I am reading an excellent book right now, albeit at a snail’s pace, which is typical due to the pace at which the rest of my life moves. It is Brett Lott’s Letters & Life. He talks about words, about writing, about life, and about making meaning out of all of them.
I am scratching all of this down on a lined pad of paper, rather than into Word as I usually would, because my computer won’t load for the second time this month. I am uncharacteristically unmoved by that; I am learning not to be provoked by many things that would usually upset me. In the last two months the AC in my van went out in 104 degree weather; the dog tore up my daughter’s best dress as it hung out to dry (that one did rile me); the backyard irrigation timer wouldn’t shut off, even in the off position, sending water gushing up like a geyser from a broken pipe—to remedy this I had to rip out the electrical wires to the timer, since I couldn’t get the water shut-off valve to turn; three light bulb bases broke off in a ceiling fan; a curtain rod ripped out of the wall; my son vomited; my eldest missed her class trip; ink splattered all over my dining room curtains; the outside spicket started leaking incessantly; the dogs decided to have an all-night barking fest every night; and we had two cockroaches in two nights—and I loathe roaches.
Oh, and the betrayal. There was that.
And yet, as I air my grievances—one grievance with many consequences, really—I know there are many more hurts in the world: a wife left alone after a good and faithful husband went to sleep and never woke up; an energetic, five-year-old twin stolen from his wombmate by an aggressive brain tumor; a four-year-old girl torn into by a lawn mower. And how do we go on after all this?
I spent a good two hours on a Sunday afternoon writing a blog post about the last two months. What set me to writing that day was a desert windstorm. I thought of how the driving winds, the heat, my burning eyes and stinging skin, and the general disorientation of a windy day all seemed to echo my present situation. Most specifically, the way that the dust in the air obscured my view of the mountain range that is the anchor point of our valley reminded me of all the Scripture references that speak of God and mountains.
Those who trust in the Lord
Are like Mount Zion,
Which cannot be moved, but abides forever.
As the mountains surround Jerusalem,
So the Lord surrounds His people
From this time forth and forever.
I will lift up my eyes to the hills—
From whence comes my help?
My help comes from the Lord,
Who made heaven and earth.
But you have come to Mount Zion and to the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, to an innumerable company of angels, to the general assembly and church of the firstborn who are registered in heaven, to God the Judge of all, to the spirits of just men made perfect, to Jesus the Mediator of the new covenant, and to the blood of sprinkling that speaks better things than that of Abel. ~Hebrews 12:22–24
I wrote that blog post full of analogies and metaphors about dust and wind and mountains and beautiful Scripture references, and I tied it all up with a neat little bow. Then I reread what I had written and pitched it. It had all the answers, but it was no good. It was sanitary, metaphorical—and completely worthless. Because there is nothing sanitary or metaphorical about what I am living right now. It is raw and dirty, full of pain, messy and broken.
Why then do I sit here scratching out more nonsense on this silly lined pad, which I probably won’t even be able to decipher when I’m finished, when I don’t have any answers? My mind swirls constantly with questions. What am I going to do? What should I do? Why did this happen to me? Is this due to my own foolish choices? How am I going to get through this? Will anyone else ever love me? Why? Why? Why?
And in the midst of the storm of questions, there are no answers, but there are two words, quietly and deeply spoken: “Trust Me.” As I expressed frustration with the waiting, with the uncertainty, with the indecision, my pastor counseled me, “All of your options are really the same—to trust God to provide in the waiting, to trust God to provide in the reconciliation, or to trust God to provide in the singleness. It is all about trusting God to provide wherever you are.” What a freeing thought that is! No matter which road I take, He will be there with me!
My friend was getting married. She had waited a long time for the right man; her mother is dying from cancer; she has walked a long, hard road; and this was to be her day of joy. And I was dreading it. How to sit and watch her pledge herself to a man—a man who might hurt her, leave her, betray her, and crush her heart into a million irreparable fragments? Because as I now know, that is what some husbands are capable of. Surely I would have to bite my tongue not to shout out in protest. But as I faced my reflection in the mirror, trying to paint that sad face happy, I heard my Heavenly Father tell me: “Choose Joy.” Were it not for my circumstances, I would have rejoiced with her. Very well then, I choose not to let one sorrow steal the joy from everything else—I will rejoice and throw it back in the face of pain.
As I sit here writing, there are loads of unfolded laundry (a pet peeve of mine), unwashed dishes in the sink (another pet peeve), lessons unfinished, a book study due next week incomplete, dirty bathrooms, and littered carpets all screaming at me to attend to them. But first, I had to write this out—my manifesto in the darkness. Even as I grieve and wrestle fear minute-by-minute, I will trust God; I will choose joy. Heaven help me, I am probably inviting more chaos, more breakdowns, more challenges by declaring it, but by God’s grace I will not be broken, because He who promises is faithful. I have a long way to go as I walk through the grief, the pain and the anger I am feeling. I know I am utterly unable on my own to let it go, but I pray that God will open my hands and help me to give it to Him so that He can fill my hands with His blessings instead.
Fifty-five days so far He has carried me through this storm. Forty years, nine months and ten days, He has carried me over the rough seas of life. So I will continute to weather the storms of this life, one day at a time, until the day He carries me home to Zion’s mountain. And until then, I will continue to scratch down (on paper if necessary) the joy, the pain, and all the words He calls me to share, and pray that I, and others also, will find meaning there, even in the midst of the not-knowing, knowing in whom we have believed.