Sunday, April 14

Even though it be a cross that raiseth me

I'm not well connected, well known, or influential in the world. And I doubt I ever will be. I won't be as popular as many of the voices that speak out for and against so many things. But I do have a voice.

Mine isn't a voice promising that everything will be better someday. In fact, over the past years my optimism has tempered into something my best friend thinks is horrifying: an honest assurance that life will be painful - most likely more painful than I could ever imagine - and that the pain will be worth it.

I was hyperventilating at the gym this week, while crying. Why? A couple years ago I probably wouldn't be able to even pinpoint what had caused the pain. Anxiety? Social pain? Autism and its attendant isolation? Crushing isolation isn't uncommon in my life, but I only knew that it was there, and drowning me. Now? I can sometimes actually identify where it comes from. A friend hadn't contacted me in a few days. Regardless of any proof to the contrary, my brain assumed that the friendship was dead and was ripping out the synapses associated with it. Same thing that happens with major breakups and death of a loved one. Ripping out synapses tends to cause physical, mental, and emotional pain. Hence the hyperventilating, headaches, nausea, and crying.

Makes sense right?

Except that this wasn't a close friend. 

And it had only been a few days.

Still happened. 

I may be extremely resilient and bounce back from trauma faster than almost anyone I know, but that comes with its own drawbacks. And going through major withdrawal pains for new friends is, for me, an unfortunately common side effect of having an extremely short cycle time for memories.

Four hours later, I'm *still* at the gym. Still hyperventilating. Still crying. Supplements, music, journaling, cardio, and Tylenol haven't done anything for the pain.

I find myself praying for help, as I have multiple times.

"Dear God. I need help. Please help me. I can't handle this. I don't know what to do. I just want the pain to stop. I get that it makes no sense. It makes no sense and it just hurts and it makes no sense."

The pain doesn't get better. It actually gets worse, and I spend the next couple days without leaving my house.

But, for a moment, there at Vasa fitness while walking towards the free weight section, I feel loved.

A feeling that, after years of going through the mess that is in my head, I've come to know comes from a God who cares.

"I'm here with you. I get it. I love you. It'll be ok."

And I get a glimpse, for a moment, of perhaps one of the many reasons why I feel pain the way I do.

Maybe it's to be closer to Him.

One of my favorite hymns is Nearer, My God, to Thee. The first verse goes like this:

Nearer, my God, to Thee, 
Nearer to Thee,
E'en though it be a cross that raiseth me
Still all my song shall be
Nearer my God to Thee, 
Nearer to Thee

It was one of the first hymns I learned to play on the piano. In my Italian language district at the MTC, it was chosen more than any other hymn, though the key line is translated differently

Anche se incontrerĂ² solo dolor - even if I only encounter pain.

At times, I've approached the Church, and my relationship with God, as almost transactional. What can it do for me? What peace, purpose, meaning, hope, and joy does God offer me... and how does it compare to what I could find by turning away? Maybe I could find love. Maybe acceptance. Fill a portion of the unending, crushing isolation and pain that seems to be so common in my life. 

But in doing so, I shortchange the reality of God's hand. God doesn't just offer peace, purpose, meaning, hope, and joy. He also offers pain, sorrow, anxiety, frustrating, angst, loss, and sadness... along with the tools to transform via those feelings and experiences to any willing to stay close to Him.

And that's what I believe now. Not that God will make everything better. Not that there is a light at the end of the tunnel. Not that God will deliver me from the lion's den or the fiery furnace or from isolation itself. No. God will send a rockslide to bury me inside a mountain. He'll send me to a world with the deepest desire to build my own family, and then block off every door in that direction. He'll give me the desire to connect with people, along with a mind that can't hold on to connections.

In a world full of people living their own lives, He'll create mine. Chock full of everything and anything that will help me become better. Joy, happiness, sorrow, pain, misery, isolation.

Is it possible that sorrow can be holy? That sounds like the God I know. The God of rainbows and rainstorms, of soaring vistas and congenital blindness, of happiness and sorrow. The God of all things has his hand in all things.

Is it blind faith to trust in a God when He doesn't offer me the things I want most in life? When I go to a church that praises and honors families and quietly tells me to put my own desire for family on hold... for the unknown? When I face a set of circumstances that sometimes seem perfectly designed to inflict emotional maximum pain?

Maybe there's a purpose in all of it.

Maybe God has a hand in not just the easy, happy moments in life, but in the trials too. In the frustration I get from not being understood. In the pain from feeling wholly alone.

And that's my choice. Do I trust Him? Do I wager the whole of my life against moments of knowing that God is there, that I'm going in the right direction, and that He'll make it all ok? Or do I take the reins into my own hands and make of my life what I will?

I believe that God is real. That He knows what He is doing. And that, in the end, following Him will help me, and help those I love, more than any other alternative. So I choose to trust Him. To believe in Him. To see His hand in all things. To worship Him and do all I can to be nearer.

Even though it be a cross that raiseth me.