Three years ago I found myself sitting in my car in a parking lot on a Friday night. I knew I needed to get out of the car and go in but I was afraid. I was also desperate, and that night I let desperation win.
I got out, walked across the parking lot and pulled the doors open. I was greeted by the distant sound of people singing. I made my way across the lobby, and into the sanctuary where I quietly slid into the back row. Before the first song ended I was fishing tissues out of my purse to try to stop the flow of tears. For the first time in a long time I felt safe.
That night after service was over I made my way to the kiosk where I picked up half a dozen flyers describing the different small groups offered by Celebrate Recovery. I had no idea what was wrong with me, only that I felt broken and desperate. I walked out to my car with tear stained cheeks, a fist full of flyers, and determination. I was going to figure out what was wrong with me and how to fix it.
That night I went home and sat in bed with those flyers. I circled every bullet point that was true of me. I did a lot of circling. It was pretty painful. I felt overwhelmed and quite hopeless.
I take a class on Monday nights and this past week our teacher passed out those same flyers to each person in the class. She asked us to skim through them and circle one or two items that were true of us. I'm not really a "circle one or two items" kind of girl, so I set out to circle everything that applied to me. I was a bit panicked; after all I had done this before and used a lot of ink the first time around. I was scared to death to start circling and have my fears confirmed; that all the work I've done in the past few years hasn't changed anything.
My fears were unfounded. And I was shocked at the results.
Instead of circling almost every symptom on the papers I only circled 2. Two!
Now, don't misunderstand me, I still have lots of work to do, and I'm far from perfect. But on this issue that I've been praying about and working through... there's been progress. And I had no idea.
"Isn't it funny how day by day nothing changes,
but when you look back everything is different."
Sometimes we're working so hard, pressing into God so much, that we lose sight of how far He's brought us. We're so focused on the next (hard) step that we don't notice just how many steps we've taken. Until one day we look up and notice... everything is different.
"He led me to a place of safety;
He rescued me because He delights in me."
2 Samuel 22:20
Have you stopped and looked around lately? Where are you? Are you in a safe place? A different place than you were a few months (or years) ago? Have you been so hard at work that you haven't even noticed? Maybe it's time to stop and look up, look around you and see how the view has changed. Maybe it's time to stop and savor the goodness of God in this place.
Are you in a really scary, overwhelming, desperate place? That's okay too. I've been there, more than once. Can I tell you something that your heart might not be ready to hear? It will get better. YOU will get better. I promise. Maybe not today, maybe not next week, but in time... you will.
It's worth the work. Worth being vulnerable and brave. Worth going to counseling or Celebrate Recovery or your pastor and asking for help. Secrets keep us sick, but sharing our hurts brings healing. (please seek out healthy, Godly community for traveling companions)
In the Old Testament we find, on more than one occasion, a situation where someone stops and raises an Ebenezer, a memorial stone, to reflect on and remind them of how far God has brought them. I think we need our own Ebenezer stones. Our own moments to pause and recognize where we are. Our own reminders of the road God has brought us down. We need to look back and see how far we’ve come. And we need to be reminded on future hard roads that the God who brought us this far is able to take us the rest of the way.
I think we’d all prefer a “quick fix” on our journey to healing, but that’s not the way it usually goes. It’s usually longer and harder than we would like it to be. But, that doesn’t mean we’re not making progress. Sometimes it’s just hard to see, until we stop and look around and realize… everything is different.