I've been going through some shit here. That's about as nicely as I can put it. As it turns out, my best friend is moving away, which means the church plant will also be losing its main teaching pastor leaving us feeling overwhelmed and alone to "run" the church by ourselves. John's been working 50+ hours a week for months, putting away extra money before his foot surgery in November (when he won't be able to walk for 6-8 weeks). And our old, beat up truck was stolen from the back yard, leaving me and the kids without a car most days (It was found a few weeks later, filled with the nastiest trash imaginable including some skank's panties in the front seat. And it only cost us $200 we didn't have and the truck wasn't worth to reclaim it from the city. Getting the thing running again will cost even more, of course, leaving me wishing the damn thing would have just stayed gone.). I wake up in the morning feel so lost and confused and angry and, most of all, weary to the bone.
Since we realized we'd be losing our best friends, not to mention the Pearl's lead pastor, the conversations around here had been heavy with disbelief, confusion and worry, not to mention profound sadness and loss. For weeks I would wake up in the morning and think, "What's the point of going through the motions? Shannon's leaving. Why bother painting my nails? Shannon's leaving. Why not lay in bed all day and watch 14 episodes of Mad Men? What else can I do with myself?? Shannon's leaving." I can't even imagine the church plant without them. I can't imagine this town without them and I especially can't imagine how I will make it through the next year without the comfort of her presence, our long semi-drunken conversations, and her daily friendship. She gets me, and she still loves me! How will I ever find anything like that again? I know I would never have made it through the last 3 painful years without her. How am I going to make it now? Do I even want to keep trying? As if I had a choice in the matter.
But sometimes it feels like I do have a choice. Like I can say to God, "That's it, I'm done! You can go on with your little plan without me because you've finally asked too much of me." Then I can...what? Say to hell with this miserable town and its miserable people? That would be a relief, but I don't even have that luxury because I know our time here isn't done yet. There was never even one luxurious moment when I could entertain the thought of leaving this seemingly god-forsaken place behind me and joining them. After years of begging for confirmation, I finally know this is where we are supposed to be. And I don't want to leave! It is a wonderful relief, but it's also a burden I fear I am not strong enough to bear.
One problem is my lack of imagination when it comes to my own future. After a year of cognitive/behavioral therapy, I've managed to uncover many of my core beliefs. Core beliefs are usually established in childhood and we spend the rest of our lives unconsciously collecting evidence to support those beliefs even completely ignoring evidence to the contrary. Mostly, we aren't even aware how strongly we hold these beliefs or how they constrain our lives. I was raised by a single mom and spent most of my years growing up with sitters or alone. The predominant emotional memory I have associated with childhood is aloneness. My core belief (to my shame): I am destined to a life of pain, loneliness, disappointment and despair. I've been collecting experiences my whole life that only prove how true this is, more than ever in the past 3 years. But now that I've uncovered the lies, I want to blast those destructive beliefs away. Especially when I know they contradict other, more tentatively held but certainly more true beliefs like God is good and He loves me and my life is in His hands.
But the trouble is I can't imagine what that "good" future might look like, and when I'm left to my own imagination, it usually ends badly. Somewhere in my deepest depression I stopped living and clicked into survival mode. My only goals were just to survive this moment and the next and maybe the day. I stopped even imagining anything beyond that. But then I got back on medication. The darkness lifted, the constant debilitating anxiety lessened and I began to imagine what it would be like to live again. To dream and set goals and keep lists of prayers answered to counter the fears that remained. So I stepped out and took a risk to live again, and the sky didn't fall on me. But the last month I've found myself right back where I started. Like a dog, weary of being beaten, I'm now crouched and waiting for the next blow to come.
But I don't want to merely exist in survival mode. I'm tired of protecting myself from the pain that may or may not come. I'm tired of numbing myself to stay alive. I've come too far and I'm terrified of going back. But what if we can't do it? What if I don't have what it takes? What if our friends leave and the church crumbles? What if I'm not strong enough to handle whatever comes next? How can I possibly do it without Shannon? In the deepest part of my soul, I just want to believe that life can be good, full, beautiful and meaningful, even when it is difficult. I want to believe that God can use me, that I haven't wasted my life, that some good can come from my suffering. I want to believe that it has all been worth it and that, in the end, it will all be worth it--regardless of what the future brings.
So, I've been spending a lot of time in prayer. Working through the worries and the fears with the One who knows me better than I know myself. Countering the negative thoughts with more appropriate positive ones. Trying not to drink too much and finding solace in my journal again. I'm nearing the end of my current enormous visual journal and am already planning for the next one. Last night I even started reworking an old canvas. A true miracle from where I was at the beginning of the Summer.
But if there is one thing I've learned, it is that everything, especially our sanctification, takes a lot more time than we want to believe. And God doesn't seem to be especially bothered by this, despite the fact that most of the time we are anxiously rushing from one thing to the next, eager to prove ourselves and leaving Him behind in our wake. So, for the first time, I'm trying not to figure it all out. To be patient with others, with myself and especially with God. I feel a renewed passion to abandon myself to the things I know only I can do and to do them well. Love and teach my children. Plan and cook healthy meals for my family. Try to keep the laundry under control. Encourage and support my husband in his work and calling. Live in deliberate Christ-centered community with the friends and neighbors God gives us. Make a little time for my art, good books and this blog. Truthfully, that's more than I feel like I can handle most days.
And I'm way more hopeful than I once was. I trust that, whatever happens, God is in control. He is not freaked out like I am and He knows better than I do what I need and what will truly make me happy. I really think things will work out, although I have no idea what that looks like. I think we'll be ok. John tells me every night that as long as we have each other, everything else can slip away because we have everything we need. I'm choosing to believe him. And I'm counting down the pages until I can start my new journal. With more thick, blank pages for paint and marker. Something smaller that I can carry around with me. Somewhere to put goals and plans, a place to dream again instead of merely vent. Where maybe I might imagine a glimpse of that good future after all.