Together

Last night I stood in the darkness and felt the power of the wind. The sky was clear, the Milky Way stretched across the black expanses and the clouds had moved along while we watched a movie in the camper, but the wind remained. It was so powerful that it rocked the camper all night long, beating a rhythm into the walls and doors and windows. If it wasn’t for the dust, I would have opened them to let it whistle through our little bedroom on its way to the other side of the hill… But I was content to stand with it under the stars.
I think these days spent in agony are just part of my cycle of salvation, they are necessary.
There is a quote by somebody classically famous that says that to admire the work of a poet is to really say “may another tragedy befall you,” because it is these tragedies that manifest as their greatest works.
So it is with my writing I suppose. It may not be my agony that propels itself onto paper, but perhaps my healing and my redemption.
“Woman, don’t be afraid.” He told me two days ago as we watched the little ants crawl into the sage. I knew that something is coming. Things are changing.
~~
My friend said I should consider treatment. He can understand when I express that I have some anger issues, unresolved trauma, and trust issues. He talks about ‘counseling,’ saying that it’s a way for people to crack a person open, help them discover who they are, and then close them back up.
Honestly, I don’t trust anyone well enough to let them do that with me. But I do trust my maker. I trust my God. So I went to the hill today to talk to Him about it.
I realized that the only reason I could even express these issues to my friend is because for the last couple weeks, God has cracked me open and left me that way, my organs exposed, bleeding all over the place, gasping for air and desperate for each second of life… I’m waiting on him to heal me, to close me back up… and he told me that he’s needed me to be cracked open and exposed for a while. So that I can confront the ugly truth about myself.
It’s why I’ve been so depressed and angry. I’m seeing myself for all my humanity.
Today, through my sobbing tears he told me something else. Another truth about who I am. He’s been whispering it for so long, but it was different today… “I am my Beloveds, and He is mine.” He loves me so much. He knows how angry I am. He knows about all that hurt…. And all that darkness.
I told him that I finally know that I’m not angry at the people. I’m angry at The Lie. The Liar. The King of Liars. I’m angry at the Lies that have built upon lies that built upon lies until the truth has been almost completely suffocated. It is SO HARD to find the truth in this reality. I can’t even blame the people who act out the lie, and I know that. They’ve been steeped in these lies since birth, and they really, mostly, almost always, believe that it’s the truth.
~~
I’ve been devouring the Big Book of Alcoholics Anonymous. I finished it today, and talk about a good, hard slap in the face that was and has been. God is going to have to do a miracle in me to separate me from my “self-propulsion.”
Here’s how they put it:
“Each person is like an actor who wants to run the whole show; is forever trying to arrange the lights, the ballet, the scenery and the rest of the players in his own way. If his arrangements would only stay put, if only people would do as he wished, the show would be great.”
That’s totally me. It probably applies to the majority of us, but I can sense it deeply in myself… The crazy thing is that I can do all that while still being “kind, considerate, patient, generous, even modest and self-sacrificing,” as the Big Book describes one kind of actor. I’m not mean about it. But that doesn’t make it work…
“What usually happens? The show doesn’t come off very well… He decides to exert himself more. He becomes, on the next occasion, still more demanding or gracious, as the case may be. Still the play does not suit him. Admitting he may be somewhat at fault, he is sure that other people are more to blame. He becomes angry, indignant, self-pitying.”
I’ve been experiencing all those emotions myself. I’m super angry and resentful, particularly toward the Christian church, because “if only they would do as he wished, the show would be great.”
I’m totally self-centered and ego-centric. I’m completely obsessed with what I want to “see happen” in this life, or what I think people should do, how they should act. I spend a lot of time pointing at Christ, and blaming Christians, because my emotional response is “really about what HE told them to do and what they PROCLAIM they are doing but are NOT”…. And yet it still gets personal and comes down to me. My emotions are affecting me, not anyone else. My being angry, resentful, bitter, infuriated… that doesn’t hurt or help anyone… it’s just me.
~~
I have a memory of a night back in early 2010, in which I had this vision of a golden, sparkly bubble around my truck in a parking lot where I was sleeping. The thought was a warm one, comforting and peaceful. Like God had set me inside of a perfect, harmonious, golden bubble. I didn’t know what it meant at the time, and perhaps I still don’t.
But contrast that with a night in early 2011, in which I laid alone in the bunk at night, and had a dream where I was being attacked by huge, black crows that were 3 times my size. In the dream, they shredded my bubble first, and little pieces of that gold and sparkly were flying out of their beaks as they pecked at my body. I was writhing in fear and pain, with my eyes closed. I could see it from inside myself, from outside myself, and I could see my body responding to the pain. I had woken up crying at one point, and Shane had crawled into bed with me. I went back to sleep, only to have the dream pick up where it left off. They pecked at me all night, until sometime around dawn they left me alone and I fell into an exhausted, dreamless sleep. When I woke up, Shane told me I had been twitching and shaking for most of the night. He had tried to wake me up, but couldn’t. The experience scared the shit out of both of us. I didn’t feel alright for days…
I can look back at this strange sort of progression in my spiritual life and pick it apart, but I know that I’ve let some yucky thing in my life through deliberately poor choices and those things had to come full circle.
I’m thinking that the root of all of it though, is that I actually thought that I could do it alone. I could fix myself. I could be good. I could be obedient. I could love people well enough. All by myself.
There was no room for God in that. Slowly, but surely, I’ve been edging God’s control out of my life and trying to take the wheel myself. It happened so subtly, that I didn’t even know I was doing it. I didn’t even realize… and I might have managed okay in the eyes of the world, but I sure wrecked myself emotionally, and that boiled over into every other facet of my life.
~~
I had a dream the other night, a dream that looked like one of the old western-style movies that are always playing on my friend’s television set. In the dream, a law man told an Indian to go lie down on the ground. He lifted his rifle to shoot him in the back… but just as he did so, a beautiful dog that looked just like Missy, (my friend’s dog, a young border collie/ blue heeler mix) with big black pointy ears and a white peppered face, walked in between the law man and the Indian. For a moment in my dream, I was the law man… I could see the dog from his perspective as she laid down directly in my line of sight. Her eyes were big and light brown, and she took her place next to her friend, straight down the barrel of my gun.
Something in her eyes asked me for mercy… she wasn’t begging or afraid, but she was intent on her decision. Her eyes were locked on my gun expectantly. But in the manner of dreams, I left the perspective of the law man and was once again a spectator, watching from the side lines as the law man aimed again, and pulled the trigger. He shot the man through the head, just inches from where the dog had laid down.
The dog startled at the sound of the gunshot, and ran in my direction. She was going to pass me by when I reached out and touched her face. She slowed; she looked at me. Her face was sad and tired. I sat there with her, on the ground, looking into her eyes. We had an understanding… that I would help her heal.
There was much more to the dream, people talking and meetings and everyone trying to decipher who had died, who had killed him and why. I seemed to be the only one who had seen it all happen. I was the only one who had witnessed it, but I didn’t speak about it anymore. I didn’t feel like people could hear me.
I think, in the manner of dreams, that I am evidenced in all of these characters. I think I’m represented by each of them, and so is God, and so is humanity.
At first I thought God was the one pulling the trigger. Or maybe God was the dog. Or maybe God was the man getting killed. Then I thought maybe it was me. It’s all the truth, I think.
I can feel my heart moving into a better place, and I think it has to do with the process of letting go. I’ve been carrying around the pain of thousands of hurts… and I’m ready to give it all up. My eyes have been opened up to some parts of myself that I didn’t even know were in there. I can see myself more clearly than I ever have before. It’s embarrassing at times, and discouraging, and even shameful. But in the light of the way I am suddenly thinking and feeling, in the light of a new dawn, it has given me confidence in the bright future I have in front of me. The reality of who I was yesterday, doesn’t seem to matter in the light of who God is creating in me now…
I told Rob last night that in the Big Book of A.A. it is often speaking to people who have never before been in relationship to God. What is so cool about this whole thing, and what is so embarrassing and encouraging all at once, is that I have that relationship to build on. I have been in communication with my Maker for so long… it’s so unbelievable that he was still whispering to me despite all the dark stuff that has been inside me all this time. I can clearly see now that I’ve been carrying around dark matter for at least a year now… maybe even longer than that…. Maybe more like two years, or maybe my whole life. But he still talked to me! He talked to me while I harbored anger, and resentment, and bitterness toward his children. He still whispered; he still directed my paths. He guided my choices and lit up my streets and sidewalks. He protected me! He held my hand…. Despite the unholy selfishness and self-centeredness that I was covering up with generosity and ‘Christian’ effort.
People keep saying to me, “You’re being too hard on yourself.”
But why? How? Maybe it strikes people as remarkable that a person can try so hard and still be inherently and totally MESSED UP.
That’s me… me being human. Let’s not pretend it’s anything other than the truth about who I am.
But the thing is… the wonderful, remarkable, incredible truth is…. That he’s been waiting for this moment in which I would admit it. The moment when, after all of my trying to be perfect and failing and trying to be righteous, or look righteous and failing, that I would go to him and say “WHY!! Why would you ask me to do this if it’s so freaking impossible! I can’t do it God! I can’t follow this Christ! He’s too good! He’s too wise! He’s too freaking perfect and it makes me feel like shit that I can’t live up to it! And not just me, no one else lives up to it either! And then I get mad at them for it! Because you said that this is what we are supposed to do! And all these people around me, just like me, they express this honest intention to TRY! But then we mess it up! Me mostly! But everyone! And it makes me ANGRY! WHY????”
And he says to me with the most compassion, “Let me do it.”
~~
The funny thing is that when he said that to me, I flipped out on him. “Do it then! Yes, do it! You get in here, you take over, you over-ride my freaking brain,” I demanded. “Because if left alone… if you let me choose, I will mess it up all the time. I will be selfish and judgmental and condemnatory and downright freakin evil. I just will. I don’t know why, no matter how hard I try, but I will…. I will be so freakin human. So you’re gonna have to do it yourself dude!!! Just do it yourself, in me, through me, whatever, just get in here and do it!!”
And so that was my cry on the hill top last week. And while I cried, I almost felt like I would float away. He started talking to me about what the word “healing” means. And what it comes with…
~~
As I rested on the hood of my truck, admiring the stars, I asked him if he could see them all well enough. I thought about how the Holiness in me can admire the works of His own hands through my human eyes, He can see the stars from my perspective whenever I glance into the night sky. We lay there together, my eyes wide open, so that He could see. So that He could admire their beauty with me.
“Are you happy with me?” I asked him in a whisper. I felt the same insecurity that I’ve felt when asking Shane if he is happy in our marriage.
A star shot across the night sky directly above me, in exactly the place where my eyes had been resting. I smiled for Him… but my heart is full of doubt. How, Why would you be happy with me when I mess up all the time? I can’t even get a grip on the little mistakes I’m making….
I told myself to shut up and listen and I relaxed my eyes again. Slowly an understanding began to unfold inside my heart like a flower responding to the light of the sun. We are here, together, and that is good. I have opened myself to share this moment… in the presence of the divine.
“Don’t be afraid to stand alone with Me.” He told me last night as we stood together under the canopy of white lights in the power of the wind. I felt a rush of individuality and independence that I haven’t felt in too long… My eyes rested on the figure of my husband through the window, lying on the bed with our animals, the soft yellow light of a single bulb above my pillow illuminating his silhouette.
My family…
“Look. They are beautiful.”
The wind whipped my hair across my cheek as I drew a deep breath and thanked Him. Standing outside of my little home, gazing in the window at my little family, my heart was full…
~~
We’ve been in Pine Ridge for a little over a month now. It’s officially the longest I’ve stayed in one place for almost 3 years… and in about two weeks, Rob will celebrate one year with us.
A month… time has flown by, but in the sort of steady rhythmic pace that I love about the West. A week after we first arrived, Rob was already talking about moving on. The pull of the road doesn’t just affect me anymore; it’s begun pulling on the hearts of my brother and my husband too. But I knew… and still know… as surely as the sun will rise in the east tomorrow morning; we will be leaving this place. And that knowledge fills my heart with a sort of quiet desperation, a longing inside my soul, to appreciate and love every moment that I have here.
I looked forward to Pine Ridge for months before we arrived. I imagined that we would empty our trucks and our hearts on the streets of White Clay; that we would take on innumerable projects and help countless families and individuals rebuild their homes and restore their hearts. I imagined finding something that I’ve long felt missing…
A month later, and I’m amazed at what has happened here. There is no doubt in my mind why we have stayed so long. These hills and my God have been healing…
Sometimes we don’t even know that we’re broken. Or maybe we think it’s just a crack, just a fragment that’s been shattered…
Trauma has a way of creeping up on me in this life. Sometimes, I feel the wounds of the moment, only to set them aside in preparation for the next wound, the next shock, the next heartbreak. So many days, even years now, moving so fast… like a whirlwind or a tornado of emotion and information and propulsion…
I’ve been so deeply hurt by so many different faces and situations. I didn’t even know how wrong I was, or how changed I had become, until the silence of these hills and the steady warm breeze blowing my hair around my face… I didn’t know until it was revealed to me in the long, motionless exchanges between me and the canopy of ever-twinkling stars….
And now I know. But self-knowledge and self-awareness are not enough on their own. Knowing that I’ve been wrong, that I’ve done wrong, that I’m broken and sick and traumatized is not enough. It’s important, but it’s only the beginning. Repentance and redemption are strong words, and sometimes I fear that we say them without fully knowing what they mean.
Reconciliation. So many people wonder about the ‘something missing’ in our lives… it’s not God. How can He be missing? God is everywhere. He’s in everything. He is the essence of life itself.
I like thinking about the moment of Creation. What did God have to create with? An artist has paint, an author has ink, and God has…? I remember some science teacher trying to explain to me that in the beginning there was this ‘matter’ that God used to make the world. I was in 6th grade, I think. I asked “where did the ‘matter’ come from?” and the teacher said it was dust. Like Adam and Eve were made from dust. But I think back to the first moment of creation, and there is only one explanation. Because in the beginning was God, and the Word. God spoke, and it happened. There was no other matter or substance in existence, because if there was, then there must be another source of infinitude. And there isn’t. If there was, then God wouldn’t be omnipotent. He wouldn’t be God. The answer then, is that God must have created from himself. He was the only substance with which to work and to create.
Can you imagine the moment in which God spoke, and an essence of him became molecules and atoms? Somehow… I can.
Everything glitters and sparkles with life and energy. Everything has a little bit of power and a little bit of light. And all power and light comes from God. It’s beautiful.
What was missing in my life…. Well, it was humility, and recognition. It was my humble acknowledgement that God simply IS.
I haven’t spent nearly enough time with Him.
I’ve been thinking a lot today about the little things that have changed in the last couple of months. Before, each morning when I would wake up, the only thing that I could count on as a constant in my life was that my husband and my dog would be there. I could count on having to go to the bathroom too, I suppose, but where I would do that changed almost daily. I could count on making the bed in the bunk behind the front seats, I could count on checking my phone and probably facebook I guess… but there weren’t a whole lot of constants in my life. Which gas station or truck stop or park or city block would we be parked at today? Which city or state would I be in? Would there be a bathroom around or would I be using the bushes? Would I be able to change my clothes, wash my face, and would I get strange looks from people passing by while I brush my teeth? Is there a soup kitchen where we can eat? Will we eat at all? Will we have gas money to move our trucks or would we be walking everywhere? Some of these questions are pretty much the same today… but a few things have changed.
For the first time in almost three years I have privacy. In our camper, there is a little bathroom, with no windows and a door that shuts. In that little two foot by two foot space, I can change my clothes, brush my teeth, and if we have water I can wash my face in complete privacy. I do this every night, and every morning. I’ve been wearing pajamas when I go to bed! Every night! I haven’t been able to do that in such a long, long time. I’ve been taking my jewelry off and washing my neck and my wrists a lot more often than I used to, (which was never,) and I have a mirror on the bathroom door so that I can see what I’m wearing every day… Not that I have style or worry about it, but still. Each morning, if we have electricity, I can make a pot of coffee. At night, I can cook noodles or soup or grilled cheese for the guys. We have cold water in our little refrigerator. Maybe eventually I will take these things for granted…. God. I hope not. I pray, fervently, that I never forget.
I sleep in a bed at night. I could write a book about the difference between that and the bunk in Jethro. We have dark tinted windows, and a little screen that separates the bed from the rest of the camper, and Rob hasn’t been sleeping in here. I think he wants to let us enjoy the privacy. I’ve been able to be a wife. A real wife! I’ve been married for a while and I’ve never known what it’s like to be married the way that average people know what it’s like…. It makes me want to cry when I think about the difference it’s made in my life and the life of my husband. It makes me want to cry when I think about all the other people out there in cities and campsites that still don’t know…
I’m grateful. For this little dinette table, where I can sit and write away the day if I want to, and where the cat lays in the sunshine and stares out the window at the cows walking by the clothes line. I’m grateful for the window above my bed where I can look at the stars until I fall asleep each night, and the pillows, the sheets and the towels that have been given to us throughout the last few months. It’s amazing to look around this little camper-house and know that every single little thing in here was a gift… from the turnips hanging by the kitchen sink, to the coffee mug next to the laptop, to the flowers growing next to the steps, to the dog bed and the cat dish and the food in the pantry… to the camper itself. Every single thing in here. We didn’t earn this… but we’re making it ours. There is a map on the wall that takes up the whole empty space next to my side of the bed. It has all three of our routes around the country drawn in sharpie marker, and I can lose track of time following the little lines and swimming in the waves of nostalgia that wash over me with each city name. The map was the first thing that we put in the camper, to be shortly followed by dozens of printed pictures from our journeys, taped to the cabinets and the refrigerator. It’s starting to really feel like home.
I’ve had the freedom to write, a lot. I’ve written stories that have been waiting to be written for years. I’ve prayed about a book. I still don’t know what the answer is, but I believe that it will be revealed to me as I continue to be obedient every time He tells me to write down a specific story, or like right now, to just sit down and type out the things that come to mind. It’s been therapy for the heart and soul.
I don’t ever want to go back to the way things were when I got here. I don’t want to go back to pushing my trauma and my heartache deep down inside myself and never taking it to God and letting him deal with me… All of that resulted in some serious damage to our relationship with each other, and serious damage to my emotional self and my general state of mind. It’s amazing that we can spend an hour or two here and there, once or twice a week with God and tell ourselves that it’s enough. We can say Grace out loud before a meal or before we go to sleep and tell ourselves that we’ve prayed today. But there’s just no comparison to the long hours spent in reverent silence in a place so beautifully quiet… creating a holy place in my heart and loving him there… Experientially, there is nothing else like it. He reveals himself in all of his majesty… reveals that he’s always been there… that we didn’t need to try so hard or lie to ourselves so much… that we didn’t need to DO anything… we can just BE.

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