Before December 22, 2008 I had been acquainted with a kind of pain that feels like those days of drizzle, when fall is molting its leaves and inheriting winter’s bite. The pain of infertility hung low and impacted my view and my time — it droned on and almost became a part of me — but I had become familiar with it. I was understanding it as a part of my world, at least for a time, and not “other” or separate from me.
On December 22nd, I met a new kind of pain. A pain that assaulted me, from the outside. It was other.
I turned the corner of the hospital corridor, hearing my boots echo through the sterile hallway with whitewashed walls, to see my family absorbing the news. My mind moved in slow motion as I heard words like “brain cancer” and “12-18 months.” This can’t be happening, I thought, as I was surrounded by all of us but my dad, whose life hung in the balance.
Days earlier, as I sat before God, I was certain I was moving into a new season. The pain that had been a drizzle for years — the barren womb, the delayed adoptions, the financial fallout, and more — seemed to be slowly subsiding as I was getting His perspective on it. He was beginning to lift the bite that had been there.
All of this made my new reality — that I had father with a diagnosis and a brain atrophying under it — even more of a shock.
How much can one person handle? I wailed this to God on my insides, as my family shifted to another room and my body buckled underneath me.
That night, we curled up on dated pleather furniture in a hospital waiting room, each of us stifling our own sobs, unsure of whether my dad would make it twelve hours post-surgery, let alone the twelve more months they gave him. The man who taught me how to shoot a basketball and that the ocean’s waves weren’t to be feared but to be ridden — the one in whose chest I buried myself (and my tears) when I didn’t make the play, even after callbacks — might not ever see me hold my first child.
Trauma has a way of leaving a different mark than what comes from a long time sitting underneath the drizzle of circumstantial pain.
I had talked to God — often — over years, about the delay and the ache of my barren womb. He held my hand when my marriage felt stalled. He gently tutored me as a young bride.
But this night — December 22nd — it’s haunted me now for years, even more than the date of my father’s death, 10 months later. It was as if the surprise jolt of unexpected ache chiseled me. I’ve physically felt the hole of that one night and not known what to do with it.
This little video of ours stirred God’s inspiration in the heart of a musician-friend … and he wrote us a song.
I was sitting in my writing room in the middle of the day — that time when books and papers and scraps of lunch and legos are spread across our house — with children in and out of my space, when I heard his song.
And I went right back there to December 22nd. (You can’t always choose when God will respond to years of that “ask” for a heart-healing.)
The collision of one song + this word that He’s been speaking to me over a decade + the worst night of my life … it created an entry point. The words washed over me as I saw the tender figure of God holding me, unfettered and near, in that white-washed city hospital.
He was there.
I had been frozen in shock. I wasn’t guarded or girded with truth, at that moment in the hospital. I was scathed by the news.
But He was there.
The trauma of it all left me vulnerable. And vulnerable I walked, forward, now for nearly six years, as if this one moment in my life was just … dark. Unredeemed. Period. Always. I’d always want to vomit at the remembrance of that night and those feelings.
But then His Word is sung over me, at my desk, in between knocks on the door and math questions and the baby monitor buzzing in the background, and it gave me back that night — the night I thought would always be black on my calendar.
It looked different when I saw her from this angle — this girl I was, who was only just beginning to know that God holds the broken and doesn’t only coach them or shout platitudes their direction. He was there. Not a distant observer, but He was holding me — this God-man who knew the chiseling effects of death on a human frame. The maker of the world was spilling over with compassion for me, the little girl facing the threat of losing her daddy in the night.
There are no untouchable moments for God.
Our rare clashes with trauma — with the kind of pain for which even the best of flesh can’t brace itself — don’t need to forever wreck us.
He leans, deep, into those things we shove to the farthest corners of our mind.
And He gives us Himself, there. He shows us where He was.
(And sometimes He gives us a song, there, too.)
December 22nd — marked on my calendar — is now the day where I was vulnerable and He was near.
Want to invite Him into your very-worsts, too? Oh, even as I type I realize the “ask” is big. We want to a build a life avoiding even the thought of those moments that make us want to vomit. Just start with one itty-bitty prayer: Would You heal that day for me God? Would You show me where You were, then, in that moment when the sky went dark?
Then watch and wait.
Oh, and here’s that song: “To the Hungry Soul” by Ben Woodward*.
Perhaps this is the song* He is singing over you, too, now.
*Music has a way of working itself into us. Want some music by which to read? Between now and Wednesday, 10/13, if you order Every Bitter Thing Is Sweet you’ll receive a free adoration devotional and a download of this song. More details here.
For Your Continued Pursuit: Hosea 2:14-15 | Proverbs 27:7 | Hebrews 4:12 | Psalm 18