Bitter tears welled as I heard the words flow across her lips that night. God does not waste a hurt. Another deep sigh cleared my lungs, the exhale moving cautiously through my nose and mouth. I was there because my zen-place was taking longer than usual to locate. My emotions were rising steadily. I didn’t want to be here with them.
Lord don’t you see how tired I am? They said You are always with me, that You feel the pain alongside me, that You will restore me. But where are you now? It doesn’t feel like enough. You, and your promises, don’t feel like enough.
I sat alone fidgeting among the back row of folding chairs as the woman from the video went on about how the abuse she endured as a young girl helped her “give back” and create hope and opportunity for others. Her father tried to kill her when she was just a child.
“God saved me,” she continued. I could feel a familiar bitterness churn deeply from within the pit of my stomach. Where was all this negative energy coming from? It was a Friday night and there I was at church again, moments away from breaking into the smaller groups where other Christian women would soon confide their challenges with anger and resentment with one another. As I looked around the packed church meeting room of at least 100 or so men and women in their early 20s to late 80s, a deep sadness washed over me. As disappointed as I was by certain people and challenging situations that week, I couldn’t shake the frustration that seemed to take hold over me.
Growing up I attended church every Sunday, youth group on Thursday nights, followed by bible camp each summer break. Nevertheless, I would still discover the world of pedophilia from a grown man at the age of seven, later sexually assaulted at 19, and again in my mid-thirties just months after leaving an emotionally abusive and alcoholic husband. Instead of feeling empowered by all that I’d overcome, I was worn out again. Those men hurt me and it’s not fair! I called out to you Lord. Protect me! Save me! Send the cavalry – or remove me from the battlefield altogether. Burnt out and fed up, I soon returned to church.
For the record I would prefer that my rededication to Christ include that extraordinary bright light breaking through the clouds like the one from that 80’s TV show Highway to Heaven. You know, make it snazzy that God is omnipresent and handling things for the good and in my favor. For years I prayed earnestly for a Christian fix. Just tell me how many scriptures to read before feeling better. Do I need to go to church every Sunday? Any brownie points for the prerequisite years in bible school as a kid?
While other women shared about being angry with their kids, spouses, employers and aging parents, I shared that night that I was angry with God. This wasn’t my first time in the ring swinging high, low and hard at the Almighty for allowing the abuse when I was just a child, losing a mother to a diabetic stroke my senior year in college, or the paralyzing grief and uncertainty that lingers with my father now facing stage-four cancer. That night, I could no longer choke back tears and hide. Defenses down, I completely broke down.
“I feel lost,” I cried. Tears flowing down my cheeks, I could feel a sense of release almost immediately. As I shared what was troubling me, namely that I feared my quietly contained rage was actually making me physically ill, distancing me from my children, and yes, from closer relationship with God — each and every woman nodded back at me. We hear you, Sis. God works powerfully through our strangers and neighbors too, I realized, remembering that I wasn’t alone.
I was in fact, grieving. I was grieving the stolen innocence of my youth, the broken promises from a failed relationship, and feelings of inadequacy at not being able to sufficiently provide for and protect my kids from some of the dangers and hardships they’d faced over the past few years.
But then somehow, little by slowly it registered that this room of unknown women were in fact part of the calvary that I’d been praying for. Still emotionally raw, I didn’t stay for fellowship that particular night but I knew I would be back. I returned instead to a quiet apartment greeted enthusiastically by a six-month old puppy. She’s so much like me – eager to please and show what she can do, though not always versed on when it’s okay to roam and when to heel. She’s still learning. So am I.
Waiting for my son and daughter to return home, I filled our small apartment with music soon grabbing for my guitar with dusty strings grossly out of tune. It had been many months since I last played. Music was another tool that comforted me during periods of deep sorrow. The puppy sat and listened, her ears twitching on occasion as I worked out the chords and picking pattern to several new songs, thankful to the loving parents and amazing uncles who opened the door to acoustic guitar over three decades earlier.
The night ended with both my son and daughter sprawled across my bed, and big laughs from Lego Batman on our family’s flatscreen TV. As angry and bitter as I may have felt earlier that day, that week, that month, I closed out this night in the presence of laughter and love alongside my very own tribe. They too, are my prayers answered.
The following Sunday’s church service fortuitously centered on the subject of Grief. A thought then arose – much like a whisper, that perhaps I wasn’t meant to cross the finish line of this wintered season of grieving alone. Instead I was to be carried over it – in community with the women who have travelled this journey before me, and alongside me, making room for those not yet finding their way to us.
God does not waste a hurt. Thank you Lord, for your women of faith who continue to remind me.
Categories: Women of Faith