“When a train goes through a tunnel and it gets dark, you don’t throw away the ticket and jump off. You sit still and trust the engineer.” – Corrie Ten Boom
The battlefield of the mind is one of the most challenging fights I face in my spiritual walk on a daily, sometimes hourly, basis. Over this past year especially, my mind has seemed like an ever anticipated train wreck, ready to spiral out of control at the offset of even the smallest of triggers. Staring at all that was before me—–watching as the day seemed to fade and night rolled in with a sky full of storms——my doubts began to steadily rise with my trust wavering.
Admittedly, this is one of the biggest areas in my life where my head and my heart have difficulty connecting: trust. Often there seems as if there is an inner battle going on daily between my emotions, thoughts, feelings and truth. I imagine a very similar scenario to Inside Out. Hard not to allow repeated patterns and familiar circumstances to derail my trust and draw certain, seemingly valid, conclusions.
Feeling abandoned and disheartened, trust compromised time and time again by earthly relationships, my heart with it’s sufferings was ready to build more walls to protect itself. Walls that would keep the pain far away and prevent any more heartache from penetrating and causing more residual damage. In the midst of all the grief, all I wanted to do was tighten my grip and look ahead to see when this terrible ride would stop, or better yet, get off.
“Our insistence upon seeing ahead is natural enough, but it is a real hindrance to our spiritual progress. God has charged Himself with full responsibility for our eternal happiness and stands ready to take over the management of our lives the moment we turn in faith to Him. Here is His promise: ‘And I will bring the blind by a way that they knew not; I will lead them in paths that they have not known: I will make darkness light before them, and crooked things straight. These things will I do unto them, and not forsake them.'”
God, who is always in constant pursuit of my heart, graciously met me in the middle of my suffering and reminded me that though darkness may come, I am never alone. Telling me to take heart, the journey through this trial was not in vain. With the help of community, therapy, and recovery, God began a work within me to repair the roots of my broken heart.
One by one the revelations came barreling through to the surface. Pain revealing that there were several heart level issues causing doubts and lack of trust in others, and at times God himself.
At the beginning of my healing process it was hard to articulate what I felt taking shape within me. So many thoughts and emotions, questions and doubts, yet lacking the words to describe it all. One day I came across an article, “How to Get Your Mind Back on Track” definitely worth reading, where John Piper wrote out so many of the inner struggles I felt I was facing. In his article he illustrates how our thought processes run similar to that of a train. The engine is our trust, always pulling us towards something we are currently believing; whether it be true or false. Directly behind our engine of trust is the train of hope, then emotions, and finally thoughts. Ironically, he points out that we most often find ourselves riding in the back cars of emotions and thoughts. Cars that are least of all trustworthy, and that are designed to be pulled by, not driving, the train.
Don’t get me wrong, I think emotions and thoughts are important, and I believe so does Piper. My family even now has a saying: “feelings first”. Feelings and emotions are real and if not allowed to be expressed can lead to unhealthy responses: numbing them out, bitterness, suppressing and exploding, putting on a face to the world yet hiding the emptiness inside, etc.
What Piper is trying to touch on though, one of the greatest lessons I’ve learned this past year, is that emotions are to be an indicator, not a director, for the head and the heart. To acknowledge and embrace the pain, but not live there or let it be the engine that drives you; easier said than done at times. Surrendering my pain and healing to God is, because this continues to be a work in progress, one of the hardest things I am learning to do through this journey. To ‘trust the engineer’.
The whole idea that I can’t trust my thoughts/fears/emotions is not necessarily radical but was very convicting and transformative for my heart. No wonder my trust seemed to be fading and my feet slowly sinking when my fuel was stemming from ME, not truth; revealing even further that I often feel I am more trustworthy to fix my life than God.
Along with emotions caused by life’s circumstances driving my trust, there were also these laundry list of fears that came to the surface. Fears, both rational and irrational, that I never knew I had. Fears that stem from true heartache/trauma and years of compounded hurt. Fears learned and fears observed.
Fear of man, authority.
Fear of failure, perfectionism.
Fear of being hurt
Fear of feeling misunderstood (people pleasing)
Fear of intimacy, relationships
Fear of insignificance, loss of purpose
Fears that seem at times a very rational response to what I’ve known to be reality. Fears that, unfortunately, have been too often confirmed to be true through life’s circumstances.
Deep down, I know that the enemy wants to, and often does, take these fears and run with them. Standing at the ready, waiting to use even the littlest moments to fuel them or create new ones. Telling me lie after lie in hopes that I will tighten my walls to keep others out/promote isolation, for after all they were the source of my pain.
Though I still do not feel free from the chains of these fears and emotions, I am now aware that they exist. That buried beneath my pain lie unhealthy thoughts that are preventing and warping healthy relationships in my life, and ultimately my ability trust (to trust God and others).
As we grow in God, we develop a new self-image. The old self-image — filled with negative impressions and difficult life experiences—disappears forever. Self-destructive behaviors—alcohol, drugs, eating disorders, promiscuity, poor health habits, negative attitudes, and threats of suicide— fade away as we surrender our old self to the Lord.”Through God’s mercy we call him “Abba, Father,” or “Daddy.” We can also expect to share in the inheritance of his only begotten son, Jesus. “– father to the fatherless
Becoming aware of my heart’s condition, though not where I want it to be, allows me to at least see the problem. With this awareness I can see ahead steps that lead towards both acceptance of things past and hopeful actions toward a new future.
Now I’m not saying to accept the wrongs that had been done as acceptable, but forgiving and accepting that they have happened, been done. This acceptance leads me to a choice. A choice to continue to bring these fears, bitterness, or thoughts along my journey in life with me, or leave them at the next stop.
I can almost visualize all these past things, these broken pieces, placed perfectly in my luggage, the same one I’ve carried for years now. In one hand I’m holding onto it tightly, yet in the other is the gentle hand of the engineer. Therein lies my choice: forgive and set free or keep my grip tight, unrelenting.
This choice, this concrete action, to let God have all of my brokenness and fears is one of the scariest decisions I feel I have to make; to let go feels terrifying. Even though it’s been a hassle carrying them around with me, and I know He has carried burdens for me before, it’s what I know. It’s comfortable. Daily I feel God whisper gently to just let-them-go.
To trust Him, the God who is not the God of fears or uncertainties, but promises and truth. Trust that He is bigger than each and every thing I’ve faced and things that even may be on the horizon. Trust that I can walk by faith, not by what I see in front of me (2 Corinthians 5:7). Trust His promises are true and that He is faithful and good.
Trust that He sees the brokenness that this world has caused but also sees the beauty that He can create through it, if I let Him. Trust that by giving Him my baggage and past, He will exchange with me a life full of newness and light; no longer weighed down but one filled with unending hope, joy. To trust that He created me, and by doing so, has designed for me to do a good work with immeasurable purpose. Trust that each day brings a multitude of possibilities to be used by Him to touch the lives of those around me. Trust His timing, His healing, His design.
Trust Him even when the pain is strong and my mind is weak. To recognize that the pain is not the enemy, but the indicator, there to teach us. Pain is the alarm to alert us to what is happening beneath the surfaces of our hearts. It allows us to become aware of our misconceptions and false truths, to come to a place of dependence and acceptance; prepare us to act on the truth we know and walk in the the light with Him.
So here I sit, one hand on my luggage the other linked to the engineer, daily pondering and processing through this choice; though clearly still never alone. The pain is still there, but one day at a time I hope to continue to see that through true surrender, I will become free. Ultimately choose to give these fears, this pain, these trains of thought, over to good hands. To ‘trust the engineer’.