Even now, 6 yrs later, I grow numb when sudden news of someone else's crisis plunges me back into the darkness. When it happens, I no longer panic. It's just my old, newly named friend, 'traumatic stress reaction', reminding me that the past is always there. The sense of numbness that paralyzes my heart slithers along my spine upon viewing a simple status update on Facebook. I see the veiled allusion to a life Tsunami, and I know. Behind those matter of fact words, a heart cries out in confusion and pain too raw and fresh to describe in detail. I find myself falling into step beside the one whose suffering has erupted like a frenzied volcano. No words are needed. I just walk.
As far as I feel from God these days, I know this reaction is, in part, that sense of comforting others with the same comfort we ourselves have been comforted (2 Cor. 1: 3-4). No one has to tell you how to do it. It's like giving birth. Once you've walked the walk, you just know how to fall into step. You also know that trying to say anything is fruitless. There is a peaceful solace in knowing that it is ok to walk in tandem without trying to give answers or frivolous consolations. You've been there. You know there are times that no answers are sufficient to stem the flow of blood from a broken heart. The process is unavoidable even for Christians who believe in a loving God that constantly watches over his suffering children. The only thing you can do is hunker down and live thru the process...or walk with someone else while they do.
I had bled every day for 6 yrs from the time Jeff got sick until the new landlord said he'd take a chance on our sorry butts and condescend to let us rent from him. Yea, he was more diplomatic than that. Behind the mouth noise I knew he felt he had to make, I also knew what he was thinking. And, that was pretty much it!
I realized I felt like an invisible nobody. In our country, so much of who we are is defined by who we look like on paper or what we possess. What we had left had been in storage for 2 yrs. Our cars were no longer trendy, and they'd have to last at least 3 more years. On paper, we were failures whom no one dared do business with. Even if we had wanted to 'do business', the officer of the court held us in tow until July of 2008. Without the court's express permission, we would be in contempt of court to do anything but pay cash as we went. Even tho' we'd never been 'credit hounds', that reality was a chain around our souls. That bondage was the price we paid for failing.
I could tell myself all day long that we had always been good stewards. So good, in fact, that it had taken the buzzards 3 yrs to pick our bones clean. But, now we looked just like every other yuppie out there who couldn't delay gratification. Why, I wondered, had I deprived myself of so much in the interest of fiscal responsibility to end up like this? An invisible nobody. All those extra payments I had scraped together to pay on the interest of the house the bank gave to someone else for a pittance of what we owed on it – for what? How many spa treatments could I have enjoyed in the moment while I was living for the reward of compound interest derived tomorrow.
I thought all those things in the shadows of my heart. In the light of day, I told myself and my boys that God had a plan. It was a good plan. He had just kick-started the good part of that plan into motion. We began to revel in our privacy. I became the kind of mom who no longer expected her kids to do chores. It was so amazing to have my own house to do chores in again that I didn't want to share the joy. (Yea, I was one sick puppy! I got over that little dip into insanity, trust me!) We spent an hour every night talking as a family about our list of 'thankful things'. We had made it out of the valley of the shadows. We were survivors!
Ours had been a hard marriage complicated by dynamics that had perplexed and puzzled me for 16 yrs. I had spent countless hours rearranging the puzzle pieces of our lives together. I was always trying to make our journey as a couple make sense. There always seemed to be a piece missing as if we'd come from the marriage factory an incomplete, defective kit.
We had been thru nine marriage counselors in 16 yrs. We would, frankly, have been divorced but for one thing...we were too broke to hire the lawyers to seal our fate. We were out of the valley of shadows, but the light purely revealed that we were strangers. We lived as housemates sharing chores and responsibilities but none of the perks of the vows we took all those years before. I had once heard being single was not nearly as lonely as being lonely in a marriage. If that phrase was defined in a picture dictionary, I would have been the poster girl.
One sad, lonely day, my marriage cum business partner turned to me and said, “I've made an appointment with a counselor. Will you go?” I looked at him thru zombie dead eyes and said, “If the first 9 didn't fix us, this one won't either. You go if you want. I'm done.” And, he did. Every other week for the next 6 months, he did.