Illusions I Know For Sure

There are things I think I know. There are illusions I harbor as truth. For instance, I once was pretty sure that I could defend myself if attacked. I was in great shape, had some boxing training. I knew how to throw a punch, and I can assure you that no one at the gym ever accused me of hitting like a girl. So, I was pretty sure that if the moment came when some guy with let’s say, a knife, chose me that he would get the surprise of his life. I imagined the news stories that would follow about how I beat him to a pulp and then held him for the police. Yes, I was confident. Smug even.

And when that day actually came, I didn’t throw a single punch. I screamed like a little girl, and then God miraculously saved my helpless little life.

Strike one, but here’s another….

I am serious about my faith, and was pretty sure I was unafraid to check out of mortality and enroll in eternity. “Death is nothing to fear,” I told myself. “Eternity in paradise? How great is that?” Sometimes, I waxed eloquent about the whole subject- you know the lilies of the field being here today and gone tomorrow, we are all dust in the wind kind of stuff. Yes, I was certain I was unafraid of death. Smug even.

Then my 16-year-old began to drive. Suddenly, I found my heart pounding, and it turns out there is nothing like a set of headlights closing in on the passenger side of the car to uncork pure unadulterated truth from a person. Over and again in that moment, I have found myself alternatingly screaming curse words or begging Jesus to save me. My son behind the wheel reveals my truest heart. Unfortunately.

Strike two, but here’s another…

I have spent the last 20+ years seeking God to settle that question most human beings ask at some point – What is my worth? I was pretty sure that I had this one under control. It was a path honestly trod, paved with forgiveness, nurtured with prayer, watered with tears. Yes, of this I was sure,  I was of worth because I was simply a child of God. No more. No less. I was peaceful about it really. Smug even.

Then, I began to have migraines. I hate even saying that- “I have migraines.” It sounds so whiney and lame. I want to believe that because I have a great pain tolerance, I can just slug through while muttering, “What is pain anyway? Pain is nothing. I laugh at pain.” The problem is that for me, migraines are not just pain.  They affect me cognitively, particularly in the realm of language. I say crazy stuff, which my kids find endlessly entertaining. I know what I mean to say, it just comes out differently. I have had store clerks laugh in my face because of ridiculous things I have said on migraine days. Sometimes, these headaches last for days. I had two last week. The second one lasted more than 36 hours.

Oh, and did I mention that I can’t write on migraine days? Not a word. And…that is when the truth is revealed, because if I can’t write who am I? What good am I? What if tomorrow, I lost the ability to form language forever? What would I be worth then? Now you may be reading this and saying to yourself, “This writing stinks. This is all she has?” Well, it may stink, but it means a lot to me and when I lose the ability for a couple of days I am faced with the ugly truth – I have based my worth not on who I am but what I do.

Strike three.

But here’s the great thing about these messy moments when God reveals the fragility of my illusions…truth is freeing. Our illusions of capability, and grandeur bind us. They force us to put a good face on it all and pretend to be tough when we are weak, brave when we are cowardly, and brilliantly eloquent when in truth we are, well… I can’t think of the word right now, but if I could it would be fabulous.

Anyway, facing our weaknesses allows us to stop pretending, and it is awful to pretend because we are constantly on the defensive for fear we will be discovered for who we really are. It is so much nicer to just let it all go and rest in God’s grace.

I love the way 1 John 3:20 says it- “If our hearts condemn us, we know that God is greater than our hearts, and he knows everything.”

He knows everything. And he loves me still. There is nothing left to be, nothing left to do. He saw my worst and went to the cross for me anyway, and that is sweet news to a weak, cowardly, unproductive human like me. As a matter of fact, it is the kind of news that gives me the courage to keep getting back up over and over again.

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