I got a text from a longtime, good friend that went a little something like this: “Would you write a blog post for me-I could really use your thoughts on something. What do you do in moments when you can’t stand it here? At times, I try to forget where I am, not wanting to go outside, and being angry when I have to take my kids on public transportation. It’s hard to think of how many of our friends have moved to the suburbs, yet for good reasons, we still find ourselves here. I know you’ve experienced at least some of this.”
I’ve been sitting on this question for a few weeks knowing a lot of things NOT to say or suggest, but not knowing exactly what TO offer. I knew I needed to wait until I was actually in a worn-out, struggling-to-find-hope state of mind to be able to identify how I cope. These times are becoming fewer and more far between than they used to be, which just means I can see them coming from a mile away. Jesus, meet me there.
I found myself there last week. A host of reasons led up to this state.
We I completely over-scheduled ourselves a few weeks ago, the result of which was an absolutely crippling migraine for Daniel on a Saturday night while we were away visiting family in Connecticut. After praying over him for hours, massaging his temples while he moaned in pain, and helping him drink 7-up after violently throwing up, his migraine broke around 1 am (yes, doctor’s appointments have been made). Iylie cried every 30 minutes for the rest of the night for no apparent reason. At around 4 am, I came to terms with the fact that we were not going to make a much-anticipated gathering of all the neighborhood congregations that make up our church in NYC. I’m in tears just recalling it. There were high points in the week that followed, for sure. But the next Sunday, Daniel and I served in our kids ministry, and I did so willingly, but from a place of emptiness. Sprinkle in a few dashed expectations, some hurt feelings, and multiple missed signals later, and I arrived on the doorstep of hopelessness.
God’s timing is always perfect. Even the hard stuff comes at just the right time. The night before we headed out off for the weekend, I attended the opening sessions of the Hope Gathering. It’s a conference designed towards women in NYC, exploring the idea of God as our hope, how He meets us in our struggles, and enables us to offer hope to others. The speakers were incredible, spoke stories of true victory in Jesus, rescue and restoration, abundant living in spite of circumstances. They all said exactly the same thing over and over again: Hope is a Person. Jesus IS our hope, nothing less. Every strategy for dealing with this world has to be grounded in that foundational truth. Otherwise, we’re in the realm of self-help. (I seriously would have already helped myself out of this crucible if that were possible.)
Now to the “What do I do?” part. I can retrace my steps all day and pinpoint some key decisions that led to my demise. It’s the business of soul keeping to know where the path took a turn. But we also need a set of tools for when preventative measures either weren’t taken or didn’t work!
First, I respond well to a good, healthy dose of facts. Here are a few.
- Whatever is happening in my heart is not New York City’s fault. This city is just not that powerful. NYC is an easy scapegoat for me, because the city is RIGHT THERE. Always just so close up in your face all the time! You look out your window- there it is. You step outside your door-there it is. You don’t get any warmup time before engaging the city. But this city just reveals what’s already there–New York City didn’t create any of the turmoil I feel.
- Along with the above–the city is not my master. I am not a slave to this place, not the routines I maintain, and not the rigor of the city’s evaluation. The way the city measures me is not any sort of true standard that I must attain.
- It’s hard everywhere. What we’re doing–the good, holy work of mothering–is hard wherever we live. There are some things about NYC that make it a difficult place to live, but there are plenty of difficulties everywhere else.
I learned about the life of David Ring from a friend’s Facebook status where she quoted him. His video “I am Second” is powerful. His life has been difficult and traumatic from birth. He lives with cerebral palsy, lost both of his parents very young, but gave his life to Jesus as an early teenager. In his words, “One day I’m going to wake up in heaven and ask Jesus one question: why have You been so good to me?” So much about that question reveals a pure heart, and I want that. God, make me like that.
To be continued…