Sometimes things just fall apart.
No matter how much you prepare yourself, how much planning you do, how much you know or how much you try, everything just falls to pieces before you.
Then you are left standing in the rubble, mouth agape, and brain spinning with so many thoughts that none of them come out of your mouth in ways that make sense.
“But, God,” you say, “didn’t I do everything you told me to? Didn’t I cross all my t’s and whatnot, even those that you told me not to worry about? Why would this happen to me? I’m Type A!”
You’re pretty sure you had this under control, right? You always have things UNDER CONTROL.
Except you don’t have any control over anything ever.
This was something that occurred to me in full-color, HD, megawatt intensity on – of all days – Feast of the Exaltation of the Holy Cross. (Lest we forget God created irony.)
It started innocently enough. I was tasked with something big and important, I checked all the rules, followed all the rules, and felt pretty sure that I’d done everything right. In fact, I did things so confidently, that I forgot to ask God for his input and guidance. Why bother Him, when I’ve got it under control, right?
Wrong. SO WRONG.
Imagine my surprise (as if this were the first time I’d experienced failure) when everything I thought I had worked out exploded into a million horrifying pieces.
I immediately when into “fix it” mode and exhausted myself with analyzing and reanalyzing what went wrong. I tried fixing things. They got worse. I tried retracing my steps, and that only resulted in unhelpful obsession.
Finally, I stomped my feet, looked up and said, “I give up! You take it.”
I imagine God looked back at me and saying, “FINALLY. What took you so long?”
As I stepped back and gave it up to God, I was overwhelmed with the following emotional guests:
Guilt. Failure. Sadness. Anxiety. Anger. Self-doubt.
Round and round they went, as if spinning through a revolving door, sometimes crammed in all together.
But the feeling that spun more than the rest, the one I wanted to get rid of ASAP, was powerlessness.
Things were so bad and I couldn’t do a single thing about it! AUGH!
Before I could pull all of my hair out in frustration, I just so happened (does anything “just so happen” when God is involved?), to turn on Relevant Radio. Fr. Simon was talking about the Feast of the Holy Cross, and what he said about gave me a heart attack (listen to the whole segment here – it’s awesome).
While consecrating the Blood of Christ, he became annoyed when fruit flies started buzzing around the chalice. So he asked Jesus to make the flies go away. Instead, he heard a voice:
“With my arms nailed to the wood of the cross, I was a feast for the flies.”
God so loved the world he sent his only son to suffer for us – to become so powerless that he couldn’t even swat the flies away from his face while he died.
I’ll pause while you cry about this for a minute… or 30.
How could I forget that suffering so often means powerlessness? How much is our pain amplified when there’s nothing to be done to make it go away?
And what kind of love does it take to not only succumb to physical pain and humiliation, but to the agony of powerlessness? A powerlessness he fully accepted?
That’s a kind of love that my puny human brain can’t compute. But boy, am I so grateful for it.
So, how did this change my suffering?
Well, it didn’t end the suffering. It didn’t shorten it or make me burst into song and dance, but it did something way better.
Once I realized how much Jesus understood powerlessness, I finally let go and joined Him in it. I finally let him take the other part of my yoke. He had been waiting patiently for me to look up through my tears and grab onto Him. We all know that grief shared is lessened, and who better to share with with than He who knows grief more than anyone?
It all reminds me of this comic:
I feel this fits me perfectly. So often in suffering I kick and scream and holler, without taking any of my pain to Jesus. Even if I pray about it, I say things like, “God, give me what I need to do this myself.” Jesus carries me, drags me kicking and screaming, takes a snack break, all the while waiting for me to let go of my pride and realize He’s been carrying me the whole time.
It’s not until I recognize and accept my powerlessness and weakness, that I am able to let Jesus help me. Or at least, recognize that He’s already helping me and pretty much doing all the work.
Lesson learned (until the next time this happens and I forget and have to be hid in a hole while Jesus gets a snack and waits for me to stop my temper tantrum)!
9 but he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for power is made perfect in weakness.” So, I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may dwell in me. 10 Therefore I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities for the sake of Christ; for whenever I am weak, then I am strong. – 2 Corinthians 12:9-11