Friday, June 17, 2011

A Message From the Night Shift

The first few weeks of meeting with my counselor, I couldn't get thru a session without sobbing and asking for reassurance that I wasn't just totally crazy.  The details of the last 12 years had taken their toll.  My helper finally said, "I've been so worried about you.  You are not crazy.  Your life has been crazy-making, but you are not crazy.  In fact, I can't think of a single client I've worked with that can identify with your story. Some people would understand one part, some another. But, I fail to remember a single person I've dealt with that can say they have had everything on their plate that you have.  Not one. It is no wonder you feel as if folks can't understand you or your situation.  They can't because they can't absorb the totality of it."

Courtesy Mad Penguin Creative
Then, she quietly and  kindly explained that if I had exhibited only 2 more symptoms, I'd qualify as a PTSD patient.  I recoiled. Me? Have something in common with someone coming back from a combat zone? She showed me the diagnostic criteria. I broke out in a cold sweat....not a good sign if you are hoping to refute a PTSD-related diagnosis. Oh, MY! The signs and symptoms of 'traumatic stress reaction' seemed hauntingly familiar.  Say like...if I had written them myself.

So, there it was. I was totally broken. I had, my helper insisted, to learn to take care of me for a change, or there would not be a me left to take care of.   The news settled in around me like a cold fog--at once both numbing me and filling me with a bone cracking cold.

She asked me what I thought about the book . "Surely," she said, "You have been laboring on the night shift. One who has not labored there has no idea what it is like to be a night shift laborer. It can feel incredibly lonely. It is easy to feel loved by God when you draw the day shift assignments of life. Not so much when it is cold and dark with no light in sight. You have never had time to recover from one thing when the next one erupts.  You have no margin left. Any stress makes your bucket slosh over.  You are spent."

Courtesy Mad Penguin Creative
My stranglehold on composure ruptured, and the fountains erupted again. "Here's what I'll tell you I know about that book!  I get it! I told God:

I give up! I get it! You don't have any use for me and don't want to use me to do whatever it is you are doing in that grand plan of yours to help a hurting world. I get it. You don't need me! I've always wanted to be part of your plan, but I finally get it. There's nothing I can do for you. So, I GIVE UP!

That is what I know about what I read in that book!" I exclaimed. If I could have, I would have curled up in a fetal position of defeat.

She let my raw emotion ebb.  She did what Job's friends did when they got it right. She sat with me in solitude and let me grieve my losses.  She didn't cluck and assure me I was wrong. She didn't chide me because of my lack of faith.  She didn't try to cheer-lead me into claiming some greater glory that was not mine to claim that day. She sat with me in solitude allowing me to be broken by the trauma and chaos that had unfolded between 1999 and 2011.

Courtesy Mad Penguin Creative
Then, she began to nudge, prod, and gently insist that I do what I've always wanted to do.  Write.  "Don't come back to see me," she teasingly threatened, "unless you have applied for a scholarship to the writer's conference."  And the rest, as they say, is history. Here I am writing. Writing my way back to God, I hope.

If you are cold and lonely and have been on the night shift so long that you have forgotten what the sun is like, I'm your girl. I get it. You don't even have to groan much less give me a well crafted paragraph. I get it.  Sometimes on the darkest, coldest nights, I'd say, "God, I can't even pray anymore.  Please let someone out there who knows me remember to pray for me...."

During these days that I feel I am wrestling with God, and sometimes man, I still can't pray a lot. On those days, I do pray one thing, "God..somewhere out there today is someone who feels forgotten and alone in the cold and dark of the night shift.  I can't pray for me, but I am praying for them.  Even tho' I don't know who they are to call a name...I am praying for them. Somehow...let him or her know it...let them know and feel the power of my prayer for them today."  If that was for your fraidy cat...I mean it...every single word and every time I say it. 

Courtesy Mad Penguin Creative
We are about half way into our journey thru the circumstances that have delivered me to the place I am tonight.  If you'll come back, I'll tell you the last half. And, in the process, I hope we will figure out something about God that we didn't know before.

Psalm 91: 14-16
"Because he loves me," says the Lord, "I will rescue him; I will protect him, for he acknowledges my name. He will call upon me, and I will answer him; I will be with him in trouble, I will deliver him and honor him. With long life will I satisfy him and show him my salvation."


  1. Keep writing and keep praying because He's there!! Dear friend, you are loved by many and even more by our Wonderful Savior. May you feel His presence greatly today. Love you friend!!

  2. Susan...((thanks)) keep reading and sharing and I'll keep writing! How's that for driving a hard bargain?

  3. I cannot tell you how happy I am to have my internet up and running decently again so I can get back to reading your blog! I've missed it!!

  4. I have sure felt your absence. You guys in the Tn/Ga area have sure had a time of it w/ power and internet issues, etc. I'm glad you are back and hope you have all your internet bugs worked out!