I’m pretty sure my mom was my first love; I’ve always been a momma’s girl. And yet, my grandmother was my favorite. She doesn’t remember me much these days; in fact, she doesn’t even know my name. As hard as I have grieved with her still here on this earth trapped inside her body because of Alzheimer’s, I have realized that it doesn’t matter that she doesn’t know who I am, or that she can’t remember my face, because I will never forget hers. Not ever. Our love and bond remain inside of my heart. As she fades and memories quickly escape her, love lives on and refuses to die inside a remembering heart. She can’t retrace her former steps anymore and reminds me of all the reason why we should.
One of the signs of Alzheimer’s is that you become frustrated because you can no longer retrace steps and figure out where you have been or what you are looking for. You can’t go back because you don’t know where “back” is. I think the process of healing and moving forward is much the same, retracing steps and figuring out what pieces of you are missing. It seems to me that we spend so much of the time looking for the missing pieces and traces of who we are and even more strained effort trying to deny the void exists. It hits me with such force that we have been trapped as well; locked up inside and stuck, with no diagnosis for our soul sickness to help it all make sense. We want a magic pill and quick healing because we are afraid. We want to skip steps, not retrace broken ones.
These inward missing things and retracing steps, what does this mean, this process of going back so that we can move forward?
Can we say, “Lord, I believe but help my unbelief”? Can we let our belief and the sum of our mustard seed sized faith dance together with our unbelief, trusting that our minuscule amount of faith can give way to possibility? Or even deepen our faith in such a way that the believing side of us is much stronger than the unbelieving side.
In Mark 9 we find a desperate father pleading on behalf of his broken boy.
Then they brought him to Him. And when he saw Him, immediately the spirit convulsed him, and he fell on the ground and wallowed, foaming at the mouth. So He asked his father, “How long has this been happening to him?” And he said, “From childhood. And often he has thrown him both into the fire and into the water to destroy him. But if You can do anything, have compassion on us and help us.” Jesus said to him, “If you can believe, all things are possible to him who believes.” Immediately the father of the child cried out and said with tears, “Lord, I believe; help my unbelief!” When Jesus saw that the people came running together, He rebuked the unclean spirit, saying to it: “Deaf and dumb spirit, I command you, come out of him and enter him no more!” (Mark 9:20-25 NKJV)
Jesus spoke to the deaf and dumb spirit, commanding it to leave and enter the broken boy no more. Once again I am reminded of just how much the enemy wants to silence our voice and the words that God has called us to speak. We accept the enemy of our soul’s accusations that God could never use someone who has walked such dusty, broken roads and our voice becomes muffled, and then mute.
We wallow on the dirty earth, throwing ourselves into the fire and water, trying to destroy the brokenness that has been with us for far too long. We have exhausted all other resources trying to fix and fill up our missing pieces. We have turned to people and pleasures and trifle things hoping to validate the bottomless soul void wrestling with our unbelief while we cling to a fragment of faith wondering if it’s enough. God is not mad that those polar opposites, belief and unbelief dwelling together inside of us. He says, “All things are possible if you believe, let me help you with the things you don’t.” I can fix that broken girl inside, the one that has been there since childhood, and make her whole and fierce with faith.
The goal is not that we would no longer wrestle with belief mingled with disbelief, the goal is that our believing, brave self will win because the God inside of us is greater than the sum of all that we are not. We can be so close to our healing and so afraid of it at the same time. It has always been that invisible, childhood companion disguised a friend. But, it’s not a friend at all; it’s a stronghold. There is no greater baggage than the one that says, “It has always been this way.” And so you make peace with the familiar and welcome it as apart of the makeup of who you are. You accept it as your spiritual and genetic DNA. Perhaps that is part of the problem and our equivalent of throwing ourselves into the fire and into the water.
This ability, the retracing of steps can and will propel us forward if we will let it. When I walk into a room temporarily forgetting what I was actually doing in the first place, which apparently becomes more familiar as we age and mother in a distracted world, I know that eventually I will remember what I was supposed to be doing and I’ll do it. Grandma can’t do that anymore. I close my eyes and I see her scribbles and notes on oversized calendars, you see, she was always trying to keep up with what mattered most, her family. It was her way of remembering and I’m sure she realized this slipping of mind space and her need to retrace steps to go back in hopes of remembering. Post-it notes and scraps of paper with messages littered the area next to her phone. She didn’t want to forget her most important things in life.
So, maybe just maybe, it is hard-wired in each of us to retrace steps as part of the problem solving process both in the mundane day-to-day routines as well as our emotional state of wellbeing. To own it by remembering it and wrestle with what it taught you, that place where forgiveness takes place and belief and disbelief mingle together. A place where you admit you possess both, believing and disbelief, asking God for the believing side of your heart to be enlarged and greater because of who God says He is, not because of who you are.
Retrace steps to remember where you have been, not to cripple who you are becoming.
Retrace steps to acknowledge the baggage so you can disown it and unpack it. Let it go for good, so you can walk uncharted territories. Beautiful steps are waiting.
photo credit: Maria Webster