“Stories have to be told or they die, and when they die, we can’t remember who we are or why we’re here.” — Sue Monk Kidd
I read this quote today from one of my favorite books (which I’ve read twice already but seem to sense another read-through coming on now…) and it jostled me.
I have been in such a long, drawn-out, never-ending, exhausting, overbearing, miserable funk. A funk which has silenced my writing voice– the one voice I always had waiting in the wings no matter how else life might silence and dim the inner depth where I am free…
There have been such deep hollows of pain. Even when I manage to form a thought despite the howling winds of the trauma swirling around these places in my life, they seem to get ripped away, or covered over, as quickly as they are conceived. Infertility in all its forms.
But there is something growing in me still, a drumming growing louder and more steady. Like a heartbeat. There is a story in this mess my life has become. And it has to be told or it will die, and I will forever be lost wandering this wilderness, unable to remember who I am or why I’m here…
Lately, God’s been speaking to my soul about piles of stones, and lives laid down.
Because I really haven’t liked life very much the last few years. Personal tragedies have abounded. To the point that I have felt every area that most people will take for granted in life systematically stripped away; from my family, to my deepest hopes of starting a family, to my sense of purpose, to my home, to my country, to my health, to my marriage, even, as visa struggles have positioned us on separate continents for months. My very own personal Job (as in the Biblical man) experience. I’ve been angry at God. I’ve felt abandoned by Him. How can You hear me crying out from all this devastation and do nothing… And that loss of security in Him was the most painful final straw. The very last haven ripped out of my arms in the midst of this darkness. Arms made bloody by the desperate way they have clung to anything which is left…
I have sat down in the dust, tore my clothes and wailed right along with my buddy Job. In fact, who am I kidding, I’m still caked in dust and ashes.
But slowly, like a dawn awakening over the horizon, there are flashes of memories coming back to me. Flashes of memories coming to me in the midst of a story that needs to be told so it doesn’t die, keeping me wandering lost in this wilderness forever.
One of those memories is of a twinkling tree piercing the darkness of a Swedish winter. I spent about 3 years living and working (and growing– I almost forgot what that feels like) in Gothenburg. Because of where it’s situated on the globe, Swedish winters are dark; like, inky, black dark. And night comes early and stays late during the deepest parts of the winter. I knew I couldn’t count on it staying daylight much past 2pm, and it was never light yet when I left for work in the morning. The trade off was the midnight sun of the summer days, but the winter always lasted longer than the summer, wouldn’t you know it.
But there was one tree outside my apartment building which, much to my delight, was twisted round with fairy lights. And each dark night, it guided me home. I can’t express to you what this lit tree did for my soul those dark days. How it felt like a personal gift given to me by a Father who knew and delighted in my heart, who knew my needs before I did and provided for them in advance. Oh, He WAS close. Oh, how I drew up next to Him as I faced the trials my life in Sweden brought with it. Tremendous confusion. Faith-breaking kind of confusion. I walked up to that tree in tears many many many nights after a long day in the turmoil of daily ministry there. I remember walking by it one night, crying and begging for deliverance–again– and finding myself praying, with a catch in my throat as I sensed even then the severity of what I was asking, that God would do WHATEVER IT TOOK in my life to keep me connected to Him, to be the first in my life. Whatever it took to keep me laying down my life before Him. Losing it, that I might find it in Him. Because He was my peace. Even if what it took right then was the pain I was walking through. And there the beautifully-lit tree stood, like a pile of the Israelite’s stones that God commanded them to leave as markers to His faithfulness as He provided for them in the desert. It became a pile of stones in my own history with Him. And the memory of it warms me still.
He’s been reminding me of this tree– my pile of stones– marking a very important prayer, a deep surrender of my very life. Which means, this life is not my own that it should go as I please. It is His. It belongs to Him. And somehow, for reasons only He can understand right now, this devastating stripping away of everything I thought sacred– this long, drawn-out depression, this agonizing visa struggle resulting in separation from my husband at the very moment I need his strength to lean on the most– somehow, this is what He is using in this life that belongs to Him right now.
It makes me angry. It makes me want to distrust Him, because how can He be good if He lets all this pain into a life given to Him? How can He watch us suffer so? How can He be so loving, and so mean, all at once?
Age-old questions, really. The matter of suffering.
But then I remember my golden tree lighting up the inky black darkness. I remember His heart and how it holds so much more than mine can even comprehend. And I have to still the anger and hurt bubbling out of me. And bow in awe on my little heap of dust and ashes.
It’s not enough to light up the darkness. Much has been devastated in me, and there is much in my very faith that only He can heal. But it’s enough to see by for right now, to guide me home. His love always was my home…