led to the limits

"Until we are led to the limits of our current game plan, and find it to be insufficient, we will not search out or find the real source, the deep well, or the constantly flowing stream."  --Richard Rohr, Falling Upward

"I guess you don't get to have a facade."  --my friend Christy

photo:  Michael Bruner

So, as you know, I have been feeling tired, worn out, fragile, and spongy for the last little while.

And it's not great fun for me to come to the blog with this, honestly.  I would rather have great advice and inspirational stories for you.  

Instead, this is what I have right now:  tired, worn out, fragile, spongy, blah blah blah.

This past Friday I drove down to the Austin area for a retreat with Soli Deo Gloria Sisterhood.  I didn't know a soul.  I went because I'd online-met Jen Ferguson, head cheerleader of SDG, when both our books about pornography in marriage came out within a month of each other.  

Jen is super nice and sweet and emailing with her made me want to meet her in real life, so when she invited me to this retreat, I signed up.  Even though going places where I don't know a soul is not exactly my idea of a good time.  Jen would be there.  She was nice. I would be okay.

So Friday morning I headed south on I-35 toward Austin.  20 minutes out of Dallas, traffic slowed to a crawl and I eventually passed by an accident on the northbound side.  

Flashing lights, emergency vehicles, an 18-wheeler that looked like it had been fire-bombed, and all lanes of traffic closed and diverted off the freeway.  (I later learned the freeway was shut down for 8 hours.)

So I did what I always do when I pass something like that.  I prayed for safety and healing and peace and rescue and thanked God that there were people helping out, like Mr. Rogers says.

Just a couple of miles later, traffic slowed to a crawl again, and there was ANOTHER accident in the northbound lanes.   More flashing lights, emergency vehicles, and 4 or 5 cars that had been scrunched into little accordions.  I started praying for safety and healing and peace and rescue and I thought, "Dear God, people have died out here today!"  

And I started to cry.

Because, as you know, I'm a sponge.  Dammit.

When I started to cry, all these other emotions began squeezing out of the sponge.  I started thinking about the hard things this year, and I just couldn't stop crying.

So I'm driving the I-35 construction death trap of itty bitty lanes and concrete barricades and I'm crying all the way to Waco, where I got a chai tea and pulled it together a little bit.  Until I got to Austin and stopped for a 3-hour lunch with one of my besties, where I proceeded to cry for at least half of the lunch.

She gave me jamberries for my nails and green tomatoes from her garden, told me I was not insane, and that she loves me, and generally gave me courage to continue on to this retreat with people I don't know.  So I headed into the hinterlands east of Austin.

And my GPS failed.  Apparently it's an urban GPS.  It doesn't do the country.  I was having to call Andy and ask him for directions every few minutes.  3.2 miles on Farm to Market Road 619.  Turn left.  6.2 miles on Farm to Market Road 696.  Turn left.  Drive 9.37 billion miles.  Your destination will be on your left.

I think it was probably really pretty out there in the country, but I was too freaked out and trying not to be lost in the near-dark that I didn't much notice.

By the time I got there, I felt like all the skin had been grated off my body.  Led to the limits?  Yes indeedy.  But not realizing it quite yet.

I started doing the things you do when you're in a group with 50 people you don't know.  Tell me your name, where are you from, what do you do.  And it was as if everything just bumped into the front of my head and fell to the floor.  

I turned to the lady next to me at dinner and said, "So tell me what you do?"  And she looked at me like I'd grown two heads and said, "I work for the State dental licensing board?"  At which point I recalled that she had revealed this information just three minutes previously.

That's when it hit me:  "I am not functioning well.  I am not functioning well at all."

Then, during dinner, I got a text from one of my kids.  And this text caused me alarm.  And then I experienced what Jen had warned me about:  spotty cell service way out there in the country.  

For over an hour, I couldn't get back in touch with my child, or with my husband, and I started to panic.  

I found myself pacing in the dark outside, praying, praying, praying, begging God for JUST ONE BAR, GOD, JUST ONE BAR.

I voiced aloud to one of my retreat-mates that I was looking for a bar, and had she found one anywhere on the property, and got a real funny look in return.

Eventually, someone told me there was a wall phone someplace, and on my way to the wall phone, a text floated in out of the darkness, letting me know that the crisis was over.

By the time I calmed down enough to sleep, the other 7 ladies in my bunk-room were already asleep, and two of them snored.  They slept well, I think. I did not.  

In the morning, a sweet lady asked me how I was doing, and I was too wrecked to hide the truth.  I gave her some bullet points of the past year, and described the harrowing drive that had broken it all open again, and the sleepless night that had now left me one tiny hiccup away from complete crazy.  

She asked, "What do you hear God saying to you in all this?"

And I said, "Just take the next step.  Just take the next step."  

I shared those words from Richard Rohr about being led to the limits and believing that, even so, there is enough of God for this too.  

No matter how freaked out I am, I know for sure there is more of the constantly flowing stream.  

Then I decided to leave the retreat early, because radical self-care was clearly past due.  I just needed a bubble bath and my own bed.  

Sweet Jen held my hand and prayed with me.

I cranked up Needtobreathe and came on home.

"I'm nearly sanctified, I'm nearly broken.  I'm down the river to where I'm going."  --Needtobreathe

I'm not sure why I'm even telling you this, other than, I'm really committed to the idea that every story matters, every voice counts, and I can only tell the story I have.  

Also, Christy says that I don't get to have a facade, as if this is perhaps a good thing.

Maybe some of you who've read As Soon As I Fell recently were hoping, as I was, that maybe once  you have a huge wreck in life, that's it.  

Once you pass the fire-bombed truck, surely there won't be any more problems.

That's your one.  You've paid your dues, and it'll all be smooth sailing from here on in.

But I don't think that's the deal we get.

After that first journey, it looks like we get another journey, always onward.  

Led to the limits, all the time.

But maybe, maybe this time, with less panic, I hope.  

There's just as much pain, but more of a realization that it's okay.  

It's okay.  

We'll get through it.  

It's okay.

"We are born to love as we are born to die, and between the heartbeats of those two great mysteries lies all the tangled undergrowth of our tiny lives.  There is nowhere to go but through.  And so we walk on, lost, and lost again, in the mapless wilderness of love."  --Tim Farrington, The Monk Downstairs

"Meltdowns are fine.  They make us softer.  Go ahead and melt." -- Glennon at Momastery

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