The mud, the mire and the flower

‘My flesh and my heart may fail,

but God is the strength of my heart

and my portion forever.’

I’m battle weary tonight. I’m tearful and afraid. It’s 1am and I’m awake because right at bedtime an offhand comment made the dam burst and a lot tumbled out.

I’ve been a bit poorly this week.

That’s what I say to people who ask how I am. What that means is that for no obvious reason, this week my body has been consumed by unassailable pain. The kind of pain that nothing helps and makes you just want to curl in a ball and cry. Except that would hurt too much. The kind of pain that makes you long for oblivion, or at least for the respite of sleep, but that steals it from you.

What it means is that inexplicably I have had even less energy than normal so that the effort of getting dressed has reduced me to tears, my limbs like dead weights, my head lolling painfully as I struggle to hold it up.

It means driving my kids to their Home Ed meet up in tears because the effort of getting us all up, dressed and driving to the park has taken more than I had and the prospect of getting through the next couple of hours is so utterly overwhelming that I wonder how I will survive it.

It means my husband coming home from work early because I can’t be out of bed any longer. My kids watching hours of TV because all I can manage is lying on the sofa with my eyes closed, just existing through the long minutes until he arrives home and I can crawl into bed, defeated, burdened and spent.

It means a week of anxiously plotting the progress of these symptoms, of this worsening, trying to decipher when or how it began, desperate for an answer to the why. Because if I can solve the riddle of why, I might be able to halt it, or stop it from happening again.

It means a week of wondering if tomorrow will be better of worse, and what to do if it’s worse – making plans and contingency plans, and trying to ignore that gnawing fear that I will keep crashing, that I’m in free fall and this is the beginning of the end of life as we know it. A week of wondering what I will lose this time and whether my spirit can take it.

It means a week of fighting for faith as the fears close in around my mind and heart, clinging on to the truth of who I know my God to be.

And I am weary.

25 years in, with no end in sight and I am weary. I don’t know how much longer I can fight. I don’t know if I am still fighting. I feel utterly routed, all the resources I had gathered to myself over the years scattered; my coping strategies have deserted me. I feel battered and bruised, completely defenceless and exposed.

So I begin to wonder, must I stop fighting. Is the fighting depleting precious resources, causing me to sink faster into the mire.

I grew up near an estuary and when the tide was out it would expose this thick sucking mud. If you got stuck, it would begin to slowly swallow you and hold you there, where you would watch the tide slowly filling the gullies and channels as it made it’s way toward you, to cover you. Naturally you would struggle, try to pull and kick your way free, but the pressure you exerted against the draw on one leg only made the other one sink deeper and faster.  If you tried to grab at solid ground and scrabble your way free, the mud only threatened to take hold of your arms as it had your legs and drown you before the water even reached you.

Every instinct tells you to fight, to struggle, to try and get free. But you mustn’t. You must preserve your energy, hold your nerve, swallow down the fear and the panic that rises with the tide, and trust that help will come. That the rescue helicopter will get to you before the water does.

I have fought almost all my life against the despair that has threatened to engulf me. I have felt the filth take hold of me and pull me down, holding me fast. I have watched the tide flow nearer, ever nearer, almost imperceptible and yet sure. I have fought and struggled with all my strength to be free, and have only found myself deeper and more firmly held, and I am weary. My strength has gone and my courage has failed me.

‘I waited patiently for the Lord;
    he turned to me and heard my cry.
 He lifted me out of the slimy pit,
    out of the mud and mire;
he set my feet on a rock
    and gave me a firm place to stand.
 He put a new song in my mouth,
    a hymn of praise to our God.
Many will see and fear the Lord
    and put their trust in him.

 Blessed is the one
    who trusts in the Lord’

I will believe in the rescue. Maybe in the quiet of my waiting the wind will carry to me on it’s breath the roar of distant blades that mean rescue. Maybe like the lotus flower I will find a way to blossom, even in the mire and amongst the filth I will find beauty and purity and in the face of fear, faithfulness will grow.

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