The world looks different when you’re on the other side of the beeping heart monitor. That’s what I have to say for a month of silence.
I didn’t mean to go. I sort of slid away. It happens like that, sometimes. It starts small. It starts with a flutter in your chest, so small it’s like butterfly wings. And in the weeks to come it spirals and grows until you start to wonder if you will make it. Until you cry in the ER have angry welts from the electrodes of your heart monitor. Until the panic attacks come in waves. Until you see them and know them.
“Test me…know my anxious thoughts…lead me…give me something everlasting…” I ask that you forgive my paraphrase. It says there, in that song, that I am made all full of fear and wonder. For the first time, I begin to understand. It isn’t just the twenty something wearing a heart monitor and having panic attacks.It isn’t just me. It’s a mother’s eyes, wondering if this baby will walk or talk. Wondering why they thought this could be okay. Wondering how this happens again.It’s the guy trying to figure out how he ended up here, and how he is going to get his life under control again. It’s the old woman who talks to her husband years after his death. It’s all these people. It’s myself and all of us.
Being alive is all this fear and wonder. The peeling away of the shakable, the mortal, is this mix of pain and fear and the thrill of being rid of it. The moment where Lewis talks of peeling the scab. Likewise, the immortal part…the wonder of the things that will go on. The beauty. At the same time the fear of the infinite. The fear of a void. (We are afraid, and yet it calls to us.) And in the tension, we are anxious. We are waiting.
I wonder, sometimes, if we can learn to praise all at once for the fear and the wonder. This fear has opened me to myself. I feel every pulse, every moment of this body. All of it working all day, and I am just aware of it. Just barely. I am overcome with the wonder of it. Overcome with the bigness of a God who could hold it. And yet I am afraid. Of these parts. Of a stray pulse, a quiver of muscle. And yet I am afraid of God.
I almost wanted to talk about abortion. About the way the lives of these ones, these who almost weren’t, are full of more wonder than I can fathom. About Abby’s eyes when she sings. I was going to tell you that I can praise Him for the way the fear of next moments or not having them, the way that fear opens up this wonder that today they are still here, with us. Through all the fear, they are full of such wonder that they almost don’t belong to us. And I couldn’t figure out how to say it.
But maybe we praise Him because He is not one who gives fear without wonder. He is not one who strikes down to the point of destruction. He is the one who puts this precious light, the one He spoke into the universe, into this fragile jar. Such wonder in a fragile, fearful shell. He is not one who brings us darkness without stars.
With Ebola and war and all of it surrounding us, the fear comes quickly. I am trying to see it like these kids do. I am trying to lay back, in the middle of all of it, and see the wonder. Trying to let it come through the beating pulse in my wrist. Trying to praise Him. Trying to let Him know the anxious thoughts, and to let him lead me into the thoughts that don’t end in tears. The ones that don’t end at all.
The ones all full of fear and wonder.