As Dark Clouds Gather
Updated: Sep 30, 2020
It's been a really up and down month, and if you'd like to join me, I'm just going to spend a few minutes exploring what a pursuit of fullness might look like in the storm.
Have you ever stood on the edge of a cliff and watched a storm take shape? The temperature drops, the clouds darken, and the wind begins to ominously invade your space. Now in real life we tend to ready ourselves for the moment it hits, usually by putting on a coat or going home. I have come to realise that I am not so good at reacting when the storm is one of life.
This picture (not my own) is how I feel in the storm. Maybe you can relate? It swirls in and envelopes my view. I feel like I can't see anything anymore. Which way is up? Where is God right now? What should I do?
I'm ok with this bit. There is nothing wrong with this, it happens to us all. It's the lie that's whispered next that really throws me. "Maybe this is your fault." "You feel overwhelmed, lost, homeless, and that is because you're not being enough."
You're not being enough. The killer blow. I think it is for many of us.
So how do I react?
Picture by Edgar Chaparro (alas that's definitely not me)
I go into survival mode. It's time to work hard. This is the Sam built for crisis. Seriously, I think in the short term he'd be helpful in some sort of 'Die Hard style' event. (Think office block stand off, bank robbery or major chaos of some sort). He's practical, hard working, non-stop, great at juggling lots of different problems, great at juggling (it was a hobby), comes up with lots of time and energy saving solutions and is generally just 'on it'. He's also useless at emotional connection, which is great for momentarily suppressing the experienced trauma of an armageddon situation. You see where this is going.
Have you ever noticed that John McClane (of Die Hard 1,2 and 3 fame - let's not talk about 4 or 5) can never hold down a relationship? All action, no affection. Survival Sam is similarly useless. I start to struggle to connect with God and the people around me, I'm too busy trying to be enough. This leads me into further frustration and sometimes extreme survival mode, otherwise known as the prelude to burn out.
John McClane: Yippee Ki-ay emotional connection with reality
I have come to realise that 'survival mode' has another name, 'shame mode'. It's shame that drives me when I get into this spiral of panic and control. The only thing seemingly motivating my life, or at least the voice shouting loudest, is the lie that "I am not enough".
I can't go to God, I know I shouldn't be struggling with this, I'm not being enough. I can't express this to my family, they need me to be strong right now, I'm not being enough. I can't admit this to work colleges, I'm supposed to know the right answer here, I'm not enough.
Do you see how easy it is to slip into shame mode?
Created to walk with God in the cool of the day
We're responding to the lie we first believed in the garden. In Genesis 3 it is shame that drives Adam and Eve into hiding. They cannot go to God, they've mess up, this is their fault.
I notice in this beautiful poetry that God still goes looking for them in the garden. Why? Because that is where they were created to exist. In relationship with Him. The Bible is the story, not just of the defeat of sin (which we can get a little stuck on some times), but of the undoing of shame and the renewal of this Garden relationship. Naked and without shame before God. That is His aim.
Survival mode hits me when I believe that the cloud I'm in is my fault. Here's the crazy thing, even if some of it is, THAT'S WHY JESUS DIED.
So either way, I am covered in grace and loved unconditionally. In Christ I am always enough.
A wise friend recently said to me: "The bad place doesn’t exist with God Sam, we Christians made it up to shame ourselves into being better. He’s in your midst, you are loved, called and known."
She wasn't denying that storms that roll in, rather that God is always close and always accepts us as we are. We don't have to believe the lie "I am not enough" because God is enough, grace is enough, Jesus is enough. God never asked me to be better. He only asked me to trust him in the sun and the storm.
I don't need to 'be better'. What a relief.
So how does this battle end? I guess by refusing to believe I'm in a battle to begin with. So when the storm rolls in and the whispers of inadequacy and shame creep up on me, I can acknowledge the storm, sure, but also choose to believe that however long it may last, I have not caused this. God is enough. He has not abandoned me. I am loved.
I am going to keep choosing to trust that God is with me. I will fail at this, but that is why I surround myself with friends who remind me of the truth. We need each other.
Living as Sam the beloved son is so much better than survival Sam. I want more of it! Jesus is always with me, always faithful and always loving.
This might just be one more step on the road of fullness.