Sometimes in the middle of the night I wake up convinced I’m suffocating. Nothing eases it until I go outside and gulp air and even then it takes time for my heart to stop racing and for the tightness in my chest to ease. It’s no better when it hits during the day, during church, during a meeting, out with a friend. Panic attacks…they’re a symptom of a deeper issue. They feel deadly.
I thought by now it would be better.
Lots of things can be deadly, like the dark and the shame and the crush of old (and new) skeletons, millstones, and internal infernos.
It’s like trying to fight your way out of a burning house—there are points when you almost think you’ve reached the door to fresh air and freedom only to find yourself further engulfed in sooty, smothering smoke and so you decide there is no way but to jump straight out of the burning building.
When the unseen burns on the inside finally seem unbearable and intolerable for even a moment more—that lunge from the flames and life seems the lesser of the two unbearables. To jump out of life seems like a favor for everyone. Not because death is so appealing but because life is so agonizing. It’s not about wanting to die, it’s about not being able to stand being devoured.
No, I’m not particularly suicidal at this moment. But I have been in the past. I made a plan. I made arrangements…because there didn’t seem to be any way out, any way to stop the flames.
No one can tell you not to jump unless they’ve felt the heat, unless the bear the scars on having been singed.
I don’t talk about it much (at all anymore), those feelings, because the cliches and platitudes and excuses and accusations make it all worse and make the temptation stronger.
It’s where I am some days, though.
Saying it’s caused by my sin shames me even more. I’m acutely aware of my shortcomings and how I fail Him. To the person who told me if I just trusted God more it would be better, I say you’re right. I need to trust God more. But the Bible says Jesus came for the sick, and if I know anything, I know I’m sick and wounded and that some days it feels like it will never end. And I believe He alone can help me even with those wounds I don’t understand, wounds that keep festering and refuse to heal, even wounds that stink—He will not turn me away. He will never leave me or forsake me. Even when everyone else does because I’m not “getting over it” quickly enough.
Shame is a bully. Grace is a shield.