In my last post I wrote about how I expected that asking God to take over my life would lead to instant emotional healing. I would love to be writing about how much better life got after I made a commitment to Christ. In some ways, life got worse, at least at first.
The church was small, and about fifty to seventy-five members attended on any given Sunday. The atmosphere was warm and intimate. It was like an incubator of sorts, and I truly do not think I would have survived in a large, mainline denominational church. Even the pastor who recommended I start attending did not invite me to his own church! I’m sure he pictured how difficult it would be for the proper ladies of his congregation to reach out to this poor, wretched, emotionally scarred scarecrow of a young woman. They may have been tempted to simply ignore me, or tell me how badly I needed to clean up my act. And it wouldn’t have taken much to push me over the edge, to make that break between me and life on planet Earth.
The people in this little congregation cared deeply about me. Not one word was uttered about the state I found myself in. I was legally married to my first husband, never having bothered to file divorce papers, even though he had abandoned us many years earlier. I was living with my boyfriend, who was smoking dope from the moment he got up in the morning. Looking back on this, I think it’s very unusual that no one proffered his or her opinion about all this. It was almost like someone called a meeting and they agreed to allow God Himself to do what he does best when it comes to changing people’s lives. Like I said, very unusual.
But this was a time of great confusion for me as well. A well-meaning parishioner would throw a Scripture my way that was supposed to take all the fear out of my brain like a vacuum cleaner sucking up sand. All those particles making noise and then silence. Ahhh! But when quoting these Scriptures didn’t seem to work for me, I became sure that God saw me as an imposter, attempting to squeeze by unnoticed. To me, that meant I was rejected. My feelings of abandonment rested on a hair trigger. It didn’t take much. And if God abandoned me, that meant I was going to hell…no matter what. And if I were going to hell no matter what, I might as well go ahead and make the trip rather then knowing about it for years ahead of time. Who can deal with that knowledge? Like a doctor telling you you have one to three years to live. Yikes!
So I would be on the verge…making the plan. I wrestled with it, worrying about my children, but thinking they’d be better off without me. I worried about the church members, feeling all guilty and everything. And then, like clockwork, it seemed like the Lord Himself stepped in to keep me planted on this side of the veil. Once in awhile he just stepped right in to the scene in a dream I was having during stage 4 REM. Other times, I would be pretty close to ending things when the phone would ring and one of the church ladies asked how I was doing, or there would be a knock at the door. I became more and more sure that God was the one doing the knocking. “Hello! I’ve got a plan, and it doesn’t include repeating “fear not” while pointing your finger in the air or pretending to stomp on ‘ol’ slewfoot’s’ head!”
Winter’s comin’ on and it’s twenty below. And the river’s froze over so where can he go. We’ll chase him up the gulley then we’ll run him in the well. We’ll shoot him in the bottom just to listen to him yell.
~ “Old Slewfoot,” by Johnny Horton – The Legend – 1975 Columbia House 2P-6418
And it was enough…enough to keep me coming back to the little white church with the mural of Jesus walking on the water…enough to hang in there and keep breathing long enough to live another day. I was still grieving the death of my brother, still waking up and crying first thing. I still couldn’t drive a car, go grocery shopping, and I was still lying on the floor all day long just trying to get my breath at least once a week. And I was still seeing Dr. Teemis. And Dr. Teemis was still royally screwing with my head. But things were definitely looking up a little.
One day I was talking to the pastor about my fear-filled thoughts about the future. “Linda,” he started, if we got a list of all the things that would happen to us at the beginning of each year, we would go crazy with fear. But all those things take place one at a time, and God gives us the grace to handle each one as they come.” That helped a little, alleviated some of the dread I felt inside when I had certain thoughts. But there was one thought that produced so much adrenaline flowing through my veins that the thought of God’s grace coming in after the fact wasn’t comforting at all. Turns out all that dread was justified. If I thought I was done with trauma just because I had become a believer, I had another think coming.