Some events in our lives stop us dead in our tracks.
I read an article yesterday in our newspaper (mind the story was not local) about a woman, who while she was working at her fast food job overnight, lost her five young children and her boyfriend when their mobile home caught fire. It was one of those events outside of my own life that just halted time- loss so deep I cannot fathom. I sat there for a while just processing everything before I could start up again.
Not long after being promoted to a reporter position at work, my boss called me up on my day off. I had been lounging around- took the dog for a walk at the park, took a dip in the hot tub. In other words, having a pampered simple pleasures day. When I listened to the voice-mail on my phone, I wasn’t quite sure what he was saying was happening, but got the drift they were short reporters and if I could come in that would be a big help.
So I put off my other privileged plans and headed in. Come to find out there had been a tragic car accident. An SUV full of teenagers had careened off a winding road, flipped over a guard rail and landed upside down in a large retention pond. Two of the teens escaped and made it to the closest house to call for help. When the emergency crews arrived they didn’t know what they were in for. One after another they removed six young bodies from the submerged vehicle, all deceased. I wasn’t there for this, I was there for the aftermath.
It was a tragedy to stop you in your tracks. My job was to speak with the friends of those lost and in one instance to attend the funeral of one of the victims. It was heartrending. I was a third-party viewer in the situation, but that didn’t stop me from shedding tears at the funeral. How the families and young friends managed to continue on with daily life, I do not know.
Heartbreak is one of those paralyzing diseases, usually with a distinct beginning but with no easy cure and no light at the end of the tunnel. How do we dredge forward not knowing where the pain will end? Things that impacted us years ago have left their memory singed on our souls.
But we are resilient, we keep writing, keep breathing, move on to the next event. Do we though move simply on to the next tragedy?
I had been marking my distance in life by the scars on my heart. From one to the next, they were like rings in a tree trunk, indicators of some skewed maturity.
I haven’t been blogging much, mostly because I’ve been diving quite deep into issues of the heart and haven’t come up for air very often. For a while I think this made me light-headed and I just didn’t think at all, I tried not too at least. It was a disconcerting kind of unconscious peace.
About a month ago, I took a trip to Pittsburgh. I needed a change of scene; I needed a city, to walk on its streets, to be somewhere where it was okay to be without any more purpose than location. Trips away from home have been times to come up for air.
My friends were gracious enough to let me stay in their spare room. It had a deck overlooking the city skyline. So I would sit at night and think up there. I watched a police car zoom across the city. I thought about my life right where it was and how I am always looking for these apparent gashes in my heart to say when I’ve moved past something, mostly communities, but also people and loss of innocence and just all of these painful ordeals.
The time in between these markers I have mostly shrugged off as not as important and my testimony of Jesus had turned Him into a first responder- one of those emergency medical personnel that arrive at the crash- someone who knows what to do in a time of chaos and crisis.
And I don’t know that I have had one of those crises for a while being home, so how do I gauge where my life is on this subconscious timeline? The chaos ended when I left Columbus, well in about May of Columbus when I left a community there, but that is for another post.
The transition home and settling into a different lifestyle took some shaking and sifting for pieces to fall into place, especially when the big piece of needing church didn’t appear and I had to nestle myself into a different shape to handle this lack. At the time it was a huge deal. Now after a while, not so much.
I can’t think of a good metaphor to describe it, but being an individual takes space and we don’t realize how dependent we’ve emotionally or spiritually become on others until they are taken away.
It’s a testing, a fortifying. And I can’t say I have passed the test, I can’t say I have put a 100% effort into things either. In fact though, putting in the effort was some times about my own pride. Yes, I care what others think about me, but for me to care what I think about myself even got stripped away while here. In my base form I am not a very lovely person. Maybe it took taking everything away to see that, to see that there is only One who makes all things beautiful.
I try to stand on my own and it’s not a pretty sight. I have pointed a lot of fingers during this “in-between time,” I didn’t know what to do after a period of time without having a marking point of crisis and so instead determined the whole time must be terrible.
I questioned whether God needed to break my legs for me to come out of the desert leaning on Him. As it turns out, on my own in the desert, I simply found I am a cripple in my base form, unable to stand on my own let alone walk. And that breaks a lot of pride.
I went on a trip around Lake Erie, more breathing time. I stopped in Detroit for a day, drove through Canada and to Niagara Falls. Then I spent the night in a hostel in Buffalo. When I awoke in the hostel one of the women staying in my room had broken her arm overnight. She was travelling alone. I helped her get ready to leave, stripped her bed linens, packed her bags, I even dressed her and brushed her teeth. (Yeah I guess this could have been gross and awkward, but some pills you swallow. And when He says “you clothed me when I was naked” I can respond “Yes, I remember that.”)
With a broken arm this woman could do virtually nothing but talk. With my broken perspective I couldn’t do much but wail, point fingers and eventually break down my pride in need of help.
Maybe when I leave the desert it will be leaning out of gratefulness. For not every dry space is a curse. The bottom of the Red Sea, the bottom of the Jordan, these were miracles. Maybe it is important to note that God knows when He is holding back the waters. A pastor said the other day that Paul was in jail on a scholarly leave so he could write the gospels. I like that idea.
I like this God I have rediscovered, I like that I can cry out to Him, that I can swing my fists, that I can tell Him how upset I am at Him for the times I feel abandoned or hurt by Him, for the times I feel He has been unjust. Yes, He has made me resilient. But more over His markers for my life aren’t about pain and I don’t want to look at life that way anymore. I want to float where I am, slowly working up my appetite for Him again, keeping my pride at bay. It’s okay to go slow, it’s okay to question, I’d venture to say it’s okay to take a break.
We think this journey to find ourselves is one that will end with a great unveiling of a sculpted masterpiece, leaving even ourselves in awe. And it can be if we let the Sculptor be part of the process.
Mindsets don’t change with the flip of a switch. I’m still working on all of these things, but I’m not going to wait on this post to have a definite answer for this phase of life. It’s an in-between one, just floating there open-ended, because the next crisis isn’t going to be what closes it, because the good times and blessings take open eyes and less self judgement.