The Beasts We Feed Ourselves To

 

A year ago my mind started messing with me. A year ago my mind took on a mind of its own. That’s not true, really. My mind has always had a mind of its own, but now it’d grown arms and legs and the cruel inclination to knock me around.

I’d be busy at work, at the sink wrist-deep in suds, or the worst: restless in bed praying for the nothingness of dear blank sleep. It didn’t matter. My mind replayed my life’s story like a grainy, flickering reel.

In any situation at any time my mind played a mid-day and late-night matinee of my deepest hurts, my greatest regrets. Moments I hadn’t thought of in years strode across my mind: learning of Mom’s leaving, the sting of Dad’s slap, the loss of a friend or a cat. The stupid, shameful thing I did. Other memories simply sat in my mind’s eye like a Polaroid: how Grandma looked standing on the front porch the last time I saw her, the look on my man’s face when my mood made a complete 180 in ten seconds flat. Night and day snippets of a past life strut about my mind like a bunch of bullying kids on a hot tarry playground.

First was sadness.

Then anger.

Then I fought back.

I swallowed down those memories as fast as I could, a glutton for peace. Those things too big to swallow I shoved back into the nooks and crannies inside and slammed the door. I’d get up, shower, head to work and smile at my own clever ingenuity, my own brute strength.

I might make it a day, maybe two and those memories scampered up out of their holes to taunt me once again. And again I’d plant my feet, grit my teeth, and shove them back down. I’d take up a new hobby, renew a set away project. I’d call friends and make dates, shop til my bank account bled red. I’d ignore them, see. I’d stay so busy they’d couldn’t catch me, couldn’t make me look.

This went on for months until I grew weak and tired, too tired to fight any longer. I caved. But I didn’t give way to the memories or what they might be trying to say. I succumbed instead to my own dismay, my own exhaustion. I had no intention of dealing with the things I could remember let alone the things I could not. I let myself slip into the nothingness of the pit where it’s dark and quiet, into the nothingness of sleep.

We all know the story of Jonah and how God told him to go and do this thing, but Jonah didn’t want to. He had better ideas, better plans. All in all, Jonah thought he knew better, so he ran. He ran from this Divine task nipping at his heels until he ran himself ragged and there at the end of himself he was tossed about in a stormy sea, nothing more than a spent rag doll. It was there, scared and cold and all alone (or so he thought) that he was saved from the tumultuous sea by nothing less than an enormous beast. Could things get any worse? There’s poor Jonah sloshing about in the bile of the belly of a whale.

And that’s where I sat, too: in the murky bile of my own pit. I’d run myself into a corner I couldn’t find my way out of. I was no more than a well-wrung rag. But, like Jonah, our God was there to snatch me up out of the mess of my own making.

Those memories weren’t demons back to haunt and torment. Rather, it was God asking me to face those things that held me down, that clung to the me He wanted to use. I wanted to run from my past but instead, I ran from God, a God who wanted to draw me near. He wanted us to walk together through a history He knew full well, a history He knew better than I.

A year has passed and I’m better. My mind has quieted a bit. I can’t say that I’m healed and I can’t say my mind is as smooth as the morning sea. Maybe someday I’ll say such things. But for now, I’ve quit running. For now, I’ve given up resisting and instead draw near to my God. I’m learning all about that beauty exchanged for ashes and that His love trumps my greatest hurts. Mostly I’ve learned that God doesn’t give up. He’ll always pursue me, he’ll pursue you, even into the belly of the beasts we feed ourselves to.