Sometimes I cry in movies. Tonight I saw “The Help”. I didn’t cry. I sat in that movie theater and I sobbed, the tears rolling quietly down my cheeks, in a nearly empty theater, thankful for the dark that enshrouded me. It wasn’t the characters or the storytelling. It was so much more. And it’s time to tell my story.
My husband left me exactly 7 months ago today. He told me by text message that he was moving out one day while I was at work. There was no goodbye. There was just me, falling to the floor of an empty seminary office, digging my fingers into the carpet to try to grasp onto something that wouldn’t move. There was just me wondering where the tears were coming from when I couldn’t even feel myself crying. My whole world fell apart. One day you’re moving along as if everything is okay, the next, your legs go out from under you. You become unusually acquainted with the floor – the floor of your bedroom, your bathroom, your living room, your kitchen, the laundry room, your closet, your shower, your office. The agony keeps pushing down so heavily on you that you just keep ending up at the lowest place in the room. You spend so much time just trying to pick yourself up off of it.
Suddenly, tying your shoes feels overwhelming. You can’t stand, you can’t eat, you can’t get out of bed, you can’t write, you can’t think, you can’t see straight. All you can feel is shock. And numb. You look at your friends blankly, as if they’ve lost their minds when they want to know how you feel. “Am I supposed to feel something? How can I feel something? I can’t think or breathe or even get dressed in the morning. I’m supposed to feel something and I can’t…what’s wrong with me???!!!” Everything is wrong.
And damn, when the numb wears off, DAMN. All you can feel is crushing, overwhelming agony. You stare blankly at your computer screen at work. You try to care about something, anything, but you don’t. Waterproof mascara? Total bullshit. You wonder why you bother to even put it on when it all ends up in puddles you’ve soaked up with carefully dabbed tissues. You dab with the tissues at your tears so that your makeup doesn’t run. You don’t want everyone at work to think you’ve lost your mind after your third breakdown that day. But you have. And you’ve lost everything else too. You’ve lost things like trust, dignity, respect, promises, hopes and dreams, and most of all, the person you’ve built everything around. Every morning you wake up and your first thought is “12 more hours until I can go to sleep and be unconscious again.” The pain is unbearable. Sleep is no better. When it finally comes, you dream that your waking hours are the dream and that your dreams are your reality, where things are normal and make sense again, where you turn over in the middle of the night and your husband is still next to you, where you come home at the end of the day and he is there. Waking is disappointing.
My husband left. And I didn’t pick up a pen to write for a long time. All inspiration was gone.
Why am I telling you this? What would create in me the desire to share the journey I’ve been on these last months? I’ll tell you. Many of you have felt these same things. Many of you need to know that you’re not alone in your pain, that someone else has been there, done that, experienced something akin to the hell you’re in, and is day by day, making it out alive. If my story can make one person feel less alone, it’s worth sharing.
I know what it feels like to lose faith in something you’ve built your life around. I know what it’s like to feel helpless to change a situation so you will no longer be rejected. I know what it’s like to be discarded and betrayed by someone who was supposed to always have your back. I know what it’s like to be afraid to trust again.
Sometimes I wonder how all the pieces will come back together again.
Sometimes? Always. Always I wonder that.
Some of you have lost all your hope and faith in the church, maybe in God, or at least in certain people, because of how you’ve been treated. You’ve lost all the trust you ever had in an institution (the church) that was supposed to be a place of haven through the hard times. You feel rejected over something you can’t change, hard as you try. You’ve been cast aside by the people who were supposed to love you the most – your families, your moms and dads and grandparents, your friends, your churches. You’re afraid to trust that a Christian will ever really look out for your best again.I haven’t walked a mile in your shoes – I don’t know what it’s like. But I can imagine, more so now than ever, the pain that you feel. It’s not fair.
When you’ve done nothing to deserve the hardship, confusion, pain, and rejection, it’s not fair. When you pour out your life in service to another, or in service to God, and your reward is to be discarded and rejected, it’s not fair. You may wonder if you will ever again feel at peace with yourself and with the world around you. You may wonder if you will survive. You may wonder why the hell you have to go through this. You may wonder where God has gone. And you may not find many good answers – or at least, none that will satisfy the depth of pain that causes you to ask the questions in the first place.
I went to the movie theater tonight because I made myself a promise several months ago. I promised to go see a movie by myself. It’s one of those things you do, I suppose, when you want to know you can be alone and still be okay. I think I’m doing pretty well with being both – alone and okay. This is entirely thanks to the massive outpouring of love and healing that God has overwhelmed me with these past months. I have nothing but praise for Him on my lips. He is good. And for tonight, at least, I had a victory. Little victories like the one I had tonight stay with you forever when you’re fighting a war as big as the one I’m fighting. They pull you through the shittiest of days. In the meantime though, you might find yourself crying your eyes out in the middle of an empty movie theater.
Suddenly, all the pain in the world feels so real and close and understandable and tangible to me. It’s not about what I’m going through – it’s an understanding that SO MANY are going through the same awful shit. I sat in that movie theater and cried because I heard the stories of my LGBT friends at every turn in the accounts of abuse, mistreatment, disdain, and disgust from those of us who think we know the “Christian” way to help, or instruct, or lead the “lesser” among us.
I cried because I want to be like that main character. She didn’t have time to worry about what she stood to lose – she was singularly driven by what others stood to gain. She was focused on what was important – giving voice to those who had been abused, silenced, and mistreated. She knew that, at the end of the day, the only thing that matters to someone who is in agony is whether or not you’ll hold their hand through it, and fight their battles for and with them.
I am so thankful for those who have held my hand through it, and fought my battles for and with me. I owe my life to those people. There’s no way to repay that. The only thing I know to do is to be that level of “good” to those around me. I want to take every risk necessary to tell people’s stories. Big things can happen when we listen to each other’s hearts for the first time and realize together that neither of us knows what the shit to do to make it better. In those moments at least, we know that we’re not in it alone. Being helpless is a sacred thing. When we realize that we have reached the end of ourselves and we still don’t have an answer, we turn to the only One is big enough to solve the dilemma. He’s the one that gives me hope and strength on the worst days.
My pastor preaches with stunning conviction, strength, truth, and grace every Sunday. I was undone this week by his words. “Out of your shattered life can come more than you ever expected, because it doesn’t depend on you. God will not allow defeat to occur, if you are willing to fall down before Him. Life will come forth, not because you can call it forth, but because He can, and will. And he will yield in you the greatest fruit your life has ever seen.”
God redeems all things. He turns the wounded into the healers. It is out of Christ’s woundedness, suffering, and brokenness that we have a God who both empathizes with our broken condition, and has simultaneously redeemed it. His wounds provided for our healing. His suffering provided for our comfort. His death provided for our life. As an act of obedience, I am compelled to turn my own wounds, sufferings, and death into healing, comfort, and life for my brothers and sisters in the same way that Christ turned His into such a means of redemption for us. God’s Kingdom is one in which destruction itself becomes the foundation from which Christ builds His salvation. I’ve got plenty of destruction to work with. I’m glad that He is big enough and good enough to turn it into overflowing redemption.
I’m doing okay these days. I’m happy. I’ve got a lot to work through still, but I am full of hope. And God is closer than ever. I am still confident of this, I will see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living. He is good. He is faithful. He restores all things. May He redeem my broken story, and yours. I believe He can, and He will.
Peace to you all, in your brokenness and His redemption, and much love, deep and everlasting.
A year later, and I realize how very much I cursed during last year (as evidenced in this post) and how very raw and numb indeed those first months were. Go figure. 🙂 Still happy, still thankful for God’s many goodnesses to me each step of the way, and continually AMAZED at how near and good He is, redeeming and restoring all things!