I Am Not OK

So, this morning my local newspaper is running an article about post-traumatic stress disorder and lists common symptoms people experience following a disaster. I am dismayed to see how many of the items I can check and as a gentle rain falls outside my bedroom window I now find I am particularly annoyed by the verse from Matthew 5 that says “He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous.” What’s up with that?

I would like special treatment, please.

As a follower of Jesus, I would like to be exempt from disaster, disease and discouragement. Or, if I can’t be exempt, I would like a pass through the hallway of emotional havoc so that I could always “rise above” and continue to be happy, giving, patient and positive throughout the duration of any trauma.

That’s not going to happen.

We have now been dealing with the effects of the Great Rhode Island Flood of 2010 for two weeks (some of us had been getting basements full of groundwater for days before the rivers and ponds flooded their banks). When I returned to work earlier this week, one of my colleagues walked me to my office, waving people away and whispering “flood victim” as I passed. That was weird. I wasn’t sure how to act. I tried to appear victim-like – and wet.

The trouble is, I don’t feel pathetic, I just feel irritable, impatient with foolishness and really, really tired.

For the most part, we’re living our lives – working, teaching, cooking, cleaning – but we’re also bailing, pumping, disposing of destroyed possessions, trying to catch up with everything that fell behind, filing claims, walking around electrical cords, wondering about the boiler, the water heater, measuring inches of water in the basement, comforting neighbors and friends, wondering about mold and strange smells, critters wandering into the open basement, not sleeping, waking from nightmares, enduring power outages, wondering when our neighborhood will no longer sound like humming generators and pumps, watching those worse off than we are on the news crying or yelling at officials.

The little cruelties and unkindnesses of people can send me into tears. The randomness of the destruction – I imagine like those who’ve experienced tornados – leaves me feeling most comfortable chatting with other pumpers and bailers and avoiding the dry people who seem to have been spared.

I am particularly appreciative of small graces like the daffodils on my lawn, the brilliant red cardinal that rested on my deck, the nesting hawks dropping snakes and small rodents into their nest in our woods and the exuberant embrace of a friend I hadn’t seen in months. I suck life from these moments like a surgical patient sipping water through a bendy straw in those painful first foggy moments in recovery.

And underlying all of this is my constant dialog with God about “what would Jesus do?” How would Jesus react after two weeks of water that should be outside forcing its way inside? What does He want others to see in me right now and really the question is “how should I react as a follower of Jesus?”

But see, when life gets stripped down, the “shoulds” go out the window and all I’m left with is what I actually AM before God. So apparently I am someone who turns to Him in the midst of disaster. I am someone who continues to worship, to pray, to search through scripture and to comfort others with the knowledge of Jesus.

Apparently, I am also someone who gets worn out, tired, stressed and cranky. I am someone who feels drained, numb and overwhelmed. I am easily wounded right now. I am fragile. I want to sleep but not at the right times. And I am someone who won’t pretend to be upbeat when I’m not because that doesn’t feel Christian, that feels like lying.

I have two new officemates at work and on my first day back one remarked to the other that she was excited to be in my office because I’m always so positive. I had a choice to make at that moment. I certainly know how to fake a smile but I didn’t. I thanked my co-worker for affirming me but explained that I couldn’t guarantee positive this week as I am tired and tested. I assured them I wouldn’t be spewing negative words but quiet and steadfast were about all I could muster for now. Positive will have to wait until the drone of pumps dies down and I can put my feet into shoes that are not slightly damp.

I think at times like this my testimony is that Jesus said He came that I might have life to the full (John 10:10). A full life on earth (or abundant life) involves joy, celebration, miracles and victories but it also encompasses sorrows, disease, disaster, and failure. That is the fullness of life. And I can experience it all and face it head on – without drinking it away or escaping it or denying it or letting it break me– because I walk through every moment of it with the living presence of Jesus Christ.

He is present when the sun shines and He is present when the rain falls. He is present when the flowers bloom and He is present when the waters rise. I know this because I live this.

And though I am weary and cranky and wet and wakeful, it is, indeed, well with my soul.

Reporting from the flood zone – Deeper than ever with Jesus in Rhode Island.

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12 Comments

    The Conversation

  1. Andrea says:

    I think GOD expects us to be honest. Too many times we stuff our true emotions down deep and that hurts us and in the end hurts others. Well, that is how it happens with me.
    Praying for you,
    andrea

  2. I’m at a loss as to how to comment. I adore this blog. I will probably come back to it in days to come when things are hard on in my world because as you reminded us, “Rain falls on the righteous and the unrighteous alike.” I am under no delusions that I will be exempt. I can only pray that my face will be, like yours, set on the Father.

    God bless, Lori. We’re praying over here in the sunshine and wishing some of it your way.

  3. Thank you, Andrea. I agree. In exposing my real reactions to life, I believe I others are better able to see the ministry of God’s grace in mine and I am reminded that His work in me continues. Thank you for your prayers.

  4. You have a beautiful heart, Shannon. Thank you for your prayers and enjoy the sunshine where you are! Be blessed today – tomorrow has enough trouble of its own!

  5. Heather says:

    “As a father shows compassion to his children, so the LORD shows compassion to those who fear him. For he knows our frame; he remembers that we are dust” Psalm 103:13-14.

    Thank God that our strength comes from Him, and not from our own bodies and souls. We cannot endure, but by His grace. I am praying that God will continue to strengthen, comfort, and uphold you and your family, as well as all those who have been devastated by this flood (though I do not know most by name…)

    You are right to be honest, yet honest with an upright heart. Too many go one direction or another – put on a facade, or lash out in the name of “honesty”. The best thing that you can do in the midst of difficulty is give testimony that the LORD is seeing you through, and you could not get through on your own. None of us, if we are truthful, can.

  6. Praying for you all in your water weariness, too, Heather.

  7. Tamara says:

    Lori, Thank you for sharing even in your weariness. I especially liked your paragraph at the end about abundant life and how that encompasses the good and the bad. That is so true.

  8. Thank you, Tamara. I love that you stopped by and left a note of encouragement!

  9. Phoenix says:

    Love U.. Sending arms from NC to RI to hold you!
    Praying for you and your family. You’re doing beautifully.. like a sweet fragrance. Just be..LORI. XO

  10. Cheri says:

    You said: “But see, when life gets stripped down, the “shoulds” go out the window and all I’m left with is what I actually AM before God.”

    You have captured in words exactly how I felt when we sent our son to rehab. And it was the closest I’ve ever felt to God, I must admit.

    You also said: “A full life on earth (or abundant life) involves joy, celebration, miracles and victories but it also encompasses sorrows, disease, disaster, and failure. That is the fullness of life. And I can experience it all and face it head on – without drinking it away or escaping it or denying it or letting it break me– because I walk through every moment of it with the living presence of Jesus Christ.”

    Why is it that we always assume the fullness of life couldn’t possibly include the trials that come our way? Some teach that if you are experiencing trials, your faith is less than it should be, because a vibrant faith would full of blessings only.

    From personal exerience, the trials I’ve walked through in life always manage to produce a richness of relationship with God that I could never have experienced any other way. It’s not that I look forward to walking through those deserts, but what I take from those times is precious and not something I would ever give up.

    Does that make any sense at all?

    As for you, you are in our prayers. And your honest sharing is a blessing.

    Hugs,
    Cheri

  11. Thank you, Phoenix! Receiving your hugs. I’m looking forward to my first trip to NC in May – going to the Blue Ridge Mountain Christian Writer’s Conference and bringing my husband with me.

  12. Cheri, you make beautiful, Christ-like sense! Thank you for your prayers and, as always, your faithful encouragement!