“I have seen the burden God has placed on us all. Yet God has made everything beautiful for its own time. He has planted eternity in the human heart, but even so, people cannot see the whole scope of God’s work from beginning to end” Ecclesiastes 3:10-11.
Michelle Knight, Amanda Berry, Gina DeJesus. Three women bonded for life. Only they know the incomprehensible 11 years they survived. I can’t imagine the courage they mustered to face Ariel Castro at his sentencing hearing this week. The last victims of the Boston Marathon bombings have left the hospital. Strangers bonding over survival and physical therapies that only they comprehend. Soldiers returning from various conflicts in the Middle East with military honors and PTSD form a brotherhood of experience that their families don’t quite grasp.
We think of these people and their stories and laud them as heroes for surviving inhumanity at its worst. I wonder how many of them feel heroic? How many of them wish they felt as heroic as people hold them up to be? How many of them want to scream, “That’s not me! I’m scared! Confused! Broken!”? While I haven’t experienced the level of trauma that these people face, I have my own ugly stories of trauma that may offer a little hope.
I remember telling my best friend from high school about the trauma of a 5 year abusive church relationship and that one good thing that came from it is that it forced me into counseling. I had finally reached the end of me and my abilities to cope. Humbled, traumatized and having a thyroid that gave out because of the stress necessitated professional intervention. At my first appointment, denial filled me. I thought I’d go in there, tell my story, have my counselor validate me and all would be well. About half way through my sobbing and probably unintelligible rant, an epiphany washed over me. In horror, I stopped crying and cried, “Oh, dear God, I have to come back!” My counselor incredulously looked over her glasses at me and calmly replied, “Oh, Honey. Yes.”
Going each week to my appointment, I fought back panic attacks. Most of the time, the Humpty Dumpty nursery rhyme mocked me, “Humpty Dumpty sat a on a wall. Humpty Dumpty had a great fall. All the king’s horses and all the king’s men, couldn’t put Humpty together again.” I knew I would never recover. No one could save me.
Then, it happened. About 6 months into my recovery, the mocking rhyme repeating over and over in my head, I practically screamed in my car for God to throw me a bone. Okay, I actually screamed … and begged … and tried to cut a deal. I hadn’t felt the presence of God in years. I had disconnected from wanting to hear His voice. But in my desperation, a tiny crack opened in my heart and I heard so softly, “The King can put you back together.” That’s where my hope sprouted. Maybe no human could save me, but God could. He may use people to accomplish the healing; but the healing came from Him. He planted eternity in my heart that day. Oh, not gonna lie, all was not well after that. Five years of intense work with my counselor and Jud ensued. But, the hope began. The forgiveness began. Now, two years post-counseling, I can say I am at peace while I continue the journey. I carry the scars. I will always carry the scars. The scars contain my healing, my wholeness. Had the story ended eight years ago, I would have descended into fatalism. My scars remind me to look on people with tenderness. My scars remind me of human frailty. My scars create compassion and empathy in me toward those just coming out of their ugly stories and those just entering them.
It takes a lot of work to turn a landfill into a garden. The three women who must begin to pick up the shattered pieces, the bombing victims who must find it in themselves to rebuild new lives with limitations, the soldiers with PTSD who have to make peace with the nightmares, the adult who tries to make sense of childhood abuse all live over emotional and spiritual landfills. But, their stories, our stories, don’t have to end in the decay of the garbage heaps. We can allow God to set eternity in our hearts and wait for our story to unfold, believing that God’s ending is more beautiful than the hell we have endured.
I pray strength, courage and hope for all as they embark toward healing and wholeness. May none of us ever settle for ‘good enough’ or a patch job. Clearing the landfill of our hearts, planting seeds of hope in a future and tending that garden daily for blooms to appear are worth the effort. Those hurting in our world are worth the effort. YOU are worth the effort!
Where have you found hope to go on in the midst of your life’s tragedies?