In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world. John 16:33
As a tornado reaches for the ground, its swirling winds wreak havoc on the ground below, as well as its surroundings. A nearby building crumbles. A car takes flight and is hurled to a new location. Destruction inevitable, anything not properly prepared to face its mighty winds becomes a subject of its demise.
That’s what is what like for me. It wasn’t a weather incident though, but rather a series of events colliding to produce the perfect storm in my heart. I didn’t hear the sirens, although I’m sure they sounded. I was oblivious to the need for preparation. These events weren’t lasting, for the most part, but the damage has brought about a time of clean up and rebuilding.
Admittedly, I sat in the wreckage for quite sometime. I’m not proud of it. Overwhelmed, I went into default mode. The runner in me hit the ground fast and hard (figuratively speaking…I only literally run if someone is chasing me…like with a knife).
My propensity to isolate went about building walls guaranteed to block all attempts at entry into my upside-down-topsy-turvy chaotic life…and heart.
When the storm hit
What I know now, that I didn’t fully understand then, is that these two tendencies would not make things better. In fact, quite the opposite, the damage only increased the further I ran and the more I withdrew
- I hit the eject button on leading and serving at church. What if anyone saw the damage? What if someone saw my faith was wavering? That I had more questions than answers? That I had been shaken to my core? In part by things I had zero control over, but also due to my own decisions in response to the storm. Truthfully, I was in no condition to lead. I did need to step down. However, I didn’t just step down. I withdrew. I ran, I hid, so no one could see what a wreck I had become.
- Disconnected from any type of community, it was easy to disappear from the church scene altogether. A few times I tried to begin again, but my fear had grown so big that merely walking into the church brought on a series of panic attacks. I know, crazy, but true. It was too much. I gave up convinced that the me I once was had now ceased to be. More than that really, that the me I once was actually was an imposter. This was the biggest blow of all for me. I had prided (pride, so gross when it rears its ugly head) myself on being real, authentic. What a phony.
- Talking to God seemed impossible. Bone dry, I neither felt like praying or opening my bible. At first I was disappointed with God. God is with me? Really? Then what on earth is He doing? Eventually, though, my frustration with God dissipated and I became utterly dissatisfied with myself. Grace seemed like it belonged only to others, not to me. (Yikes, doesn’t that just wreak of a proud heart!)
- Then the real damage began. With just me, myself and I to sort through my mess, I sank into a deep sadness. Loneliness became my companion. I made decisions I would have normally rejected. Busyness became an addiction. As long as I was busy, I could numb the pain. As long as I was busy, I didn’t have to ponder (that’s East Texas speak for think) how I got here or how I would escape. In doing so, I withdrew from friends and family that would have likely walked with me, helped me see things I couldn’t see for myself. Resentment settled in and my marriage suffered under its weight.
That’s the highlight reel of the damage – fear, isolation, destruction. I’ve seen it before, in others. I just didn’t recognize that it was happening to me. I never imagined that it could be me. I thought I was stronger.
Regarding preparation for the storm
But here’s the thing, hindsight of course, I wasn’t prepared. There were areas in my life I had “moved on” from but never surrendered. There were hurts I had locked up deep inside my heart, swept under the rug. If they dared to surface, I’d shove them down again. The past is the past, right? There were things I believed because it’s what a good Christian gal believes. Their truths had not reached my heart in the form of understanding. It wasn’t real to me.
The takeaway, why I decided to share this stormy season with you
This has been a part of my story I’d like to forget. Oh if such a magic eraser existed. However, it’s part of my story, and our stories matter. In choosing to embrace our stories, we not only release some of the negative power they hold on us, we also become free to let God use our story to help others. So I share. I write because it is a part of my DNA, hardwired by God deep within me, a part that the storm had taken. I’m fighting my way out, but no longer in isolation. I’ve allowed people to be a part of the healing. People I know will hold me accountable.
I do not take for granted the importance of spending time with God. In doing so, He is giving me a fresh set of eyes and changing how I see things, including myself.
So, if somewhere, on the other side of the screen, there is a familiarity, it is my prayer that:
• You’ll fight the urge to isolate
• Resist running.
• Kick fear in the face
• You’ll lean into your friends, lean into God, even when it’s hard.
Or maybe you know the areas in your life that lurk just beneath the surface.
• Can you begin to unpack them and let God heal them?
• Will you prepare for the storms that would unearth the parts of your story that, left unattended, will leave your hearts and your relationships swirling in the storms aftermath (because storms of life are inevitable for us all)