Over Lent, I gave up my journal, and my writing was refreshed. I found myself emailing more transparently and writing more frequently than before. My fast seemed to lack the normal painful hunger and longing. I felt like I was gliding through the season, until a couple of weeks before Easter.
Everything seemed to be going wrong. Physically, I was ailing, and my heart was breaking over the ways my body seemed to be failing me. Steven took a “one in a million shot” to the face of granite dust at work, and his eyes were damaged and infected. His employer hemmed and hawed about worker’s comp for the doctor’s bill. One car broke down, in our driveway, refusing to start so that we could take it to the mechanic to have it repaired for more money than we had. So it sat there useless. We were grateful for our second car. We have had it up for sale for an unbelievable amount of time, and for the first time we were ecstatic that it hadn’t sold. Unfortunately, Steven had to give up time at work (and more of our paycheck!) twice to sit in line for hours at the DMV to get our second car registered. During that time, our wonderful landlord loaned us his truck- an ancient beater of a truck that I actually really enjoyed driving. Life was continually on the edge of disaster, blessing was just out of reach, we were at the end of our rope, but we never fell.
Other events exploded, and all of the events were so strategically connected to my heart that by the end of two weeks, I was an angry woman. The most discouraging of all of the last two weeks of the Lent season was how far away I felt from God. In a dark time, of such tangible loss and frustration, I felt like I was being bullied by my circumstances. Not quite done in, teased by blessing held just far enough away that I yearned for it but could never reach it.
Easter came, and we spent the afternoon with a few families from church. It was good to be surrounded by the love of family while we are so far away from our own families. But I found myself sour-hearted in the middle of celebration, wondering if my antagonized soul was evident on my countenance. I wanted to apologize, especially to the people I had just met, “I’m sorry. I just want you to know that I’m not always like this. I’m not always quiet and guarded like this. It’s not you at all. In fact, I’m really glad to know you. I just hope my discouragement isn’t contagious.” Of course, the celebration was as light as though I were not there, and that was beautiful to me. Because it means there is a bigger story than my own. As dark and devastated as I felt, the celebration of the Cross was brighter.
After Easter, we passed out of what we now refer to as “The Shadow.” The car started. We don’t know what prevented it from starting, and the mechanic can’t tell us with certainty. Steven’s employer finally sent a check for his eye injury. Some men prayed over Steven’s eyes on Easter Sunday, and they healed rapidly. I spent an afternoon with a new treasured friend, and found encouragement in my physical health and in my art and writing.
I sat down to write in my journal and filled several pages full of the events, the depth of disappointment, the confusion. And though the tangible events seem to have sewn themselves up (most of them anyway), my soul echoes the Fray song that’s playing on the radio these days, Where were you when everything was falling apart?
I say that the events have sewn themselves up, but they left, in their furious wake, the powdered remnants of my hope. Not all is resolved, not by a longshot. What do I do with this powder, these burnt ashes, the depths of what I desired? God’s word says He gives us the desires of our hearts- He does not give us whatever we want; He makes us want what He will give us. Why did He give me desires, this hope I lived so well without before? And why does my desire’s resolution seem so removed from me?
I think of the episode of Lost, when Locke does what he thinks he was led by faith to do to open the mysterious hatch. The results are tragic, and Locke ends up running to the locked hatch covered in blood.
This is where I am at, frustrated that my faith led me to failure, pounding on the hatch door in tears. I cannot tell you how many times I have prayed, I thought you told me to walk this way! And why have you done this to me?!? And the voices of the naysayers echo in my thoughts. My heart aligns with the psalmist, when he says, “Do return, O Lord, how long will it be? And be sorry for Thy servants…Make us glad according to the days Thou hast afflicted us, and the years we have seen evil. Let Thy work appear to Thy servants, and Thy majesty to their children. And let the favor of the Lord our God be upon us; and do confirm the work of our hands.
“Yes. Confirm the work of our hands.”