I'm dreaming. Even though I’m fast asleep, I know this is a dream. But the sensation that I'm spinning out of control feels so real, and it's so overwhelming, that I'm jolted awake. As I open my eyes, I find myself reaching to grab ahold of something...anything. Unable to focus on what's in front of me, I'm now living an extension of my dream as the room, quite literally, is spinning in circles. I feel like I'm riding a souped-up tilt-a-whirl with no end in sight.
It takes every bit of my energy just to force myself to sit up and put my feet on the floor. Having done so, I'm now sitting on the side of my bed, looking straight ahead and trying to focus on the dresser across the room. There's just enough light from the street light through the window that I can barely see it. With my feet on the floor and my eyes focused forward, I'm now riding the storm out, literally trying to convince my mind into believing what I know to be true but can’t feel…that I really am just sitting still. “Ride this out man, just ride whatever this is out! You're gonna be fine. Father God, please make this stop.”
Our body's ability to maintain balance is an amazing system. Three things work together to do this. Our eyes, feet, and inner ears. The inner ear is its own amazing system in itself, with crystals floating in a small pool of liquid. As they move around in the liquid, they contact tiny hairs that send signals to our brain about where we are in relation to the world around us...whether we're sitting, walking, laying down, etc. Our feet and eyes then confirm for our brains the information being received from the inner ear, and thus we're able to maintain balance.
Sometimes, the crystals in the inner ear can become dislodged or clustered together in such a way that they don't work as designed. When this happens, incorrect signals are sent to the brain. We may be laying down, but our inner ear is telling our brain we're walking. The mixed information confuses the brain as it tries to process conflicting information from our eyes, feet and inner ears. The result is called vertigo, characterized by a sensation of spinning and dizziness, and often associated with nausea. The sensation is magnified when you remove another of the three. Close your eyes, and it gets worse. Lay down, and it worsens again. Lay down and close your eyes, and...well, just hold on for the ride, cuz it's fixin' to get crazy up in here!
There's no specific reason this condition affects any particular person. When I asked my doctor why—at the age of 41—is this now all of a sudden happening, he replies with a shrug of his shoulders, "bad luck." Really?! Here we are in the 21st century, and with all our billions of dollars poured into technological advancements in medicine and science...and that's all you got? Bad luck?
Turns out that while it can be brought on by an injury, it also just happens sometimes. No rhyme or reason. Young and old. Overweight and skinny. Unhealthy and healthy. Men and women. All are equally susceptible to just be walking through the course of any normal day and BAM! Here you go...let's try this vertigo thing out for a while and see how you fare not being able to balance or focus.
I’ve discovered that our walk of faith is very similar. We can be walking along, seemingly doing everything right. Growing in our understanding of what it means to be a disciple of Jesus; studying the word daily; discipling others in the truth; leading our families spiritually; leading or serving in successful ministries; witnessing and sharing the Gospel with the lost. And then BAM! Something happens that sends our life into a tailspin. The death of a loved one; a misstep in our judgement or decision making; marital infidelity or divorce; a job layoff; a car accident; or a diagnosis of a life-threatening illness like cancer.
Maybe we didn't do anything to cause the tailspin we've found ourselves in, but we're still in it nonetheless. With all the strength we can muster to stabilize the chaos, we try to keep our focus on what's important, rather than the distractions all around us. But it's hard, isn't it? To overcome the tailspin, we have to open our eyes and find something that’s not moving to direct our focus. For me back on that early morning in 2014, waking up with vertigo for the first time, it was the dresser.
But in life, that “something” is God. He is immovable, unshakable, unwavering, and always there. We have to find Him and focus on Him. “The LORD is my rock, my fortress and my deliverer; my God is my rock, in whom I take refuge, my shield and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold” Psalm 18:2. When we find Him in the storm and keep our focus on Him to avoid the distractions and waves crashing all around us, we can re-center ourselves and regain our focus and balance. When we come out on the other side, our faith will have grown stronger, and we’ll be better equipped for the next storm.
“Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a huge crowd of witnesses to the life of faith, let us strip off every weight that slows us down, especially the sin that so easily trips us up. And let us run with endurance the race God has set before us. We do this by keeping our eyes on Jesus, the champion who initiates and perfects our faith. Because of the joy awaiting him, he endured the cross, disregarding its shame. Now he is seated in the place of honor beside God's throne" Hebrews 12:1-2 (emphasis added by me).
In these crazy busy seasons of life when life just gets to spinning out of control, it helps me to picture a house. God is the roof, covering and protecting us. His Word, the four walls that hold it all together. The Holy Spirit, the air within it…filling every part of it…present in every room. And Christ? Well, Christ is the cornerstone upon which it’s all built… “built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, with Christ Jesus Himself as the cornerstone. The whole building, being put together by Him, grows into a holy sanctuary in the Lord” Ephesians 2:20-21.