Everybody knows this year has been hard. That’s not a revelation of epic proportions. Personally, my pandemic started in early November. By the time we got to the lockdown I was tired and struggling to even crawl to the “almost there” line of spring break. My career, if you know me personally, is the second most important thing in the world to me…not because the pay is great, not because it offers a lot of prestige (unless of course middle school and elementary age students thinking you are cool is the prestige one is after…in my case it is not…haha), but because I am genuinely in the job I am supposed to be in and I know that. I love my students. I understand them. They struggle, they overcome, and then some force outside their control brings them crashing down again. I felt that life. I was made to do this job.
By the end of November, I had already taken on so much grief from my kids I felt like the world was exploding and I was powerless to do anything but try to keep us afloat. I found myself at a church I went to when I was nine…literally out of nowhere just driving off stress one day I ended up in the parking lot. I was drowning myself, but my “lovelies” as they’ve been named, I couldn’t let them see that. I had to find something to keep us going. They needed me to find something to give them. I know now that God drove my car to this church because inside it’s walls was a pastor that was the only person who had ever really been able to show me that God was love. He said to me, “Sometimes we just need Jesus with skin.” I didn’t think he was right at the time, but I would soon come to find out that not only did I need a Jesus with skin, I needed Jesus and everything he gave me in the coming months. The pastor and I talked for awhile and he invited me to come to service and I gave some excuse about working too much and he prayed with me and I left.
The pandemic and lockdown isolated a lot of people and for some that was a worse fate than coming down with the virus. For me, that isolation forced me to face the huge weight of my anger and the question that I kept forcing down deep on the inside of me. That anger and the question, “Why?” made me feel like I was going to explode at any moment.
My youngest son, Denver, woke up one day about a week and a half in to being on the stay at home order. I was in the dining room painting old vegetable cans to turn into lanterns. He asked how long it had been since I talked to my school kids. I said, “I don’t know maybe two days.” and I shrugged when I asked him why. He said, “Mom, you are painting garbage.” It made me laugh, as Denver has the ability to do so often, but what he didn’t realize is that I had nothing left to give my school kids. I was empty and lonely and way too heavy to take on any more of their pain. Later that night, I was surfing Facebook and watching yet another binge session of Grey’s Anatomy and a book showed up in my timeline. It was the book Wholeness by Toure’ Roberts. I have no idea what the ad said now, but just reading the intro to the book, I knew I had to buy it. Somehow, I felt that there might be an answer in that book for me….some way to get rid of all the anger and misery that I had chained to me and couldn’t shake.
And it began. Within the first twenty minutes of listening I knew that Pastor Roberts had written that book specifically to me. I still wasn’t ready to talk to God about anything yet, but somehow reading the Pastor’s words didn’t seem like God talking. The first thing I read was about the biggest lies we tell ourselves…and the most dangerous was “I thought I was whole already.” I knew I wasn’t whole, but I wasn’t ready to admit how broken I really was. In the pages of that book, the truth came out and I couldn’t ignore it anymore. I was tired of being the kid that was hated by my mother and the kid that my dad had left so many years ago. I was tired of being the embodiment of abandoned dreams and I was sick of being blamed for things that weren’t my fault. I was so tired of being angry but I didn’t know how to change.
The third chapter of Wholeness might as well have been accompanied by a marching band and a street carnival with how loud it’s words spoke to me. I started trying to journal all of my thoughts and feelings and the answers to the questions that literally SHOUTED at me from the pages. (I am not a paid endorser for the book Wholeness or the Pastor who wrote it, but I tell everyone I know about it because of the gift it gave me and so if any of my words are speaking to your soul right now I encourage you to PLEASE check it out. What do you have to lose?)
I heard Pastor Roberts loud and clear when the audibles book said, “Anger is where we live when we can’t acknowledge the hurt. Anger is the perfect refuge from our hurt because it gives us the power over the narrative.” At the very end of that chapter the author poses the question that changed my life.
“Have I been honest with myself and others about my hurt?”
I had no idea what to write. I sat there, stunned, as I realized that I had no idea what I was hurt about more. Page after page of hurt poured out until my hand was cramping so bad I had to try to write left handed. I just kept listing what I knew. And the more I wrote, the more there was to write.
“We are not okay when we pretend that hurt doesn’t hurt. Hurt always needs to be addressed and recognized (acknowledged). When we fail to acknowledge our hurt we compound the pain it causes.”
Well. Great. I had been ignoring my pain so long I didn’t even remember half the things I was mad at and as I filled notebook after notebook with my thoughts and finally, with no other option available, I came face to face with my anger and told it to get out of the way so that I could look at my pain. It was not a fun time. I did not enjoy it. But, I wouldn’t give back that confrontation for anything in the world.
I will start at the beginning of what I remember even though that isn’t where my beginning was. I will get out of order occassionally, but my church beginning was the broken foundation I started my life on. Examining that foundation has been the best thing to ever happen to me.
(Wholeness: Winning in Life from the Inside Out by Toure’ Roberts)