I woke up this morning, Clayton texted to check in. We spent a little over an hour on FaceTime, and I accepted the fact that I'm depressed right now. I've moved past the stage of being angry at God, and now I'm just very sad and tired. So it's a good thing I have therapy tomorrow.
Instead of talking about the same feelings about my health stuff, the conversation actually focused on the heartache I've been feeling over the friend I lost. That's messing me up just as much as the attacks on my health and my body. It makes me feel like I'm back in high school, remembering so clearly how every time someone back then would do exactly what this person did now, I felt worthless and abandoned and terrified to trust anyone else for fear they'd do the same thing. But throughout today, and doing a lot of thinking, I realized something important:
The people who love me are not the people who hurt me.
And more than that, I realized that I don't have to ask God to make me fearless in facing just the health stuff. He will making me fearless in facing this person leaving without me knowing why, fearless against the thoughts that their actions try to make me believe about my worth and my identity, and fearless in trusting friends like Clayton to give me the ability to believe that those relationships are authentic.
I've spent so long being scared of finding out that my trust was misplaced that I've completely forgotten what it feels like to put my heart into something without wondering what might go wrong. I've self-sabotaged enough relationships that when I didn't do anything wrong, my instinct is still to believe that it was my fault. I got so good at pushing people away that it absolutely rocked my world every time someone pushed right back, so determined to love me even though they could read the fear in my actions.
I've been so down, angry, frustrated, sad recently that on top of all the other fears and stresses and worries that have been bouncing around my head, I've been wracked with this fear that with as much as I've been talking to him and relying on him lately, that Clayton will one day he'll decide that I'm too much or he's tired of it and leave, too. When I told him as much this morning, he smiled and told me some story from Doctor Who that ended with him saying, "Mal, if you think our friendship is so weak that you could chase me away, you've got another thing coming."
Two phrases have been in my head throughout today.
The Lord will fight for you; you need only to be still. Exodus 14:14
Be still and know that I am God. from Psalm 46:10
God whispered things in the silence. All it took was for me to be quiet and be still and wait. In the quiet and the stillness, I knew that He will help me be fearless in everything that I am facing.
Blessed be the name of the Lord.