Six years ago (as of Feb. 2014) I suffered a deep wound that is still healing. The loss of my first husband, Nicholas, is a wound that cut so deep the depths are immeasurable. During the weeks after that initial day I felt so dark and empty inside. I was pregnant with our third child and knew that I needed to take care of myself but I didn’t care. I couldn’t eat, I couldn’t sleep, I couldn’t move from my place on my couch where I could see out my window to the place his car should have been parked. I wanted and needed to sit there and wait and watch for that miracle of him coming home to me and our kids. As silly as it sounds I thought that if I sat there long enough his car would pull into the driveway, that this horrible night would just be a nightmare and not be my new reality.
To this very day I remember the sound of his tires as they ground bits of gravel into the concrete as he pulled in and the sound of his emergency break as he parked, the sound of his car door opening and slamming shut, the sound of his shoes as he walked to the door and the squeak of the screen door as he opened it to unlock the front door. Six years ago, February 13, 2008 I did not hear those sounds and have not heard them since.
After that day my house was consistently full of very kind and loving people and I was never alone but oh how I felt so alone. Loving friends continually asked me what I needed and how could they help me. I just wanted my husband to come home. Many looked back at me with blank stares filled with grief and sorrow. They did not know what to tell me and I could see the tears welling up in their eyes from their own distress and pain. They could not bring me what I wanted and thought I needed and I could not help them either. Many would hug me and pray with me but no one knew what to say. I didn’t know what to say. I saw them hurting and wanted to help them but I didn’t have words either. I couldn’t even process how I was feeling. Nothing brought me comfort and I felt myself shriveling up and dying inside. Just a hallow shell of a person that once laughed and felt joy but was now filled with such a deep and dark pain, an empty body taking up space.
I kept reading my bible and praying but I felt so dead and numb. I know that all things happen according to God’s will but I couldn’t understand how there was good in this or why this would be according to his will. I did know that though I couldn’t see the good or understand his will I needed to hold tight to the promises that God made; the promises that were spread out in front of me on the pages of my bible. That February day a piece of me died and on that day a new piece of me was born. The piece of me that had been stuck inside and not allowed to exist was now free. It was like the clearing of the skies after a massive storm and looking at the stars with an entirely new perspective.
God gave me a swift kick in the rear that forced me to get off of the couch and start taking steps to move forward. Not move on, as that involves forgetting, but moving forward which involves accepting the circumstances but not dying to them. I sought contentment for where God currently had me, this painful season that I had no choice but to drudge through.
All of the faith in God that I had stored up in me was now being tested and used and additional faith was also required. Honestly, that faith I have in God is the only reason I got off my couch. No, I didn’t get up because my kids needed me or because bills still needed to be paid. Sure those things are part of the result of my getting up but they weren’t the reason. While I love my kids I just didn’t know how to parent them alone as a single mother that was also pregnant and unemployed. That thought was too overwhelming and scary. That thought paralyzed me. I’m not strong like other women. I did not have the strength to get up and do what needed to be done. I did not have the courage to move forward. I could not do it.
The moment I admitted that I could not do it an indescribable peace overwhelmed me. I felt broken and I still cried all of the time, my heart still ached so deeply, but I no longer felt alone. No, I did not feel like a super hero who just discovered their powers and I certainly did not feel the idyllic comfort of a spouse. What I did feel was much, much greater. I felt God. I felt his love. I felt peace. I felt contentment. I did not understand why all of this was happening but God had given me some answers and I was now able to see that He was rescuing and protecting us.
God was showing me his love in a way that I had never experienced. God showed me that even though I longed for what I thought I needed what I really needed was with me all along, Him. I came to Christ at a young age but did not understand that he is really all that I need. He showed me that he was not going to let me go, he loves me, I am his, and that he would give me his strength and his courage. He picked me up that day and carried me through. He still carries me.
So six years later I am a much different person than I was then. My life started over and it has been quite blessed and challenging in many ways and I am so grateful. Had I not known Christ long before that event and leaned on him through it (and now) I’m certain I would not have survived. I see so many blessings that have come from that one single, horrific event. A domino effect of blessings is the best way I know to describe it. What was intended for evil God has turned to good. There truly is good in all things, even suffering.
I understand that after six years you’d think it wouldn’t hurt anymore but it does, quite a lot in fact, but it doesn’t debilitate me; that stopped the day I got off my couch. I still cry when I recite the event. My wounds are still healing. I’m not sitting on my couch staring out a window in hopes of something that doesn’t exist, I have moved forward. Please don’t ignore the pain or the joy, as they are both important and part of the journey, the beauty from the ashes. And please stop telling me to forget but more importantly don’t tell others to disregard their own stories. Oh and please don’t push someone off of their couch when they are hurting. Wait, and God will tell them when it’s time to get up. Some people just need to sit a little longer than others. Everyone heals and moves forward at a different pace so stick with them, pray for and with them, love them.
Just as we remember birthdays and celebrate anniversaries, we remember tragic events too. We are told to never forget; 9/11, Pearl Harbor, the Holocaust, school shootings, murders of great leaders like President Lincoln, and so many more tragic events but individuals are often not allowed to remember personal events. While my story doesn’t compare to those it was a great and tragic event in my life. It is okay for me to remember mine and it is okay for you to remember yours. It is not okay to dwell in it and I think many don’t realize that remembering can be so very different than dwelling.
So please don’t ask me to move on as that involves forgetting. I don’t ever want to forget the painful good that God has done in my life through this event and others. I don’t ever want to forget the day I married my husband Brent and that day would not have happened if other events had not occurred. I am no longer a hallow shell of a person just taking up space. I am no longer filled with that deep dark pain I once felt. I am filled with joy and laughter, peace and contentment. There are so many blessings!
“He gave me the gift of suffering. God did not rescue me out of the pain; he rescued me through the pain!” —Tullian Tchividjian, Glorious Ruin