Rolling away the stone

A year ago tonight was one of the worst nights of my life. Or I thought it was. It was the night when my boyfriend broke up with me after a year and a half of serious relationship. He had hinted at marriage several times, and it was understood between us that it was what we were both looking for. Then I got sick, and everything changed.. At first, he just seemed distant. Then it was more than distance - I knew he didn't want to be there when we were together. He was more than a million miles away. He wasn't even on the same planet. I asked him several times what was wrong, and if he was happy in the relationship. He would only speak briefly about anxiety and depression, but refused treatment. Pride would not allow him to seek help. It was something, he said, he had to deal with on his own.

So he broke up with me and I really thought it would kill me. I nearly let it kill me, truth be told. After all, the rest of my life had fallen apart. What was there to live for? I had lost my father. My health. My body was falling apart. And now the man I loved just walked away with no explanation. Just like that. He was gone. April and May were torture for me in 2014. I was heart-sick; soul-sick. I didn't know where to look for healing.

So I turned, as I always do, to God. Years ago I experienced a crisis of faith so profound that I declared myself an unbeliever. But God made a mockery of that by sticking by me even though I denied God. And when my world fell apart, God was there immediately, right by my side, with loving arms to lean on. I laid down the stones I had been carrying and instead picked up a new-found faith. It was much different from the belief I had cherished before. That was a glossy, perfect image of mature Christianity. This new faith was a grubby stone I chiseled out of deep earth. It was ragged and imperfect, but it was real, and it was mine. I clutched this faith to my heart like a talisman. But even though I clung to it, I felt alone, bereft, and as if God had turned away from me.

One morning in early June of 2014 I got up from a sleepless night and wandered outside with my dog. Early morning sunshine was buttery-bright but the air was cool. I laid in the dewy grass under a maple tree in my backyard, listening to the wrens and robins greet the day. I dug my fingers into the grass, and I suddenly felt the pulse of God's presence right there, under my fingertips, in the cool earth. I felt it so strongly that it became hard for me to breathe. I had spent the prior two months sobbing, screaming, crying out to God and hearing only silence, feeling only emptiness. I did not turn away, I did not give up, I just kept calling out to God. On that early June morning, God answered, not with words, but with proximity. God was around me. Beneath me. Within me. Each breath I took was infused with the Spirit. My tired, aching body awakened fully for the first time in weeks. I opened my eyes and looked into the sky with sudden understanding that I needed nothing more in my life than this moment in the grass brought me - the overwhelming knowledge that God was near.

There have been moments in my life that I think of as seminal. Moments that inform every other facet of my life; moments that change me so deeply and so fully that I can truly say I was born in that very instant, created anew in all innocence, with a fresh life spread out before me. These life-defining events have been few and far between - my first salvation experience is one. The births of my children. The first time I knew what it meant to really lay aside my preconceived notions and think for myself. The two times when my existence was completely in the hands of another person and my life rested on the whims of a person who believed I deserved to die. The day I decided to give up lying to myself for Lent. And that day, in the grass, when I knew that God was present, and that nothing else really mattered. All the hurts and hopes of the past were washed away.

As I write now, I am sitting on my back deck. A thunderstorm is building in the south east. Charcoal grey tendrils of cloud weave their way across the fading blue of the evening sky. In the neighborhood to the east, children are playing. Their laughter echoes. I can smell the wild cherry tree blooming on the edge of the flower bed and the air is sweet and just as laden with the Spirit now as it was on that morning almost a year ago. Easter is a time for resurrection, and my own stone was rolled away that morning when I lay under a tree, wishing I could just dissolve away into the grass. Sometimes you do have to die to life in order to truly live. The peripherals do not matter - the pain of my disease doesn't matter - the huge amount of work I am currently doing doesn't matter - the fluidity of the future doesn't matter. The only thing that matters is bringing that moment forward into this one, and living in the certainty of the nearness of God.


Comments

  1. You've stated this so beautifully, I could be a witness without locational possibility.

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