I Think God Might Be A Boxer

{From August 27, 2015}

Today was hard.

Every once in a while a day sweeps over me like a wave. It feels like the space around me is filling up to the point of near drowning. The trouble is that unlike a true tidal wave, no one sees this one. I don’t really either, but I can feel it. Not wetness exactly, but I can feel something I can only describe in aquatic terms rising up around me.

It sometimes comes out of nowhere, causing the temperature in my body to drop just a little, and my heart to race a bit, just enough to temper the heat loss. My arms seem to tingle and worst of all, without uncorking the dam, the feeling seems to rise up to my neck as if it is trying to choke me out. It’s like that moment in an afternoon horror flick, when the audience realizes before the character does that there is no way out.

Again, the trouble is that nobody can see this happening, and I only feel comfortable communicating it to some people, and even fewer know what to do for me. Actually, sometimes I don’t know what to do for myself, beyond just waiting for the wave to roll back and for the water to drain, waiting for the tightness to relax and the frenzy to subside. So when a once-in-a-blue-moon wave comes, and if I’m unlucky with the timing (i.e. I’m at work, with new friends, or at a family function), I’m forced to find a temporary respite by removing myself entirely from the situation. Mature, I know… but it’s easier than explaining, and frankly, I’m still learning not to be embarrassed or ashamed of it.

That’s what happened today. The wave came and my home felt way too small. I also had half a day’s work left still to finish, and the combination of all three was too much to take normal precautions. I was “on the ropes,” as they say.

So I left. I got in my car and just drove away.

I should note that it’s not easy to drive when you feel like you’re not-so-slowly drowning. But it felt better than staying, or at least it felt different than staying. Also, on days like this, I find that a drive to the sea helps, especially when I can sit still for a while, breathing in the salty air and praying away my water. Something about the ocean water (ironic?) stretching out to the horizon and beyond helps me to feel less like a caged animal, like I have room to breathe. But today was still summer, so even my hometown and nearby Pacific felt small, crammed with tourists admiring the very place I love.

So instead of heading west, I turned my car south and headed to the one place every twenty-something professional goes when they want to feel anonymous, but still productive, because remember I still had work to do. I went to Starbucks.

I didn’t go to my usual one though, or even the one my brother works at. I intentionally drove out of my way to go to one farther from my home, all the while cursing the wave and how complicated it made very uncomplicated moments. I hated it and the control it had on me, the inconvenience it ushered in, how “crazy” it made me feel. I’d even been in The Word this morning, shouldn’t that guarantee me peace? I’m always harder on myself than anyone else, and so I grew disappointed in myself for “letting the water in,” breaking me of all my pride and ability to always have everything handled and together. Even though I really can’t help it.

Fifteen minutes into my journey, I still couldn’t even bring myself to turn on the radio, for fear of the noise and for desperately needing silence in the car. Instead I thought, pondered, and examined myself. By this time, the water had receded enough to allow room for some self-reflection. Why was the water was rising? What had forced it in this time? How can I uncork it?

Parking outside the coffee shop, I’d had enough. I quickly prayed and walked in. Like a one-two knock-out sequence in the line at Starbucks (of all places!), my eyes fell on it, sitting neatly on a shelf.

Punch #1: the title of a book, Just Mercy. Just mercy.

Now, I won’t go into all that this title holds for me. That’s a post for another day, but I will say that recently it’s become clear that mercy is one of my gifts, something I was created for and meant to contribute to the world. In light of that newfound awareness, I want to bring mercy into every interaction I have. I’ve prayed about it and asked God to make me more merciful. So naturally, rather than just waving a magic wand and making me more merciful, He has given me opportunities to be merciful, to step up, push through and grow. What I failed to anticipate though, is that though those opportunities usually require me to merciful with others, sometimes they’ll require me to be merciful with myself. Touché, Big Guy.

Punch #2: “Hi, Amanda!” I looked up and a longtime friend of my brother was smiling warmly at me from behind the counter.

“Hey!” I replied grinning, hoping it was convincing, that my face and the dried tears around my eyes didn’t give away the truth. “I didn’t know you worked here!”

That was true, remember because I’d intentionally gone to a Starbucks I thought I wouldn’t run into anyone I knew. All I’d wanted was to be anonymous and allow the raging whitewater rapids within me to smooth out, but apparently that wasn’t going to happen.

So, I took a deep breath and asked him about baseball. Days before, I’d seen my brother and this friend play an incredibly close game at a local field. It was a nail-biter, and in my opinion, they were jipped out of a win. (Isn’t that always how protective older sisters feel when their little brothers lose?) Anyway, I focused all of my attention on this topic, forcing myself to maintain my composure and keep up the appearance, the act. It wasn’t impossible to do. Thankfully, this guy is a longtime friend and had always been particularly nice, and so it was easy to talk to him.

In the three minutes or so that it took for the other barista to make my drink and hand it to me, the conversation was over and the water was gone. Not just flat, but entirely gone. The drain gargled as the last few drops fell away and dried up.

I think of a quote by Jamie Tworkowski, the founder of To Write Love On Her Arms. It goes something like this, “People need other people.” Revolutionary I know, and actually I’m not sure that he invented this concept, because this guy named Paul wrote something similar maybe two thousand years before him,

“Just as our bodies have many parts and each part has a special function, so it is with Christ’s body. We are many parts of one body, and we all belong to each other.” – (Romans 12:4-5, NLT)

In other words, we need other people.

There in a Starbucks, I was knocked out by God in the most loving way. Instead of just letting me spiral down and drown, He fought to keep me in the ring with Him. If I kept fighting to stay near and pay attention, I’d be ok.

Christians talk often about “wrestling with God” and though the phrase sounds more violent than sweet, it really is the mark of someone unwilling to let sin or anxiety or depression or whatever water sloshes around inside them to pull them under, to put themselves in the ring and draw near to Him. He’s kind and encouraging and benevolent, but I also think God might be a boxer. He’s steadfast and unwilling to sacrifice His beloved to mediocrity, or in my case, crippling anxiety. When the wager is my life, He’s going to fight me for it.

So on this Friday afternoon, He refused to let me hide in the shame of my anxiety, but instead forced me into going few rounds with Him and into being known. He used something as simple as this brief conversation about baseball with someone I only casually knew to call out me out like Adam in the Garden and away from my rushing waves.

I’d like to add that this friend even took care of my coffee order. So sometimes, there might also be a corporeal perk to being known. Maybe it’s meant to soften that last blow. Maybe. 🙂

Wishing you encounters and opportunities like this.

Love,

The Square Peg

I'd gladly go a few more rounds with Him. Photo: Tumblr
I’d gladly go a few more rounds with Him. Photo: Tumblr

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