a fighter

I have been mulling over this piece for awhile now though, if I were being honest, it's been since the first panic attack came and the first signs of spiritual warfare became evident. The words have been in the heart, but the courage seemed to run and hide when I wanted to share them. But I've learned some beautiful things about struggle the past year and a half: 1) God is bigger than the struggle, 2) people really do care about you and your life and your hurt if you just open up about it, 3) vulnerability is messy, risky, scary, draining and worth it. We all have issues that consume our thoughts, give us sleepless nights, make us long for simpler, happy times. Most of us*, like Paul, have that thorn in the flesh that seems to drag us further and further away from God. In light of that, read on and share your story if you feel led.

*all of us

I have never considered myself a fighter. I am no Joan of Arc, no Susan Pevensie, no Mother Teresa (oh, you and I both know she was a fighter). I cower at the sign of confrontation. Lace up my boots and start running in retreat when the war cry sounds. Because this little body shields a fragile heart that lacks the courage, lacks the discipline, lacks the pure guts to challenge the adversaries.

You told me that this hell we found ourselves in, this thing that sucked the life out of us and stole our energy and beat upon our hearts, was a black hole of a thing. A dismal, charcoal hole that we had to fight to climb out of.

I told you I couldn't do that.

Do you know who I am? Do you know how little I am capable of?

I remember fighting once. I was driven to such anger over such great injustice that I was willing to pull the fists out of the pockets and knock out whomever it was that did such a wretched thing. Because this girl, this naive eighteen-year-old girl from Ethiopia, this girl, this immigrant, coming to America only a few months ago in search of peace and a better life and the "American dream," this girl who knew not much more than "Hello, how are you?" in English, knew the word ugly well, and knew when she was being called it. And how could anyone ever call her ugly when her face was more beautiful, more courageous, than I could ever hope to be?

And I was ready to fight. My courage-less heart no longer mattered. My fears and worries no longer nudged at me. No. This was wrong and I was ready to fight.

So why can I not fight for myself now? Fight to get out of this black hole? To get rid of the very thing sucking the life out of me?

I sat down on the bed, wrapped blanket around legs and wrapped hands around mug. This was my time of rest and my time to be filled and my time to slice out space for just me and my maker and his letter and oh, it was good. It lingered on the mouth, forged through the lies in the head with truth.

And I was reading, and oh it is the reading that is easy, because how do you read that he promises life---and life to the full!---and understand what to do with that? Know how to handle that? Know how to shift from the reading of the words to the living of them?

Because I sure did not have life, certainty I did not have it to the full. I had a black hole I was caught in that was ripping off my fingernails as I tried to climb out of it, that was ripping out my hope as I fell for the hundredth time. And I am no fighter, I am not strong enough to pull myself out of it and see the light, experience the life.

It's going to take time, you finally said. It is going to take time. Maybe years. I am proof of five years of living in this black hole and I have more light, more life, than I have in a long time but heaven knows some days I fall further into the black hole than I do into life.

And oh, I wanted life. I wanted to fight. Because I had sat out on the fight for a year now and I was about to adventure into one of the scariest opportunities of my life in a few months and I didn't want to call this black hole home any longer.

How do I fight, then? I finally asked you. What swords, what guns, what armor should I get?

Savannah, you are going to need three things: prayer, the word and courage.

I rolled the eyes because isn't prayer and the word what my Sunday school teacher would have said all those years ago? Isn't prayer and the word what my pastor would tell me? No, I wanted the big, the shiny, the obviously military to fight with.

Prayer, you said, because in this black hole you will often feel more alone than you ever have in your entire life. I nodded, because yes I know this loneliness, I know this curse of the black hole. Prayer, you continued, because prayer ignites the Holy Spirit to fight on your behalf. Savannah, Satan is fighting against you now. He has put you in this black hole. Prayer is one of your biggest weapons in the fight to get out of it.

And the word? I asked you.

The word because this is what Jesus used when he was in trial, this is what Jesus used when he was tempted. Memorize it, meditate on it, linger over it, feast upon it.

I nodded acknowledgement of its importance. Yes, for even in the Bible does it say that the words have the power to transform so Jesus please let your word, your power, pull me out of this black hole, transform this lifeless living into fullest life.

Courage, you finally said. Do you know what courage means?

Yes, I knew. I remembered from that Ted Talk I watched not long ago about vulnerability. That Ted Talk about the thing the black hole denied me of. Courage is speaking from the heart. Having the guts, the faith, the hope in life and humanity to speak from the heart.

You must have courage, my dear. You must tell others what is going on. You must fight the fight with most unlikely weapon: vulnerability. Name your weaknesses, name your black hole, name your struggle. This is how you fight.

After Job lost his children, his livestock, his livelihood, and after God gave Satan the go ahead to cover his body in boils, thrust him into the prickly arms of discomfort, and after Job began to sit where the lepers did, scratching himself with a pot, his friends came and sat with him for seven days in silence. Seven days of mourning there with their friend who looked ugly and smelled of scum. And I read this and I wondered if I have anyone who would mourn with me like that, who would just sit and be with me like that. And I wonder if one of the worst curses of this black hole is that instead of embracing compassion, I reject it, keeping people at arm's length, scared for them to come too close, to see too much.

And now I am here: sipping coffee (cream with a dash of cinnamon, thanks), typing to faces I cannot see, may never see, trying to be full of the courage to fight. Because six months after that talk with you I have seen some light but, just like you, some days I fall into the black hole more than I fall into life.

And God knows I have not clung to the word as much as I need, not talked to him as much as I need, and courage is still virtually non-existent.

But I am now taking steps toward the battle, instead of away from it. I am now claiming this one thing: I am a fighter and my Maker fights beside me (and some days he has to put his hands over my hands, holding that sword and swing for me because I lack the strength). And one day, even if that day is when I see him face to face, I will have life---and life to the full. Yes, one day, even if that day is when Him and his Bride finally are together, I will be free of this thorn in the flesh, and this black hole will no longer be called home.

image: tumblr.