During a trying season in my life, I experienced chronic heart palpitations. I knew they were most likely stress related but I have always hated the way they feel! For me, each palpitation felt represents an uncontrollable doubt. There is really nothing that you can do for heart palpitations – unless you like taking meds – which I don’t! Even then, you’re not guaranteed they will stop the symptoms. They are scary and very uncomfortable – but for me, despite how they feel…they are harmless. Each palpitation I felt, I registered as dangerous and threatening to my life. I struggled with anxiety that flooded my system each time I felt the sensation of a missed beat, an early beat or a skipped beat. It would trigger a reaction that would immediately inject fear and panic into my very core. So, off to the doctor I go for the assurance that I would in fact, be okay.
After a brief visit, she sent me home with a halter monitor for me to wear in hopes they could capture what was going on electrically in my heart since all of the mechanical components had received the all clear. So, I wore the monitor home on a Friday which required me to wait out the entire weekend with these horrific heart sensations…alone. With no doctor’s offices open on the weekend to call or visit for the assurance that I would be okay, I was in for a long weekend full of the anxiety that plagued me for fear of what might happen.
Monday morning couldn’t have come soon enough. I loaded up in my car and headed to the Medical Center in Houston to return the monitor so I could get the results ASAP. Did I mention my doctor’s office is located in one of the many medical towers that are in Houston? Yes, a tower. Twenty-seven floors tall in fact…maybe higher but that’s the highest floor you can access via elevator. Anyways, I arrived and got to the base floor where patients catch the express elevator up to the floor their provider is on. I pressed the call button to let the system know someone was there waiting. It arrived within seconds, opened it’s doors and invited me in for a trip to the twenty-seventh floor (yes, the top!)
I entered quickly and pressed the button labeled twenty-seven, then stepped aside as other passengers loaded on and did the same. The doors closed and I realized the other two women that had loaded onto the elevator with me had not a care in the world (or it would seem.) They were visiting and laughing, sharing stories of their weekend before and as I listened to their chatter, the elevator began to shake slightly. My first instinct was very similar to the reflex response I have when experiencing a palpitation. However, I quickly dismissed the feeling as a side effect of the circumstance: all elevators shake to some degree. In that split second moment, I heard God so clearly it literally made my heart sink with guilt, shame and disgust in myself. I realized in that moment, I had more faith and trust in an elevator than I did for my loving Creator.
I had spoken the words “I have faith” and acted out to the same degree for so long – it never even registered to me that I actually had a roadblock up preventing myself from fully trusting in God. All the years I thought I had that faith…I thought I had trusted God completely with my life, but I was wrong. It was like a huge smack in the forehead (with a two by four) that made me realize I had only spoken the words and never allowed the meaning of faith and trust to penetrate my deepest self. I never fully trusted God.
I admit, I am a little timid on elevators – but, twenty-seven flights of stairs would be an exhausting hike just for the fear of something “maybe” happening. It was worth the risk of taking the elevator, which I always did without question. So, if I always take the risk of stepping into an elevator (faith) and to let go of any fears or silence them with a voice of truth when things get shaky (trust) to free myself from the unthinkable climb of twenty-seven stories…why wouldn’t I have that kind of faith in God to trust Him the same? Where was the faith I had claimed to have in Him?
You know, it never even crossed my mind that if I stepped into the elevator it wouldn’t get me to where I needed to go. As I pressed the button, I had the kind of faith that trusted my next stop would be the selected floors myself and the other passengers pressed as we entered into the mechanical box. My visual got even more vivid as I began to think about this as a paradox to my Christian walk. I know I am in the building (saved by the blood of Christ,) but it was more like I had been taking the stairs in my life of faith versus stepping into God and trusting Him to get me safely to the floor He wanted me to be at.
My marriage, motherhood, identity, friendships, commitments, God, parents, etc…they were all dispersed in this building and all on different floors. So, needless to say, I was always exhausted from the strength it took daily to walk up and down the stairs as I faced each area of life. Often times, I would arrive to a floor only to realize it was the wrong one and failed to be in the right place for someone else, myself or even worse, God! Let’s face it – only God truly knows where we are supposed to be! I went home and thought about this so deeply and so personally! The question kept taunting me…why don’t I have the kind of faith in God to trust Him completely? I kept calling it an “Elevator Faith!”
God is so good in that He almost always gives us the knowledge we need before we even understand how to apply it. I had recently done a study that addressed how our view of God is crucially affected by how we viewed our parents (or primary caregivers) in the early developmental years of our lives. Growing up there was a lot of dysfunction within my home and while my parents did the best they could at the time, they did not protect me from the harm that occurred almost daily in my childhood. They were consumed with work, school, each other, trying to make ends meet, their social life, trying to care for my sister, the list literally goes on – but, I often felt as though I just existed within our home as a product of circumstances.
I think my family operated under the terms: if we ignore it, then it isn’t real. However, even though they seemed to ignore what was happening – the pain was very real and very damaging to me. Anytime I brought a complaint to them, they would dismiss it as if I was over reacting, deserving of the pain, or that I needed to try harder to prevent it from happening at all. I eventually lost faith in them that they would do anything to protect me. It was easier for them to ignore the complaints than to acknowledge the truth and face it. So, the pain didn’t stop, the hurt didn’t stop but my cries for help did. I faced my pain alone. I adapted and tried my best to make my parent’s lives as easy as possible so they didn’t have to take on the burden of one more problem to deal with. I worked as hard as I could to be the best, perform the best, and to ignore my needs for the sake of getting positive attention from my them. When I performed with greatness, I felt seen in my tiny little box of a world.
I think for most of us, we learn that being exceptional at things gains some kudos that lights us up inside – but when I received this earned attention, I confused it for the love and protection I so desperately needed to feel. Protection sounds a bit odd right? You may be wondering, how performing exceptionally provided protection for me. Well, I felt protected in a way because the moments I spent in the spotlight kept me safe from the darkest shadows in my life. After all, no one will commit a crime in the spotlight…right? However, the spotlight always faded and it was up to me to find the next source of power to tap into for another spot.
So, in reading that – you may have some understanding from this little snapshot of my childhood as to how I might view anyone in a role that is supposed to love, protect, or guide me, as well as for me to be capable of having any faith or trust in them at all. Also, you may see how I’d grow to believe that my words, my works, and my actions were all that I had to help me feel protected and “loved.” I became the master of performing! So much so, I was swallowed up in my own belief of my many performances. No wonder I thought I was living out faith and trust in my Christian life.
I fooled myself for so long! However, you can’t fool the Creator. He sees EVERYTHING. Did I mention, God sees everything…especially the things we hide away from the world and ourselves? Thank goodness He didn’t allow me to live out my life as a blinded fool! Except, the hard part comes in – once you know a truth exists – you have to acknowledge and modify your life to begin a change or make room for growth! Otherwise, it would be no different from my parents who heard the truth and even saw it at times, but chose to live in denial.
So, here it is. The ugly root to my DNA of trust. Pretty heavy stuff, huh? As I began to peel back the layers of a broken past – to try and understand where I had malfunctioned – it was clear! I never learned to trust in anyone, but myself. I protected me in the best ways I could. I consoled myself on the nights I could do nothing but cry myself to sleep. I was wired to depend on me for survival – both emotionally and physically. So, with this discovery…I began to pray to God: Please help me learn to trust in You. Help me understand what trust is. Help me have an “Elevator Faith” in You!
While I know I am still a full work in progress…I think this realization brought me closer to God than ever before. It’s the first time I saw that in all my desperate attempts to keep my world safe, controlled, and predictable – God, has the ultimate control over it all. For me to even think or believe that I have any relevance at all in the daily workings of His plan, is foolish! However, it took me a lifetime to build the pattern of relying on myself, so it will take time to build a pattern to trust in Him. Just knowing God is working in me to renew this part of my mind brings me peace and hope that one day, my reflex in the moments of shakiness will be to trust God. To trust He will see me arrive on the right floor – no matter how bumpy the ride. And, one day, my Elevator will stop on the ultimate floor and I’ll forever be with Him. Until that day comes…Lord, keep me in You and out of the stairwell.