For six weeks I had struggled out of The Dark. Mercifully, I had emerged, battered, exhausted, on the shores of grief. Though waves of despair still licked at my feet, I was no longer immersed in the cold, dark, pain of my loss. My mind, body, and heart, bore the effects of the experience but I had started to sleep, keep food down, and my brain had started to function past survival, past my next breath.
While in The Dark, I had experienced whispers of thoughts that had drug me back under. But, my fatigued, desperate, mind could only focus on my next breath. Now that I had a little breathing room, literally, occasionally these whispers became thoughts and I became aware of a new battle. One being waged within my soul.
I was after putting the kids to bed. Still struggling somewhat with focus and getting to a new “normal”, I was standing once again in the kitchen. When, in a panic, I couldn’t remember if I’d given our daughter her new medication more than once! I knew this meant I would be sleeping once again on the trundle bed in her room awake and worrying all night. I was overwhelmed. This is what it’s going to be like. Medications, appointments, specialists, and worry. I backed up to the refrigerator and slid to the ground. Down to the beautiful hard wood floors Hubby had reclaimed off of an old job site, hauled home, installed, sanded and refinished for me. I sat there in a daze, looking at all of the perfect imperfections in that floor, and I saw it. My heart, shattered into a million, razor sharp pieces scattered throughout my kitchen. The same heart He had so gently and faithfully removed the barriers to, until it was soft, trusting, pliable, and vulnerable. And then He broke it! Silently sobbing on that floor, feeling betrayed, alone, and bone soul weary, I felt as if there should be crime scene tape and maybe a chalk outline of where my heart had been.
He doesn’t love you.
No, He has been with me through it all, helping me through! I’ve seen Him in this! He died for me!
He’s punishing you. For those sins. Punishing her for your sins. It’s your fault.
No! I have been redeemed! He set me free!
You don’t look like you’ve been set free. You look broken. And your daughter looks sick.
He doesn’t love you.…
I grabbed my cell phone to take comfort from my “light” photos. I had quite a collection by now. And I had an event reminder. Come, Abide, Beloved.
Months prior I had been blessed with the opportunity to attend a Retreat through the Women’s Ministry at our church. At the time, worn down in both body and mind, I rejoiced at the thought of time to remove myself from the distractions of home and focus wholly on His word. However, at just six weeks “post diagnosis” I was literally surviving my days moment by moment, hour by hour. And at this particular moment I was sure I couldn’t manage to go. That I just didn’t have it in me. I was so incredibly raw and now keenly aware that I had some major things to work through.
And then He met me where I was. With encouraging texts from friends privy to my private struggle. With a ride from another sister in Christ. With a Hubby that reminded me that they would all be okay without me. And I put one foot in front of the other and decided to go as I was, where I was. I slept fitfully that night after scattered prayers for guidance and energy and courage to do something that even at my best was so very out of my comfort zone.
He met me in the car on the way up, with the generosity of the beautiful woman who came bearing coffee and a necklace inscribed with the word “courage”. I can’t even make this up!
He met me in the conference center with one of my favorite fragrances in the diffuser. Where these women had worked tirelessly to create an atmosphere so womb like and comforting that I couldn’t even be upset that they made me do 30 minutes of “speed dating” to meet the other attendees.
He met me with the most amazing cabin mates who filled my night with genuine laughter (some of my first in a while) until I forgot my discomfort with all the new faces and names, with an unfamiliar bed, with worries about home, medications and the struggle deep inside.
So I rested. In fact, I slept all night. One of only a handful of nights I’d gotten more than a four hour stretch. And I know He was preparing me for the day ahead. The cold sun rise brought with it the glaring clarity that light often brings. And when I stepped into the conference center again and started to worship I knew there was work to be done here today.
My mind was clearer, but my emotions were no less raw, no further from the surface. I cried through beautiful songs of praise and worship, speaking of God’s love for me and His pursuit of my heart. And as our gifted speaker spoke of Luke 7:37-38,
she painted a picture with words of a desperate woman, living a sinful life, risking rejection, glares and PAIN, to get to Jesus, and break her most prized possession, an alabaster jar of expensive perfume to anoint Jesus’s feet. She wept openly, wetting his feet with her tears and wiping them with her hair. She came as she was, where she was, with her brokenness and her sin, and weeping, left them at His merciful feet. I could almost see her desperation and pain! But she let nothing stop her. What was stopping me?
With desperation and pain my soul cried out to Him for Truth! Slowly over the last year He had stretched me and helped me to trust. Not just Hubby and the kids, the ones that initially broke the barriers on my heart, but over time a whole community of believers that had helped bring His truth and love and light into my life. And with each layer removed, each anxious step, He had made it good. I trusted Him! But how was I supposed to start all over again and trust Him again? Because this hurt too much. And the temptation to listen to those evil whispers, to return to the “safety” of a hardened heart was at times, at my weakest moments, so very strong! I felt everything but strong.
We broke for our personal devotion time and I went into the crisp autumn air thankful for the cold. Hoping it would numb some of the torment. And I opened my packet and started to work through it. Years of counseling and a remarkable therapist had helped me gain insight into my sins, the motivation behind them, and the detrimental effect they’d had on my life. I had confessed these sins, wept over them for the pain they’d caused me and others, and the barrier they’d placed between me and Christ. So, I fairly flew through half my packet when I was blindsided by number 16.
16. What do you desire more than Christ?
My earthly family. Whole, healthy, and happy. My daughter not sick.
They are my alabaster jar!
We were instructed to take our pieces of alabaster and write on them what we had been holding onto as more precious than Christ, then bring them to the cross and lay them at the feet of Jesus.
Could I do it? Could I trust Him with my family? With my heart? To be perfectly honest, I faltered. I sat holding that stone, hot in my hands, mind and heart racing and realized….I was still praying! I was desperate, broken, and looked for Him in everything, every person I came across, every piece of scripture He gave me. And I knew. I knew that I would walk to that house of the Pharisees, past ridicule and shame, and bring Him my most prized possession, my alibaster jar and all of my brokenness. Every sharp, painful, ugly shard. And I did.
Oh, there was so much pain in the offering!!! But as I laid my piece of alibaster at His feet and cried desperate, broken tears, I saw Him pick up those awful broken pieces and knew He made them new. That I was nowhere near complete, but He would make it good. I went to the safety of the prayer tent but instead of ridicule and shame was met again with His grace and love through another sister in Christ who once again gave me the words to pray when all I had left were tears.
The Retreat was part of His plan, His perfect timing. And though I left exhausted, I left with renewed faith and trust in Him. I left strengthened in Him to battle the doubts and fears that still sometimes work their way into my head. Though they surface in my weakness, His strength lights my way and they no longer pull me down, broken, onto my kitchen floor.
I keep a piece of that alibaster jar amidst the chaos of my purse, my life, to continually remind me who I’d given it to.
My alibaster jar
From the other side of the podium, the same side of the cross, please visit: