The Thinnest Thread Across a Chasm: I Survived.

001-blue


I did this photo shoot a few years ago with a ton of smiles and silly faces—but this picture was a bit closer to how I was really feeling. It was during one of the most miserable seasons of life, when depression had hit full force and I was contemplating The End every waking moment. I had gained over twenty lbs from binging and I randomly fell asleep in my office and I kept letting go of the steering wheel, daring myself to crash. No one knew what was happening; I tried to tell someone but he laughed it off: “Look at you, how could you be so stressed when you’re so blessed?” So I kept up the smiles and silliness, all while my insides were wax dipped in acid, melted to the thinnest thread, stretched between bones across a chasm. I was Zeno’s paradox, motionless in motion. I was begging God to kill me.

I wanted to give up: but no. God said no. He was stubborn, and so I was, too. I hustled. I fought the dark with everything, both fists swinging, screaming and laughing at the same time, crawling by my bare fingernails to the lip of the well I had been cast down. Slowly, painfully, somehow, I made it through, mostly because I kept waking up and I was astounded to find myself still breathing, and because I gained ground by inches. Colors returned; the fog lifted over time; I found people I could tell; I got a dog and I lost the weight and I survived. It’s not as romantic as it sounds, and I don’t know if the next one will win. But that time, at least, I did. He did. God didn’t answer my prayer then, and it was the best “no” that I’ve ever gotten. I’m here, just barely. So is He, completely.
J.S. Park

Advertisements

The Brutally Honest Surgical Self-Confrontation


Why doesn’t Nathan simply rebuke David on the spot? Why the long story and the strategic side-tackle?

It’s because before confronting ourselves, we need to undo our self-righteousness.

We each have a nearly impenetrable fortress of resistance when we’re called out on our wrongs. It keeps us blind to our blindness.

The way that God punches through David’s self-deception is one of the most lauded turns of literary brilliance in written history. Nathan doesn’t simply accuse David. Nathan peels back David’s self-righteousness by turning his rules against him. David is knocked over by the weight of his own standards. The very mechanism by which David has condemned the guilty to cover his guilt is turned on himself. His excuses have become his own liability, like a sword with a blade on both ends. It’s what Jesus meant when he said, “For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.”  

David required a brutally honest confrontation, but it would take more than a lesson in theology or a list of sins. No one changes that way.

God rebukes David by first removing any possibility of an excuse or objection.
God revokes David’s self-righteous capacity to absolve his own sin.
David needed to confront himself, before the sight of God, without the slimmest avenue of escape or deflection.

If you want any hope of change, freedom, progress, recovery, and growth: you’ll need to confront yourself, too. It’ll be the most painful thing you’ve ever done, because we’re so used to protecting our fragile, brittle egos. But it’s more painful to stay stuck in the lie.

If you’ve ever tried to confront your friend about their thing, you were amazed at their automatic defenses and sudden snarling. I’m sometimes surprised by my own excuses, too. When I’m guilty, I attack. It’s the perfect way to get out of accountability. When someone does something wrong, it’s all their fault, but when I do something wrong, it’s my environment or my family or my stress. When we get caught red-handed, we go into a monologue of rehearsed responses that we almost really believe, because it took so many steps of rationalizations to get there.

When you want to escape by saying, “Well-what-about-them?” — God will twist you around to say, “Well-what-about-me?” The only thing that will destroy hypocrisy is humility. Part of humility is to quit holding up a mirror at others and to use it on myself first.

For the first time in a long time, David is being honest with himself before God. He lets the truth undress him. There’s no place for him to run. His own judgment has betrayed him, and this is how God will work on us, too. He will dislocate your blame, one excuse at a time, until you really take a look at yourself and see you as you really are.

J.S. Park | The Life of King David

David: Chronic Doubter, Constant Believer

P1020145


One of the most remarkable things about David was his doubt.

All through the Psalms, we see David contending with his doubts about God. Whenever there’s a stanza of praise, it follows just as quickly with despair and confusion.

There are so many Psalms where David is singing in a flowery refrain of awe, but out of nowhere, he’ll say, “Do I not hate those who hate you, O LORD, and abhor those who rise up against you? I have nothing but hatred for them; I count them my enemies.”   It’s all going so well, until you turn the page. These are like cysts that swell over the canvas, so jarring and troubling that you won’t see them on coffee cups and Twitter.

David was really all over the place in his faith.

But just as much as David interrupts his own Psalms with rage and grief, these are rolled over by a sudden clarity of God’s goodness, like a splash of cold water for bruised, bent hands. Most of the Psalms have a Turn, an about-face resolve where David recalls the truth about God’s sovereignty. These upward Turns don’t solve the situation, but they break David’s fear and paralysis, and keep a terrible season of life from making him just as terrible.

These sharp Turns in the Psalms are a frail and feeble call to remember God in the midst of so much distress. The deepest of David was calling out to deep.
In David’s prayer-life, we see both severe drops into depression and sudden bolts of euphoria, and we find a point of dizzying tension.

David managed to live with both complete joy and complete sorrow at the same time. He had a foot in the heavens and a toe in the abyss. He had a frighteningly pessimistic view of the world in the worst of his questions, but he was absolutely optimistic about a God who was working all things together.

David let the gravity of his hopelessness sink in. The Psalms are full of yelling because David and the other psalmists don’t hide under false coping mechanisms to dampen the pain. They hardly ever run to thrills and pills and religion and therapy, and if they do, they just as quickly run back. David allows the emptiness of his heart to take full course until the bottom gives out, so that he has no other choice but to find refuge in a bottomless God. The resolve of every Psalm could only come by scraping along the walls of a downward spiral, until there was a landing. It’s in our full-on grief that we find the fullness of grace.

— J.S. Park | The Life of King David


Everyone’s Screwed Up, Busted Up, and Catching Up: And That’s Okay

image

I don’t think I’ve ever really met anyone who is living out of a full cup.

What I mean is: Everyone lives a lot further ahead than they really are, giving advice they don’t follow and loving others without any love for themselves and running on empty all the time. We’re all on fumes.

I’m finding out this is okay for today, and no lifetime is meant to be lived in a day.

There’s this Secret Guilt going around that we’re all halfway hypocritical frauds who will maybe one day catch up to an awesome version of ourselves. It’s a desperate hope that we’ll eventually do what we’re preaching with our mouths and our blogs. And then we blow up or flip a table or punch a wall and that monster comes out, and we think “Where did that even come from?” — and the Guilt chokes the pit of our stomach again.

The finality of settling into your own skin never arrives.

We co-exist with the monster.

I remember a famous pastor who deleted his entire backlog of podcasts from his first years of preaching.  Because he “no longer agreed” with those old messages.  I thought it was pretty humble.  But I also thought, What about those people who heard those old messages?  What if they followed through on that stuff?  Are they just screwed?  And ten years from now will you delete your stuff from today?

Every artist I’ve met says their first drawing, song, poem, novel, or dance routine was unworthy. They’re hard on their first creations. You know, that whole “you are your own worst critic” paranoia. But: Don’t we all have to purge these things before moving onto greatness?  And what about those people who enjoyed the first creations?  Are they just idiots?

Everyone keeps saying, “I used to be so stupid.”  Or, “I was so empty when I taught that thing.”  Or, “I didn’t even deserve to preach that sermon on marriage, my own marriage was failing.”  Or, “I wasn’t even following my own advice.”

It’s a reoccurring pattern.  No one ever thinks they’re good enough to do what they’re doing.  Or they think now they’re okay, but everything before today was terrible.  “I finally found my voice,” they say, which is at once a victory and an admission of defeat.

It’s scary to think we’re always walking in the dark, the light dissipating just out of reach.

Continue reading “Everyone’s Screwed Up, Busted Up, and Catching Up: And That’s Okay”

Waiting To Die, I Survived — A Testimony

MAG cover pose


The doctors were sure if I fell asleep, I wouldn’t wake up. 

It was too late to pump my stomach. Half a bottle of Excedrin. They were about to insert the tube down my throat. Instead they fed me liquid charcoal to neutralize the acid. My vomit was the color of midnight, of tar.

I waited. I fell asleep. 

You can feel death, you know.  It’s like someone is unraveling a thread at the back of your skull, like sinking into yourself.  My legs felt like they were dangling in water. My life didn’t flash before my eyes. It would’ve been so easy to keep falling, to sink, to follow the thread to the bottom.

But in that moment, hanging over the abyss — there it was.  Not some neon sign or some grand eloquent entrance, not a voice from the rafters, but a simple expression of something beyond this world. 

“You’re not done yet.  You have more. You have Me.”

I woke up.  I was Baker Act’ed into a mental hospital. I wore someone else’s clothes. A man with a clipboard asked me questions about my father. A patient in the next room pulled the fire alarm and tried to jump out the window. Another patient tried to fight me. I was let out after regaining “social acceptability.” I lost thirteen pounds in three days and had roomed with others who had far worse problems than I. 

Back into the sunlight, I suddenly didn’t want to waste my life anymore.  I couldn’t stand the thought of having died in that hospital bed.

I wanted to believe it all had meaning,

that a purpose awaited me,

that I was made to save a corner of this universe,

that I am much more than what I feel. 

It took inches before death to find the beginning of trusting Him. Maybe part of trusting God was trusting that He might actually like me — not because of what I could do, but simply because I was breathing the air He had whispered into my lungs.

I thought of the verse: It does not profit a man to gain the whole world but lose his soul. If this is true, it means your soul and mine has infinitely more value to God than the whole world.  For every person who is tired of living, God says,

You’re not done yet. 

You have more. 

You have Me.

– J.S. | Mad About God