Days 10 & 11… & 12? of 31 Days of Connecting
I’ve known for awhile that I wanted to write about the year of 2013 – or as I call it, The Year of Mourning. And I’ve known if would be hard – and it is. But I’m grateful for such a receptive and encouraging audience. You guys are the voice of God to me as I work.
This is it. Part 3 of my story. (It started here.)
They say grief has five stages: Denial, Anger, Bargaining, Depression, Acceptance. I had clearly been living in denial of my loss for far too long. At the beginning of my mourning I felt a deep sadness settling into my soul. Each of the losses was felt, individually and collectively. I carried them with me.
But, one of the losses took awhile to come to my attention. Actually, I didn’t perceive it as a loss, because I thought it was my fault. I thought I was doing something wrong. And I thought I was the one responsible to fix it.
It was the loss of financial security.
For several months, our income amounted to about two thousand per month. With a mortgage, medical bills, student loans, and other ongoing expenses we struggled to get by. Well, I struggled.
I thought the loss of our financial security was my fault because I believed I wasn’t handling the money correctly. I wasn’t saving enough. I wasn’t being thrifty enough. If only I tracked every penny every day, if I only bought sale items and used a coupon with every item I purchased then maybe things would be alright. Since I sometimes forgot – since I sometimes paid full price for a box of cereal or a gallon of milk, since I bought myself a t-shirt at Target for $5, it was my fault we couldn’t stay within our tight budget.
And I thought I was in the wrong because I shouldn’t be depending on financial security. Oh the spiritual abuse I heaped on myself was heavy here. If I only trusted God, then we would be ok. If I only trusted God, it wouldn’t matter how much we had, because I would be content. If I only trusted God, then life would be rosy. No problems. No pain. No loss.
But I didn’t.
And I just didn’t want to acknowledge these losses: The loss of security. The loss of trust in God. Because if I didn’t trust God, what kind of pastor would I be?
But God didn’t let me hide that loss – He didn’t want me to go on living as if I trusted Him when I didn’t. He didn’t want me to pretend I was ok with our low income. In fact, He forced me to face it.
It happened one night when Tim and I were talking and Tim said to me, “I want to give the house to God.”
“What do you mean?” I asked, defensively.
“I want to entrust it to Him. I want to surrender it to Him and use it the way He wants us to.”
I looked around our living room. The sofa we got at a garage sale, my Target armchair, the bookshelf Tim made after we got married, my electric piano…
And I saw us having to get rid of it all.
“No!” Fear, frustration, panic, and a sense of abandonment filled my heart.
Hadn’t we done enough for God? We moved to Colorado so I could go to Denver Seminary in order to spend the remainder of my life serving Him. We made financial sacrifices within our careers in order to honor Him. We stayed in Colorado to serve Him. I had given up family, friendships, and finances trusting Him. And He didn’t seem to care a wit about me in return.
How could He ask for my home, too?!
Bitterness crept into my heart, my defenses were up and my claws were bared. There was no way I was going to back down, not now.
If God wanted me to acknowledge my losses, I was going to. And He was going to have to deal with it. Because I was done. I was done trying so hard to please Him. I was done acting like I was ok with where He had called us. I was done being the placid, submissive, loving daughter of God I felt I needed to be.
Anger was here. And it wasn’t going anywhere for awhile.
I didn’t talk to God for a week.
Dilemma: What do you do when you’re not talking to God but are one of the leaders of a prayer and worship ministry? What do you do when you’re not talking to God and have a church wide prayer event in the middle of your strike on God?
I went reluctantly.
I felt like a fraud.
Thankfully I didn’t have any responsibilities at that prayer event or I would have had to tell somebody I couldn’t talk to God. I was in hiding.
Did I have to pray?
The first thing the leader of the event did was invite us all to take a moment to be alone with God. To pray, to worship, to get ourselves ready to pray together.
Begrudgingly I went into our church’s prayer cave. I could hide here, I figured.
Sitting alone, in silence, David’s words crept into my heart. How long, Lord? How long will you forget me?
I pulled out my phone, searched for this phrase in my digital Bible, and found the rest of Psalm 13:
I brushed away the tears. The psalm became my prayer. His unfailing love? His salvation? His goodness to me? I wasn’t so sure. But if God was willing for these words of pain to be His Word, then maybe I could speak them to Him, too.
How long will I be alone? How long must I mourn? Grieve? How long will I be sad? How much longer do we need to be here? How many more goodbyes do I need to say? Please answer me. Please relieve me of my pain.
I went through the evening as one reciting the multiplication table: rote. I knew the motions. I knew the words. I just didn’t have the heart.
Then, the leader of the event asked for us to break into small groups, lay hands on, and pray for the staff members and their spouses who were there that evening. I was completely caught off guard. Did I want to be prayed for? I didn’t know. Could I be prayed for? … Sure.
I watched as groups of people migrated to the staff; then three, a mere three, came to Tim and me.
Yes, these three could pray for me. I trusted them.
I don’t remember if we talked first. I don’t think so. They just started praying.
I surrendered to their voices…
One woman who I’ve known for a long time, but not well, spoke – and she spoke my heart.
She spoke of how I love people deeply. Deeper than others love.
And she prayed about how it must be so hard for me to be away from my family when I love others as much as I do.
How did she know that?!
She prayed for strength.
She prayed for healing.