It’s a strange thing what a human is capable of doing in the span of one breath. How a person can inhale happiness and exhale sadness. And on the other hand, how a person can inhale sadness and exhale happiness. Likewise, it’s peculiar how the various chambers of a human heart can hold onto such extremely different and contrasting emotions at the same time and pump them through a person. Lubba dubba. Love. Lubba dubba. Hate. Lubba dubba. Peace. Lubba dubba. Ache. And the human body and mind… Aren’t they something odd? A person’s body can be physically in one place, but the mind could be (and often is) a world away.
Such extremes in one vessel. It’s no wonder we aren’t all crazy. Then again…
Not too terribly long ago I was watching one of those reality shows that followed the intake of new prisoners. This particular show was all about female criminals and inmates. One woman that was interviewed as she awaited to be fingerprinted and what not was in her late twenties and pregnant. She was arrested for stealing items and then trying to return them for money that she would in turn use to purchase heroin.
I mentioned she was pregnant, right? About six months along, in fact.
As she told her story of arrest aloud she began to cry. It was as if in hearing herself say the words, that she was just then…not necessarily understanding them…but that she was…coming to terms with them. Accepting the blunt truth of her words and with the potential consequences of her actions.
I hope I haven’t hurt my baby. I don’t know what I’ll do if I hurt my baby. I mean, what good person does drugs when they’re pregnant? Who does that?
This and more she was saying and crying and releasing. All the questions she was asking herself, I had asked a moment before she uttered the words on camera. All the judgments she was casting on her own self, admittedly, I too had made.
Clearly she was an addict and I’m told addicts are good manipulators, good at telling you what you want to hear. But I truly felt like this was a woman stripped of any grace she may carry, vulnerable, and raw. And in that, I felt like she was genuinely hungry. Hungry for transformation because she knew the life she was leading was not meant for her. She seemed to long for change so badly, but was so used to that poor imitation of life that she was terrified to reach beyond it. She longed for change, didn’t know how to make it happen, or even believe she had the ability to make change happen.
I have a tattoo on my foot that reads, “more than capable”. One individual that looked at it told me that it seemed kind of arrogant, but that is not the intent of it. It serves as a reminder to me of a belief I have, that God has created us to be more than capable to handle whatever we might encounter in our life journeys and wherever that may be. That doesn’t mean that I think I can do everything on my own. Rather it means that, “I have the strength to face all conditions by the power that Christ gives me.” (Phillippians 4:13) It means that in having faith—even as small as a mustard seed—that I can say to a mountain, “‘Move from here to there,’ and it will move.” That nothing will be impossible for me. (Matthew 17:20) It means that if I trust God, that I should have no reason but to believe in myself and in my God given abilities. And one of those abilities includes the ability to ask for help when I need it.
But alas, I am mere human. Riddled with doubt and consumed by fear. I often make things more difficult than they need to be. I cling to what I know, even if I know it’s wrong simply because it’s familiar. So I saw a reflection of myself in that broken woman in handcuffs and I realized that I’m not just hungry… I’m starving.
My head. Maybe that’s why it hangs. My eyelids must be weighted, for my eyes are like slits. My shoulders. Slumped and rounded as if the world rests on them. My feet, my lead-footed feet. All clumsy from the stress of dragging the burdensome ball and chain. My body, but not in pounds. It’s heavier than any numbers could explain.
Heart. My heavy, heavy heart.
Okay, normal… What is my normal? Is my brow normally this furrowed? Is this how I peer through these eyes of mine? Or does the dull glaze under the low lids give me away? How do I smile? A smirk? No, more teeth. I think. Right? Oh, who cares if I’m smiling normally, am I smiling at all? Is this how my lips wrap around words? And my voice, is it just me or does it sound defeated? How do I laugh? Ha! Ha! Ha! Mmm, it seems forced. What about the tilt of my head? Is it at the correct angle? Do I normally hold my head in my hands this much? And how do I carry my body? Surely my shoulders and spine don’t round quite like this as if I were collapsing into myself. That can’t be right. Back to my hands, do they hang at my sides when I walk? Like…like I was holding onto the handles of heavy baggage? What do I normally do with my hands anyway? Do they, along with my arms, sway as I stride and take breaks from resting on my hips? From time to time do they bundle my body up and hold me as tight as they do now? ‘Cause I’m holding on really tight. Really tight. Is this how I walk? How my legs move with my knees bending? But my feet feel like they’re dragging making my movement too slow like I’m trudging through a swamp and in some ways I think I am. But that’s not normal, I know that’s not normal. What is my normal? Is this façade close enough?
When I lead a life where I am thoughtless and careless and reckless I am filled with doubt, I am fallen, and in some ways I’m so very lifeless. So when I was reading Mark 5:21-43 in worship this morning I was struck by three incredibly simple, but powerful quotes. The first being, “Daughter, your faith has made you well; go in peace, and be healed of your disease” (34). The second was, “Do not fear, only believe” (36). And the third, “Talitha, koum”—that is, “Little girl, get up!” (41).
When I lead a life where I walk by faith and where I am mindful of God’s grace and love, I am filled to overflowing with hope, I am surefooted, and vibrant. With faith I am well and at peace and all that may otherwise plague me is irrelevant because I am confident that good can come out of the bad that I encounter along my life journey. With faith I am fearless and not because I think I am invincible, but rather because I know God is and I trust that God is greater than any harm that may be done to me or that I might to do to myself. With faith, I am blessed with the strength needed to rise each time I fall.
And here’s the thing… I know I will fall. Many times. For one, I’ll fall because I’m darn clumsy. But more importantly, I’ll fall because I’m human. Very human. I will be thoughtless and careless and reckless. I hate to say it, but it’s true. However, Jesus always finds a way to come to me and Jesus always finds a way to bring me home, to bring me back to him.
This story in Mark is my story. Jesus has spoken those three quotes to me at various times in my life. Admittedly, I haven’t always listened. And I would reckon that he has said those very quotes to you as well, so it’s your story too. (Though, if you’re a dude I’m sure he didn’t call you little girl.) So let’s listen for those words and let’s trust in them. Because, seriously… What more does Jesus need to say?