Flashback I: Truth and the Shell

It has been a hard day of grief and pain. This time he is heeding my request to please stay clear and allow me to do my growing and grieving alone. But oh does it hurt!

“What hurts?” I have asked myself. It is the sucking drain of the disappointment drawing back the wave of joy that flooded over me at the realization that “I have found someone who I can love for the rest of my life!” It is a pain that tells of the stripping bare of the garden that bloomed in my heart, watered by that wave of joy. New leaves and fresh blooms all viciously uprooted in their youth, torn from my bosom. Holes that once held clutching roots and ground that was not so long ago shaded by trees are now dry and cracked and gaping, assaulted by a burning sun of Truth.

Truth that reveals every weakness in blinding, sweltering brightness. Truth that cuts through the beautiful words and whispered dreams passed lips-to-ear by the seaside. Cuts through the mirage of lies and folly-happy belief. Truth that burns away chaff. Leaving grief. Grief that the leafy ferns and tender orchids were not real but a bedtime story that needed to be grown out of. Grief at the loss of the cool, damp earth and fragrance of jasmine under a bright full moon all lost to truth.

Even when you tried you lied. Your lies covered my days with painted colours, a full garden of imaginings. Now all swirled and sucked into the vortex of the drain. If only I had not believed. If only I had not allowed you, time and again, to deceive. Truth tugged at me, peaking through the sky-flung Poinciana branches and so I slipped to the side to a greater comfort, deeper in your fanciful creation each time. Until the midday of my heart came and truth, right over my head, burned the matrix away. I am the one. The one who has to see and now must live in TRUTH.

And now… in the glaring light of the Truth that destroys all lies, I sit on a real stump of a real old tree – solid, dry, dead wood with the reprieve of Certainty that comes in the presence of Truth and the sound of the sea. Julius keeps coming back to check on me, walking only so far with the girls before coming back.

The darkness I battled with threatens to return and my mouth calls out for numbing rum. Things of the past. Tears come at awkward times, tugging on my composure and pealing the edges of my theater mask, my warrior mask, my happy mask. No mask sticks to a slick pair of cheeks! I sit with myself, in myself, smothered under myself and vomit onto the page every bilious thought that steals my quiet. And I glance down and see a piece of something shiny and pink. Shining through tear-chafed eyes. A gift, simple and rugged. A full and pink conch shell! If I had not sat there with my tears I would not have seen it.

After seeing the shell I put my book down and stooped to get it. But it was stuck. I dug around it with my fingers clearing the sand away between the roots of the old dead stump. The points at the top of the old conch shell were buried in the dead roots, cured by salt and covered with sand and thoroughly stuck. Stuck so fast that no amount of wiggling made it give. And so I searched for a piece of stick and dug with the stick. My right hand had already gone raw by now and threatened to bleed. I lost track of time in my focus and dug furiously. Hand and stick, hand and stick, wiggle here, tug there, still no give.

And so I called to the girls down to beach to come and help me.

Thus the shell had become my only focus, a symbol of happiness. I dug in relentless pursuit of it, the dig itself a fierce determination not to give up my hope. A struggle that brought blood to my hands and tears to my eyes.

The girls didn’t hear me and I began to get frustrated. Why didn’t they pay attention? The sky was darkening and the fireball to the west had begun a low, dripping, over-ripe mango-sticky descent through the clouds. I called out again and they began to walk ever so slowly to me. It angered me that they weren’t there and didn’t care, that they couldn’t hear my calling out. Didn’t they know how important this was to me? Couldn’t they see me and my gestures and waves saying hurry?

And plain as day I got it. THE POINT. Like a dream that gives such aching clarity to a situation obscured by daylight wakenings I saw. This is the purpose of my pain.

To bring me to call on Him, the Most High. The One who can answer all my questions, cure all my ailments, and dig out all of my shells. And right there I looked up and said to him Father, the girls aren’t going to hear me. They aren’t here where I am right now. And they probably couldn’t help me anyway – I am stronger than they are. Please help me get this shell out.

And so I bent over again and began to dig. It wiggled more and I dug some more. I stepped on one side to turn it loose and dug some more. I took my hands and scooped under the shell with sand cutting into my raw flesh. By this time the girls had strolled over to me. One came and reached down to help as I straightened up.

It came loose in her hands. First try. No struggle – out it popped.

MADNESS

But it was my struggle. There was a reason.

Later at home I took that shell into my bath tub. There it will always stay pink and fresh with constant watering. It will also remind me at least twice a day, at my most naked and exposed moments, that my God is with me in every struggle and will be my armour when I feel exposed.

And so I prayed into my little book. Father, please put that gem and hide it in my heart like that shell. Stick it in there and never let it wiggle free I pray. Please remind me that You are never going to leave me and that You are so much better than anything else I could ever find. Help me remember to call to You first because You are always right here, right now, where I am. Help me remember that when my friends are far away, or when they are up close – it doesn’t matter! They don’t have Your power.

Please also use these struggles of mine, these battles I face, to strengthen the people around me. Help my struggle to allow them to find their own shell loose and ready for them to just pick it up. Take my writing and use it to Your honour and glory I pray.

Amen

It seems I knew once how to deal with pain.  I knew once how to reconnect to the core of me and commune from that core with the Source of all things good.  I am so blessed to be reminded of that knowledge today.

My man in Iraq…

It was at a gathering of friends from my church.  We met to plan the next YAG season at a restaurant a few steps down the road from my house.  Nice night, two-for-one pizzas, outdoor smell of mosquito repellant and summer, and four women around a table.

After the planning and decision-making we ate and relaxed and the topic came up.  Very flip, in response to something decisive (perhaps aggressive, I don’t remember) that had somehow slipped out of my mouth, the seniormost of us turns to me and says “Girl, the man for you God hasn’t finished making yet.  He’s gonna have to be stroooong.”

“Oh yes Bushy… he must be going through some hardship right now where God is toughening him up for you,” was the chime of another.

“Girl, you need to pray for him.  He’s somewhere difficult right now where God is preparing him.  Dodging bullets in Iraq or something.”

At the time I sputtered out a surprised laugh.  But… REALLY?!

The thought has stuck with me over the course of the past few days and I really don’t know what to think or feel about it.  Is it true?  Am I ok with that?  Am I hard work?  Does it mean something is wrong with me?  Or right with me?  What kind of strength is it he would need?  What do I demand?  Is it unreasonable?  Is it a demand?  Or is it just my presence?

And if it is true, where is he now?  What does he need?  Is he really dodging bullets in Iraq?  Or fighting tigers on the Indian Sub-continent?  Or drilling wells in hostile territory in Africa?  Is he hungry?  Is he hurt?  Is he sick?

And I stop myself.  What the hell am I doing dwelling on something said so casually and meant to be light-hearted and funny?

Something is different.  Could it be that I’ve become this sensitive?

THE YAG (Mysterious Happening #2)

It was the same weekend as Mysterious Happening #1 and it was a miracle explosion.

In 2011 two young women from my church began a discussion about starting a Bible study for young adults.  They met a few times, talked around the subject with the pastor, but it didn’t quite take off.  In November they invited myself and another young woman into the conversation and now there were four of us.  We looked up a Bible study, selected one on relationships, met once, and still it didn’t take.  A little bit disheartened, we prepared to launch in January.  In our preparation we ordered books, selected a venue, worked out a menu, and launched the CIBC Young Adults page (Now called The YAG) on Facebook.  All of a sudden we were official!  Now to see if there were others out there like us who were wanting to study as well.

The Sunday before our first meeting we met with our pastor and prayed for guidance, for attendance, for the Spirit to prepare our group.  We expected five people at our launch of RELATE.

Twenty-five showed up.  The seats in my living room were all taken and some of us took the floor.  All our books were gone at meeting one and we made another order.  At meeting two there were even more people!  It was called AFTERGLOW, and we were blessed with music from Jordan and Heather Richmond, and there were no less than 40 people there.  And now we need to order MORE books!  Almost immediately it was too big for my living room and a couple from our church kindly donated the use of a warehouse that they have refurbished – wooden flooring, air conditioning, plush rugs and cozy seating.  Our Friday night (to Saturday morning) meetings continued to grow as we got deeper into the makings of good relationships.  It is the Happiest Happy Hour I’ve ever been to!

Our study is one of the Threads collection, called RELATE.  In our first meeting a visiting theologian gave us an introduction to the life of Dietrich Bonhoeffer, who was quoted in our study and was, coincidentally (nah no coincidence) the subject of his own thesis.  The first topic was Understanding Relationships.  We came to understand there is one fundamental need every human being has in their relationships – either Security or Significance.  With this foundation we came to understand more about ourselves.  We discussed the revolutionary idea that relationships are NOT ABOUT US but about the purpose we were created to fulfill.  The six “one anothers” of the New Testament were broken out for our exploration and the relationship armour of Colossians 3:12-14 were also chewed on for a good amount of time.  We are now half-way into session two – Developing Relationships, what our stumbling blocks are and what we should aim to bring to the table.

“Not what a man is in himself as a Christian, his spirituality and piety, constitutes the basis of our community.  What determines our brotherhood is what that man is by reason of Christ.  Our community with one another consists solely in what Christ has done to the both of us.”  ~Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Life Together

In the short space of a month this has snowballed into much more than a Bible study.  It has become a whole new community, a social circle, a support system.  Young adults are coming from other churches – Catholic, Seventh Day Adventist, Presbyterian, Church of God, no church at all – we are coming from all walks of life – teachers, civil servants, lawyers, students, unemployment – and we find belonging with each other.  Friendships are being formed, relationships are being rescued, issues are coming to a head, characters are being strengthened, and each of us is making the journey of the others rich in love and support, companionship and prayer.  It seems as though 2011 was a dark year for many of us – breakups, divorces, affairs, family drama, unplanned pregnancies, unemployment, alcohol-soaked violence, baby mama/daddy drama – things that make my haircuts seem trivial.  Our members have each walked out of their own individual pool of pain and into the arms of the others.  Our Facebook group has over 100 members – for an island of 50,000 people that’s pretty revolutionary!  In the space of a month our lives have begun to change – we have had a Bitterness Burning, a Baptism, a Birthday party, Valentines Cupcakes, we watched Courageous together and we have members calling in from other parts of the world on Skype.  It is our deep-seated conviction that no one should go without encouragement.  And now we are launching our missions!  We are working with our church to host Nicole Mullens in two free concerts at the end of March and we are planning our first international mission as I type!  Perhaps it will involve cupcakes… who knows?

THE YAG - heart in hand

None of us could have predicted how far this would go.  None of us could have planned for any of the growth we have made!  The mystery is in the peace that comes with being together.  Now we long for Friday night and call out encouragement and help and meet with one another throughout the week.  We are so blessed to have each other and to rest in our Father’s arms together.  And as we are salt and light during our work weeks and in our communities, we take comfort in knowing there is salt and there is light just a street over, around the corner, at another desk, in another place, and that that person is also keeping us in prayer before our God.  At the beginning and in the middle and at the end of the day it’s all about Him.

And then I had this dream… handing out cupcakes in La Ceiba.  It could happen!  In fact, before the end of the year I am sure it will.

Another time I will describe my own path to YAG and through YAG and how it has changed everything.  If you are interested in sitting in on one of our sessions, or even joining our group study, please drop a comment and I will send you material and arrange your link into our meetings.  We are setting the world on fire!  I invite you to be the spark that lights the flame where you are.