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Put Me Back In, Coach
Posted on May 16th, 2017

Let's just acknowledge the elephant in the room here...if you know me in real life, you are shocked at my sporty title and wondering what on earth I hit my head on between my last post and now.  Rest assured, it's still me and I'm just as surprised as you that I'm about to use a sports analogy.  I'm sufficiently floored for other (super spiritual) reasons, too. (Have I successfully hooked you into this post?!)

When I was in junior high, I played basketball.  I'll give you a moment to laugh at the following photo... (I think at least a couple of high school friends read this post.  My sincere apologies for the embarrassment of this stellar and not-at-all-awkward time in our lives!  The hair alone...wow.) I'm number 33.  You'll see the hair height before the number...
As you might have guessed, I was not a starter.  (Shocker.)  I seem to remember my occasional presence on the court at tip-off, but I don't recall that being the case unless someone was hurt or injured or otherwise benched.  I was a mediocre player, at best.  I was basically playing basketball to be cool and not have to enroll in P.E. where I truly belonged.  I was decent at keeping up and I lived for a tie ball where I would wrestle the opponent to the death for the thing. My knees still bear the court-burn scar to prove I did my fair share of hustling (and likely just falling on my own two feet).  I was not a great endurance runner, up and down the court.  I never really got the hang of dribbling and running at the same time.  It wasn't uncommon for the ball to bounce clean off my foot mid-dribble and into the other teams' hands.  I was okay-ish with catching the ball, but not praised for knowing what to do once I had it.  My worst skill was shooting the ball.  Well, I would shoot it.  My accuracy was the problem.  Although I do recall that once, in Little Dribblers, I'm pretty sure I made a basket for the other team.  My achievements know no limits.

Suffice it to say that I spent a decent amount of time on the bench, the coach's back turned to me as she went up and down the court, encouraging and instructing the star players who actually knew what the heck they were doing out there.  For the most part, I was comfortable there on the bench.  Never one to love other people staring at me and watching me fall, I was pretty much content to watch from the bench for the majority of those games.  It was easy to just fall into the background and watch others run with endurance, make many of the shots they took, and come back to the sidelines greeted with high-fives by the coach.  I will say that a fair amount of envy of those star players tiptoed over my heart.  I wanted to perform like them, to feel less awkward and more confident like them (as I was convinced they must feel), and to receive the applause and favor of the coach and the other teammates.  I mean, good gracious, I was a junior high girl.  Self-critic, extraordinaire.
Cue super-spiritual transition here...

It's been a long time since I've posted.  Or really written anything for that matter.  

Why, you ask?  Well...

I've been benched. 

I'm not sure if I benched myself or if God benched me, or if it was a little of both.  Regardless, I've been sitting on the bench with what has felt like God's back to me, arms folded, His eyes intent and focused on the court before me.  I've watched as He turned, called others to Himself, whispered in their ear, and sent them bounding off onto the court.  I've watched as He pulled others off the court with a high-five and pat on the back, allowing them a season of rest on the bench, only to be put back in ahead of me once they had caught their breath and were refreshed.  

And just like that insecure girl in junior high...I've watched those star players with envy.  They played hard.  They attempted to score and were successful much of the time.  They ran, sweated, pushed, wrestled, and came out victorious many times.  I've watched as friends and family received assignments from God and faithfully followed through.  I've watched others being blessed and rewarded for a job well done.  I've watched dreams unfold and gifts bestowed.  I've watched them struggle, for sure, but with the assurance that their coach (aka, God...am I driving this analogy into the ground yet?!) had His eyes ever-present, scanning the court and speaking encouragement and instruction from the sidelines.  

At some point about a year ago, my God fell silent.  I prayed.  I pleaded.  I praised.  I worshipped.  I studied His word.  I cried out.  I prayed and prayed and prayed.  As I would look up from the bench, I'd see Him...back to me, arms folded, eyes intent on the court.  Never glancing back.  "Put me in!  I'm ready!  Hey coach!  Put me in!!!  Please!"  Not so much as an eye twitch in my direction.

This is the part that gets hard to explain without a lot of sloppy stories that weave together perfectly in my mind but that stop in a knot at my heart.  I cannot clearly articulate at what point the shift began.  I've tried to name it, to voice where I started to get tired and head for the bench.  I cannot pinpoint the words.  All I can say is that years of anxiety and fear and going, going, going...pushing, pushing, pushing...gave way to an exhaustion and darkness like I've never before experienced with God.  I looked up one day and realized I was fully engulfed in an almost tangible darkness that seemed to swallow me whole and has kept me captive for about a year and a half.  I think they call it depression.  

{{Interlude!  I know this post is so light and fuzzy!  I sucked you in with laughing at my tall bangs in a junior high basketball photo and led you to the D-word.  Depression. Will you stick with me?}}

Have you ever felt invisible to God?  Are you a God-girl who grew up in church and knows all the truth she is supposed to remember in times of suffering?  Consider it all joy, my brothers, when you face trials of many kinds!  He feeds the birds of the air...how much more he cares for you!  And my very favorite to hear a pastor or friend bring up (hashtag, sarcasm)... "Be anxious about nothing but in everything present your prayers and petitions before God with thanksgiving.  And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus." {Philippians 4:6}  I know these truths.  I've memorized them, prayed them, yelled them, whispered them, tried to cram them deep into my heart and mind.  And here's the kicker...I believe them.  It is God's word, for heaven's sake.  I'm not attacking scripture... But man, how the Enemy's voice has yelled louder, whispered more often, and crammed lies further through the dark curtain.  I believe truth.  The problem is, in my flesh, I do. not. feel. them.

And that's it, right?  The battle between truth and flesh.  Here I stand, on the front lines, stripped of my armor, bare, and alone...staring at the back of God.  Have you ever been here?  Have you ever stood in this place, screaming to a God you can see, wondering why your screams fall silent right in front of you?

I've been there.  I am there.  I love Jesus.  I know I am a daughter of the Most High King.  I know I'm covered and sealed.  Yet, the battle rages on.  And I'll be honest...I'm pretty much sick of it.  The silence and the waiting and the stripping apart...it's getting old.  And this is not the point of the post that I wrap up this lesson in a pretty bow and tell you I've stepped out of the darkness and into the light.  Nope.  How I long to write that post!  I'm still struggling.  I'm still standing in the darkness.  I'm here, knee-deep in my story, waiting.  Waiting for Light to pierce the darkness.  I've hesitated to even share this, because I'm not to a point that I am on the other side, extending a hand of hope to you...but I can offer a baby step of hope if this is you right now...

I woke up two days ago with this post on my heart.  Do you know how long ago it was that God gave me a spark...an idea...a small something to share in writing?  A very long time.  I felt like God was speaking to me, very gently and quietly, telling me to come off the bench.  To rise up.  To move.  To begin again.  To step.  To do the Something He has for me.  

And it's not much, but maybe it's a step ahead of where you are.  And maybe your Something isn't pulling off the bench to write, but we all have a "Something".  Maybe you are waiting on God to move and respond and make The Thing happen, and your Something is H.A.R.D.  So this is my step.  This is me rising up.  And it's terrifying and wobbly and I feel like second-string.  But I'm up; I'm in the game for this moment.  I just want to encourage you, sister.  I know what darkness so thick you can't breathe feels like.  I know the painful silence.  I know the crushing weight.  Will you hold on?  Will you wait well and wait to be pulled from the bench?  I know it doesn't feel like God will ever say, "your turn".  I know it feels like rejection.  I know it feels like punishment.  I know it feels like others are more worthy, more faithful, more trusting, more obedient, more of everything you think you aren't.  I know that even hearing these things might make you roll your eyes and say that you've heard it all before.

I want to stand as a small testimony, raising a tiny Ebenezer stone today.  I'm just a half a step ahead of you, but want to tell you... He sees you and He will remember you.  I know the truth is that redemption is coming.  He is a redeeming God.  I don't see it now and you probably don't see it now, but you'll rise up again.  Stay in it.  

Praise the Lord, my soul; all my inmost being, praise His holy name.  Praise the Lord, my soul, and forget not all his benefits - who forgives all your sins and heals all your diseases, who redeems your life from the pit and crowns you with love and compassion, who satisfies your desires with good things so that your youth is renewed like the eagle's. {Psalm 103:1-5}

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