Wednesday, February 1, 2012

I Will Run to You: When the Loneliness is Intense

That’s my mantra for 2012.

Looking back loneliness is not new. It’s pretty common in a marriage where one spouse is as ill as Thomas was for the length of time he was ill. I was no different. When I saw the weight the illness put on him over time, internalizing my pain and even some of my thoughts became second nature. Was it the correct thing to do? Not likely, but at the time I felt it was my only option. I had good reason to think so and don’t particularly have any regrets about it. Leaning on their spouse first is what a lot of people do. And it’s hard for people to understand why I could not or felt I could not do the same. It was hard to figure out timing. If it was a bad day, you didn’t want to make it worse. If it was a good day, you didn’t want it to turn into a bad day. Should be a pretty easy concept to grasp that stress would aggravate lung disease. I saw what it did to him when stress came from outside the house. How could I bring any? If there was a problem, I fixed it. If I messed up, I tried to make it right? If I was sad, scared or hurt, I sat quiet.

What I do have regrets about is turning everything in on myself and not leaning on God for those times. Convinced myself we needed all of His help just for Thomas to stay alive and I had no time to pray about anything else. Looking back I wonder how I could put God in a box, to actually think He couldn’t help both of us. I realize now that what I really thought, but could not admit to myself or anyone else was that because he was sick, Thomas was the only one in the house that mattered. That’s even worse. It’s one thing to think someone can’t help you. It’s another to think they just prefer someone else over you…and we’re talking about God, not an imperfect human person. That’s what being in a silent, dark place will get you: thoughts you know you shouldn’t entertain but take up valuable head space, conclusions that are not valid, but paralyze you and emotions not dealt with that eat away at you from the inside.

One night I don’t remember the specifics of now, I had to admit that while I knew in my mind it wasn’t true, in my heart I felt God didn’t care. I heard people say nothing could make Him stop loving you, but figured at some point He’d had enough of my fumbling and stumbling as a wife and mother and especially my anger during Thomas illness and turned His attention elsewhere. What else could explain the dark place I was in where just about everything I had wanted was either stripped from me or wasn’t going to ever happen for me. My daughter was my one saving grace and although I was grateful Thomas was still alive and loved him deeply, we’d been stripped of everything good that separates the marriage relationship from any other you have. One day during greeting time he called me “sis” and I nearly lost it.

My emotions in my marriage were just as intense as anyone else’s, but when your marriage is stripped the way ours was, what do you do with them? We couldn’t do those bond strengthening things necessary to make a marriage grow. What held us together other than our commitment to God and what we promised was the trauma and the friendship we had before romance was in the picture. And when one night out of almost 700 or so that changed, the plus sign on the pregnancy test solidified us. That 2nd child was also one of my lost dreams. In the back of my mind I thought, maybe-just maybe God did still care about what I wanted. It was not the most emotionally easy pregnancy, but neither was my first. Bottom line though we put up with each other and found other ways to go forward. Thank God for friendship. How many marriages last under the strain of disability and illness, absence of all forms of physical intimacy small and large on top of all of the normal issues couples face? Not many. I don’t know how sick he must have been, to sit down for a nap and not wake up. It’s been only recently that I have come to see the extent of the damage in my own life.

Nearly two years have passed since Thomas died and breaking that silence and bandaging those wounds is a process. My pastor’s wife mentioned to me one day that there are likely some things that happened no one knows about save God and me. It’s the truth and even though I have opened up more about the experience, there are certain things that will remain between God and me. I’m still learning to talk to Him again. This was a faith shaking, breaking, uprooting experience. It certainly wasn’t that God failed. His mercy really is ever lasting and I’d be lost without His grace. It was my failure to do some of the basic things that I needed to do in my relationship with Him. He kept me through all the way to now with little cooperation from me. That’s what He does. That’s grace and mercy. But for healing, I have to get involved. If I want to live and not just exist I have to get involved. It takes more than time to heal all wounds. I had to start over with Him at the ground floor. And as I’ve gone to Him, He has made His presence known to me.

One thing I’ve discovered though is I am very much still a woman. I’m not just a widow. I’m not just a mommy. Those are big things to be, but they do not completely define me. I’m a woman with normal wants and needs, just like I was when Thomas was here. And loneliness is still a factor. The intensity of it ebbs and flows, but when it’s intense, it’s like a monster. It’s not that toy under the bed or that article in the closet that makes a frightening shadow, but isn’t really anything to worry about. It’s real. The challenge is finding wholesome ways to deal with it. Now I have plenty to do. That has never been a problem. But the night always comes. And as I have for years, I lay in bed with no spouse, just for a different reason now. For a lot of that time, there’s a child or two on the other side, but as much as I love my children, that is not going to cut it. I could find a variety of ways to deal with it on my own and it’s not hard to figure out what some of those are, but there are rules on my life I intend to continue to follow. God has those in place for a reason, one of which is to keep my heart and body safe. Not that possibly facing a lifetime of this safety is something I enjoy thinking about. I was a wedding day virgin and don’t have trouble admitting I was more than a little ticked to be stripped of my privileges half way through the marriage. But it is what it is.

But Psalm 30 says weeping endureth for a night and joy comes in the morning. Shedding tears into a pillow, I repeat to myself, “You will get me through this won’t you? You won’t leave me will You?” You’ve completed me, haven’t You? You’re the one transforming my house into a peaceful place. You’re the one making the three of us a great family. You would not have seen me through the center of hell to the edge to leave us now.” I once thought He would. Heck, I’ve thought it more than once. I really thought I’d pushed God away in anger or disappointment one too many times. But the bible talks about faith the size of a mustard seed. I think that’s about all I had at times. But I’m learning if I take what faith I have and run to Him. When I do, the monsters aren’t so frightening.

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