How to Deal with Discontent


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Over and over again, Seth and I have waved the banner, “Stop running. Don’t hide from your pain.” Someone who can attest more than most to this is Tanya Marlow, an online friend of mine whose courage in the face of pain has spoken truth to me for a few years now. Please do welcome her to the Wild in the Hollow Guest Post Series.
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What do you do when the feelings of discontent creep over you? There are books and books of self-help gurus who can persaude you to be grateful for what you have – and they are useful. But sometimes I think we run too quickly from the emotion of discontent, and we lose the lessons it teaches us.

Nine years ago, I climbed a mountain in the Lake District, in England. I got to the top, the wind whipping my hair, and surveyed all the land beneath me. I whooped, just a little. I didn’t know it was the last mountain I would climb.

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I have an autoimmune neurological illness, Myalgic Encephalomyelitis. It crept up slowly upon me, over ten years, slowly taking away my independence.

For almost six years I have been housebound, and my world has become smaller. These days the only land I can survey is the bedroom carpet (brown swirly splotches with stray Lego bricks dotted here and there). I spend 22 hours a day in bed.

Most of the time I am okay with being ill; I have adapted. But sometimes the grief hits me and I miss being able to walk with my husband hand in hand. I long to be able to dance in the kitchen with my son; I long for a body that does what I tell it to, a world without suffering. I long to be able to wake up and think, ‘I’ll go for a run around the park today’, and then walk down the stairs, open the door, and feel the satisfying smack of running shoes on concrete.

***

I experience it more physically than most, but we all feel it: that longing for freedom. We want to be able to try the abundance of fruit in the world, we want to do all the things, and we strain at our leash.

We are all limited. The limits are different for each of us, but there is always something: a lack of money, time, energy, space. We feel that yearning for freedom and independence, but there is a snake coiled tightly around our legs, and our feet are made of clay.

***

There are days when we forget that this world is not enough; life is full, the sky blue and clear. It feels like enough. Our world is so tantalisingly near-heaven that we fool ourselves into thinking we have already arrived.

Then there are other days which remind us that we are not home yet. As I write this, the sky is grey, and the trees silhouetted against the skyline are charcoal. I feel grey. The white net curtains overlay the window, and I remember that I cannot see clearly, and will not see clearly until heaven.

There is a stirring of memory in me that recalls a world of colour. We are homesick for Eden, homesick for heaven. 

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How do we respond when we are faced with our limitations? There are some who would tell me to focus on the positives, and concentrate on my blessings. My blessings are numerous – my relative riches, a country without warfare, supportive friends, the ability to write, a husband and son who love me. But still, every January, I look upon another year of life with chronic illness, and the landscape of my life looks pretty cold and bleak.

I am learning to lean into my longings. I long for freedom. There are good and bad motives mixed in with the longing; the pomegranates together with the hiss of the serpent. But I am learning to listen to my longings.

Sometimes the church tells me not to think about my body, and just focus on my spirit. My longings tell me that my body matters, and that in heaven I will have a body that works.

Sometimes friends tell me not to worry so much about other people, and only focus on my own family. My longings tell me that I am right to weep for the sufferings of the world, because the earth is groaning with me in eager expectation.

Sometimes the church tells me that I should not be sad, because Jesus is enough. My longings tell me that though Jesus may be enough, I do not always see Jesus clearly, feel him near. Jesus may be enough, but I do not yet have enough Jesus.

We do not walk with God quite as we did in Eden. Not yet. We need to listen to our longings. They speak truth to us.

So today I look out on a grey sky, and I feel grey, and I tell myself it is okay to feel grey. I pause awhile, close my eyes. The birds are offering a tentative song, and I feel the hope of their chirping. It is a reminder that the cloud’s covering of the sun is temporary, and one day, we will come home, we will walk with God in the cool of the day, and I will run up a mountain and survey the land of a new Eden.

Over to you: 

What longings do you have?
What spiritual truths do they tell you?
How easy do you find it to listen to your longings? To what extent does the church give us permission to do that?

unnamed-1Tanya Marlow was formerly a lecturer in Biblical Theology, now an author, broadcaster and campaigner. She loves dark chocolate, binge-watching Netflix, and laughing at her own jokes. She blogs at  Thorns And Gold, where she writes honestly about the messy edges of life and finding God in hard places. Her first book, Coming Back to God When You Feel Empty, offers a path back to God after disappointment and loss, and can be downloaded for FREE here.

A photo posted by Kelly Sauer (@kellysauer) on

If you haven’t yet read Wild in the Hollow, can can find it all over the place, in Barnes & Noble and through Amazon!

If you have read it, I appreciate your honest reviews in those places as well. Thank you always for coming here, for living real, and for celebrating my and others’ stories of desire and longing.

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22 Comments

Rachel Franklin
Reply February 8, 2016

Tanya, this is some of the most beautiful writing I've read from you. I struggle with chronic illness, too, though not nearly as severe as yours. I can relate to your longings. These days I especially relate to your words about Jesus being enough. You said it so clearly: *Jesus may be enough, but I do not yet have enough Jesus.* Thank you for such an honest offering.
I know about a hot second's worth of things for sure. But some yearnings come from such a long and mysterious lineage, I wonder if they'll die before they find out where they're from. Maybe all longings having varying capacities?

    Tanya Marlow
    Reply February 11, 2016

    Lovely Rachel! Thank you so much for this comment. And thank you for relating to the part about Jesus being enough, yet not enough - in some circles that can feel like heresy!

    Your words about some longings having a long lineage gave me goosebumps - I think there's something in that. Thanks so much for reading and taking time to comment.

Mark Allman
Reply February 10, 2016

Tanya,
I know you are still climbing mountains! Just maybe not physical ones. Your world maybe small but your reach is far. I do think there is a lot to be said about not running from our pain; to let it wash over us and to feel it's weight. It is ok to sit in the dark and not like it. For our hearts know the light is out there and one day we shall see it. To take life's bruises and punches and to feel the hurt of it all while knowing we will make it through this life because God is with us takes courage of which you have in abundance Tanya. You may not be able to dance the way you want or to run or walk but you help us all know we can face what life lays down in front of us for you do it day in and day out.

    Tanya Marlow
    Reply February 11, 2016

    Thank you so much for your encouraging words, Mark. And 'it is ok to sit in the dark and not like it' - yes!! So much. Thank you for this.

Ashley Larkin
Reply February 10, 2016

This is so profound, Tanya. Thank you for your words here. You are a mighty, tender warrior, sister.

    Tanya Marlow
    Reply February 11, 2016

    Thank you so much for stopping by, Ashley! I'm grateful for you taking the time to read. Sending you MUCH love - I always like seeing your face!

Anne Booth
Reply February 10, 2016

Dear Tanya, I re-read one of your old posts earlier today. I wasn't feeling well, and I remembered your post about how it was all right to rest and recover when you feel overwhelmed. Now, tonight, I am in bed whilst my family is at church and I have read this wonderful new post . All I have is yet another bad cold which has dragged on and has dragged me down - I read your post about your chronic illness and I found it extraordinary. I think you are so good at writing. I am so, so sorry about your chronic illness and I want to make a practice of praying for you and all who suffer like you - but I also want to thank you so much for your writing. I hope that your blog posts get made into a book - I think they help and will help so many. And now I am going to pray and let myself do some honest-to-God longing, with no self-censorship, and be with God in my rather cold-ridden, reality - the only one I have! Thank you. x And I do pray you will dance in the kitchen one day soon xxx

    Tanya Marlow
    Reply February 11, 2016

    I am such a fan of your work that it makes me VERY happy that you think I'm good at writing!!! Thank you!

    I found your words so encouraging - I'm very grateful for them.

    And I am hoping that you get better soon - a cold plus winter is not fun. It's so wearying.

Faith Hope and reality
Reply February 10, 2016

Tanya, as always your writing brings life. Leaning into our longings is so difficult - it's much easier to try to push them away. But I guess from what you say leaning in brings us closer to where the Spirit is pulling us. and that will be a good place.

    Tanya Marlow
    Reply February 12, 2016

    Thanks so much for this, lovely friend. I like the idea of leaning in to where the Soirit is pulling us.

Monika Bucher
Reply February 10, 2016

Oh Tanya, what a blessing your post is to me today, the timing is truly from the Lord, as I struggle with my recent down turn with M.E. Your honesty and courage are a great inspiration for me and I guess sooo many others out there, whatever their trials may be. Thank you from all my heart for using the 'little strength' you have to share your precious insights! To God be the glory for using you in this way and you letting Him use you! My prayers are with you!

    Tanya Marlow
    Reply February 12, 2016

    Monika, it's comments like yours that make me glad I write. Thank you for taking the time to read today. I'm praying your ME downturn is brief and that you are feeling as better as possible soon.

Melinda Viergever Inman
Reply February 12, 2016

Thank you for writing that, Tanya. Ed Cyzewski sent me. I'm a writer with a couple of autoimmune disorders, and not many understand, and here you are writing my heart. My second novel just released - Fallen, set in the Garden of Eden - so these words resonate. I, too, want more of Jesus, all of Him, face to face. So much better than staring at the ceiling and looking at the four walls and forgetting to talk to Him. Bless you, sister.

    Tanya Marlow
    Reply February 19, 2016

    Melinda, I am so happy that Ed introduced us! I love the sound of a novel set in the garden of Eden...
    Looking forward to getting to know you more

Alysa
Reply February 12, 2016

"Jesus may be enough, but I do not yet have enough Jesus."

I have never been able to express this as clearly as you just did. I live with autoimmune diseases that steal my freedom many times over. Thank you for being vulnerable and for giving us permission to feel the grey.

    Tanya Marlow
    Reply February 19, 2016

    Thank you so much for this affirmation of truth - it felt like I had hit upon something when I wrote that phrase - I'm so glad it spoke to you, too.

    But ARGH!! Sucky autoimmune illnesses. I'm with you in the grey.

Samantha Livingston
Reply February 12, 2016

A little voice told me to come here although I haven't in months. (It's not you; it's me.) This morning I felt the weight of lack. Missing a husband gone too long on travel, hungry-having not eaten yet, lean on resources. You get the picture. Instead of filling up with stuff-social media, a phone call, productivity, I laid down to rest and wait for God to fill me. Reading this later in the day, after the tasks in between, reminds me to continue leaning into Jesus from my empty places.

    Tanya Marlow
    Reply February 19, 2016

    Thanks so much for coming by, Samantha! I totally relate to the temptation to bury myself in social media, to distract from the grey and empty places. Lovely to see you here.

Elizabeth
Reply May 22, 2016

To read the honest writer is like watching them discard their clothes and stand stark naked with the truth. It's an invitation for flawed and broken, beautiful bodies to stand together in their skin and throw their own dirty clothes in and watch them spin in the wash. You give that gift by peeling back your skin and showing us your frame. Thank you

Marcy
Reply August 31, 2016

I've just come from a throw-down with Jesus. Anger and disappointment that's not been hidden so much as mitigated. I'm not home yet but here in the Land of the Living and his will has not bent around my world. There's nothing left to sacrifice. Not acceptance, not my good attitude, not my ability to take one more 'no' and turn it into thanksgiving,,,praise for what I have rather than contempt for what I haven't. I am all these things, I have all these things, I can do all of these with tied hands and blinded eyes. Genuine praise from a genuine heart, one that seems to beat to a dirge of disappointment. We're not home yet though, we're here and there's never enough here. So, I threw-down and rested in relief, came here and will continue in hope. Thank you for your honest words.
"Jesus may be enough, but I do not yet have enough Jesus."

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