I used to be fearless. And strong. And independent. And proud. It wasn’t a good thing. What I was really doing was building a life so that I would never need anyone else. Of course, I didn’t realize that at the time. But then I got married. Adding another person into my life should have been great…but, well, it wasn’t. There was no room in my world for anyone else.
That was when my anxiety resurfaced. The dark thoughts that crept into my mind, like that spider in my coffee cup the other day. I remember trying desperately to figure out who this person was, shaking on the bathroom floor. I certainly didn’t recognize her. Eventually, I figured out how to fix it. Not me, of course, because I didn’t believe there was really anything wrong with me. No, my husband just had to be exactly who I needed/wanted him to be, and everything would be fine.
Ten years ago, I found out he wasn’t, couldn’t be who I expected him to be. Because I didn’t expect him to be human. And he was human. (Thank God!) The truth was, I didn’t really know him at all, because I had never really let him in. I had never really listened – I was too afraid that what I would hear, wouldn’t be perfect.
We live near a national volcanic monument. Everywhere within miles of us, there is evidence of volcanic activity – the kids and I have spent hours studying igneous rock specimens. Blood-red Cinder. Obsidian as sharp as glass. There is one area where molten lava flowed through the forest so quickly that trees were completely encased, leaving their impressions in the lava as it cooled. Some of the trees were down on the ground, where hollowed-out tubes of lava can be found and, in some cases, crawled into. Other tree casts are vertical – some shallow, others deep and dark. As I walked along the path, I couldn’t help but compare myself to them. My impression is still there, but the guts and bones and sinews are nowhere to be found. The heart is lost.
Then a moment came where I looked up. And, standing out in the middle of the destruction, was a Juniper tree – another thing we have a lot of around here. A type of cedar, they tend to soak up a lot of water and destroy much of the other plant life around them, but you can’t help but admire their ability to survive. It had managed to put down roots and survive right in the midst of a graveyard.
My impression is still there, but the guts and bones and sinews are nowhere to be found. The heart is lost.
Hope can come from the strangest places. While I may feel empty and a mere shell of myself, that crazy tree reminded me that suffering isn’t the final chapter. It might not look pretty, but it’s genuine. I can’t spend my time looking down at the impression of what once was. I need to shatter it into pieces and, with the help of God, my family, my friends, strangers, become my true self – shaped by everything I have ever tried to run from.
“Do not fear, for I am with you; do not be afraid, for I am your God. I will strengthen you; I will help you; I will hold on to you with My righteous right hand…
…I will put the cedar in the wilderness, the acacia and myrtle and the olive tree; I will place the juniper in the desert together with the box tree and the cypress, so that all may see and know, consider and understand that the hand of the Lord has done this, the Holy One of Israel has created it.’ Isaiah 41:10, 19-20