Turmoil and Teriyaki

You're in your car, speeding along a stretch of narrow highway.  Your favorite music is playing, windows down with the cool breeze kissing your cheeks, when you think to yourself, "Nothing could be better than this." Life has truly settled into something blissful. Surely nothing could ruin such a perfect day.

A bit of time rolls by as a slow fog meanders lethargically onto the path you're headed, but it seems tame enough, so why not keep going?  Breaking through the cloudy air chills crawl across your skin as the temperature dramatically drops, prompting you to roll up the windows.  Time that seemed to pass so steadily now begins to slow to a crawl. You begin to think of where your exit is, yet the fog has shrouded any visibility than what is immediately in front of your vehicle. Wait... what was your exit? You search desperately for your phone to see if you can pull over to get any bearings as you feel a panic start to shove your heart into the bottom of your throat. "Where am I, where was I even going? " you ask out loud in frustration, confused and scared from your sudden loss of location.  "There!" You find your phone wedged between your seat and arm rest, prompting you to immediately maneuver off of the road. You press the home button to immediately receive nothing in return, no light, and no click, only a deep, gaping blackness staring back at you. "Where was I going?... I know, if I could just remember... remember, where I came from... where did I come from? I, can't even remember where I came from..."  Your heart is now resting in the pit of your stomach as you look in the rearview mirror, fixing your gaze upon a complete stranger. Quietly you utter, "Who is that? Who am I?"

This is what grief can feel like. It eerily creeps onto you and swallows you up, making you lose any sense of bearings or identity. It doesn't choose favorites, and though it always has a familiar air, it always comes in a different package.

Sadly, we all will have to face it at one time or another.

Now, I'm not saying all of this to try and be depressing, this entry is quite the opposite. I'm here to present to you something hopeful to fill you with courage and strength. I've seen this road many times, whether it be from the loss of a friend, family member, relationship, friendship, career opportunity, whatever; it's come to me so often I could have adopted that stretch of highway (years ago I might have even lived under an overpass), but I can sit here and tell you confidently that it does get better, and there is a hope closer than you think. 

First off, to all of my fellow men reading this, if you need to cry, have no shame. Let's be honest though, it's definitely ok to be picky about who you decide to do that around, but there is absolutely no shame in it. I look at tears and the heart kindred to the relationship of vomiting to the stomach (stay with me here). Let's look at a case study of how we're designed to handle food poisoning.

Let's imagine you're out with your friends one night and you decide to get some chicken teriyaki from Teriyaki House (this may or may not be a true story). You and your roommate both order the Teriyaki Chicken Bowl with brown rice, and begin to desperately shovel the cheap but seemingly healthy food down your gullet. You're tired, have class the next day, and now just want to crawl into your twin bed and sleep off your achingly full stomach. You think back as you lay your head against your pillow, "Something tasted a bit off, but that's fine, let's not let that get between me and a solid night of uh oh.  Uh...uh oh...oh no..." Your eyes shoot open faster than the blinds in a budget hotel and you fly out of bed holding your mouth, adrenaline pumping as you dash down the hallway and slam into the restroom door where you can hear the tormented echoes of your roommate who's fate came quicker than your own. You fight the urge, but sadly you seal your fate by reaching for the trashcan. I know this is a long, rather awkward description, but it lends itself to the fact that if you would have managed to fight the food back down, the virus would have spread and you very well may have been sick much longer than you would have liked. The same goes for tears and heartache... If you hold it in it tends to last much longer than you'd want, leading to more confusion, and, if you're anything like me, can also lead to misplaced frustration and anger. So, morale of the story guys (and gals), let it out, and don't eat at Teriyaki House...

So now you're a weeping mess and don't know what to do other than grunt and moan as you lay belly down on your freshly cleaned carpet, what now? Stop, just for a moment. You don't have to stop feeling or crying, but just take a second amidst the storm to pause. Don't get mad at your thoughts, don't try to justify anything, don't get upset at the fact that you're even upset. Just take a moment to stop. 

Now, gently sit up and lean against something. Continue to let yourself let it all out, but when you feel the storm break, ask yourself, "Who am I?" What's the answer that you get? Is it a torrential downpour of negative thoughts, or is it something quiet and still? To be honest, this is where I was going to insert scriptures to think and meditate on, but really in this moment absolutely nothing can make sense; all you can see is the pain you're in. But what I've found that has worked for me is to choose to quiet yourself once you've run out of tears, and speak to God in your most honest, and sincere way. If you need to swear, then swear, if you need to yell, then yell, if you flip off the sky in enraged animosity, He can certainly take it. But ask Him who He says you are. Grab a pen and paper, and write what you think He's telling you.  

When you write, filter everything out by the character of God.  1 John 4:8 (NLT) says, "But anyone who does not love does not know God, for God is love." Let's stick with this one scripture and just say, "Ok, so God is love, what does that even look like?"

1 Corinthians 13:4-7(NLT) - "Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres." 

So...if God is love, and these are all descriptors of the word, then you must conclude that if God is speaking to you the words that you will be writing down will be FOR you, not against you. He's not going to criticize or manipulate you, and is not happy that you're having to walk out anything this unbearable. He's there, sitting with you, crying with you, feeling every bit of pain that you are.

Practice writing down who He says you are, where He says you're going, and know that anytime God speaks about your future He does it with hope, and that's a hope born from an eternal perspective to see what we don't.

Romans 8:28 (NLT) - "And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love Him, who have been called according to His purpose."

Jeremiah 29:11 - 13 - "'For I know that plans I have for you,' declares the Lord, 'plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. Then you will call on me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you. You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart.'"

It's important to grasp who He says that you are, because it's within that identity that your heart can begin to find rest. You can begin to hope for a new day, and see that though your soul may be in utter turmoil now, that pain will inevitably have an end. There will be a brighter day for you, and it's closer than you may think. 

Please understand, none of this is meant to be "Phillip's quick fix for heartache".  The heart can be unpredictable and everyone experiences different levels of grief in different ways. If you think you need to see a counselor than by all means, go see one. If you need to talk to a close friend or pastor to vent, then of course, carry on. But what I am trying to say is that you're not alone, there is hope over the horizon, and though it may not seem tangible, and can hardly be seen from behind your tears, it is there. 

So if you're in the fog on your highway, pull over. Know that it's ok to not know, or remember, or even have any semblance of peace. Know that it's ok to feel what you feel, and find a moment to be still, and don't try and remember who you are, let God fill in that blank for you.

It's from His perspective of love that you can truly begin to stop trying to heal, and start beginning to hope.

It's all going to be ok.

Really.

 

Scriptures I meditate on for hope: 

Psalm 3:3-6 - "But you, Lord, are a shield around me, my glory, the One who lifts my head high. I call out to the Lord, and He answers me from His holy mountain. I lie down and sleep; I wake again, because the Lord sustains me. I will not fear though tens of thousands assail me on every side."

Jeremiah 29:11 - 13 - "'For I know that plans I have for you,' declares the Lord, 'plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. Then you will call on me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you. You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart.'"

Zephaniah 3:17 - "The Lord your God is with you, the Mighty Warrior who saves. He will take great delight in you; in His love He will no longer rebuke you, but (He) will rejoice over you with singing." 

Romans 8:28 - "And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love Him, who have been called according to His purpose."

Romans 15:13 - "May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in Him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit."

Psalm 39:7 - "But now, Lord, what do I look for? My hope is in you."

2 Corinthians 4:17 - 18 - "For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal." 

Romans 8:18 - "I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us."

Lamentations 3:21 -23 - "Yet this I call to mind and therefore I have hope: Because of the Lord's great love we are not consumed, for His compassions never fail. They are new every morning: great is Your (His) faithfulness."

Scriptures I meditate on for courage :

Psalm 56:3 - 4 - "When I am afraid, I put my trust in you. In God, whose Word I praise - in God I trust and am not afraid. What can mere mortals do to me?"

Isaiah 41:10 - "So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand."

Isaiah 41:13 - "For I am the Lord your God who takes hold of your right hand and says to you, 'Do not fear; I will help you.'"