Peace in the midst of a storm
(Part 2 Here)
So there I was — miserable, depressed, and hiding it really well. I had gotten involved with a swing dance group over at the Air Force Academy the year before, so during my depression, I started going dancing twice a week. It was a chance to get away from it all, have fun, pretend I was happy and carefree, and be completely removed from anyone who I would have to pretend with about my eroding faith in myself, men, and in church.
And there was this guy… but at the time, in my mind he was safe, because he had a girl friend and he wasn’t a Christian. So no strings, no dating expected of me, no getting my heart broken… I could just hang out in the group, have fun with him as a friend, and enjoy dancing.
Well then the boy and his girlfriend broke up. Turns out he liked me even though I had convinced myself he was just a good friend. He was the safest person in the world, because there was no way I was ever going to convince this sworn, intelligent, Atheist to come to Christ — Evangelism was never my gift, but a relationship in my world meant faith was the foundation and therefore non-negotiable.
Thank God, we don’t write our own stories right?
In reality, two seeking hearts were brought together at the perfect time. While I was seeking integrity, honesty, stability, and confidence — he was seeking answers to his own doubts and questions of faith. For him I was the first person of faith he had ever encountered that refused to deny my faith, while also refusing to judge him in the process. For me the essence of my faith that remained strong then was a childlike trust in the personal encounters and good experiences I had, had with God since I was young. My doubts and questions were in the goodness of humanity and people I trusted to love me and be good to me or my family. His doubts were whether his life mattered, if God even cared, and if there was any kind of purpose for him beyond graduation.
Sometimes I think this is the beauty of Christ’s life, in that his love gives the ability to see a reflection of the divine in someone else’s heart, even when we are blind to it in our own. As we spent more time together as friends, and began to share our stories, something beautiful happened as we lifted each other up out of our own pain, doubt, and fear. The night he asked me to pray with him, so that he could invite God into his life, I will never forget. To this day — it is my standard and my beacon of hope, even when I feel like my own waves of doubt will utterly crush the remnants of that childlike trust and faith I had then to cling to. The fact that someone could see God’s reflection in my life and want to be a part of it, even when it felt like my world was tearing apart at the seams, gave me faith to believe there was light to be found beyond the storm.
From there I began to live this strange dichotomy. I now had someone to assist in holding the anchor of my faith steady. Suddenly the stormy waters of past relationships settled into a peaceful, and joyful experience I had never had with another man before. I experienced my first kiss, met his family, introduced him to all of mine, and we began a wonderful year of memories together as we fell head over heels in love.
Work and school took us both to Texas, and the following Valentines I thought my heart would explode when he gave me the most gorgeous ring a girl could ask for and asked me to be his wife. We were married that summer. In the wedding of my dreams, I floated down the aisle to the handsome man waiting in his dashing uniform.
Apparently Cinderella stories do come true.
My happy relationship, engagement, and now marriage filled with bliss gave me a chance to breathe. It allowed me to escape the pain that was hovering silently in the background, just waiting for me to acknowledge it. Believing my faith in humanity to be restored and my doubts to have subsided, I didn’t realize how they were threatening to come rushing back on the scene in an area I did not think I would ever see — my own faith.
As a child, Christianity was all I knew. It was THE answer that had ALL the answers. It was my family, my life, my faith, and my existence all wrapped up in one.
So suddenly, before I even realized it my faith had fallen into this frozen state of denial. I felt helpless to breathe life back into it, as I watched it slowly succumb to beating after beating. Beginning with men I trusted breaking my heart; to fellow believers I loved and trusted failing me; to seeing my sister and family broken around me; to seeing many other friends from the same church circles just as hurt, lost, and burnout; to experiencing the tragic death of a child of one of my Professors at college I knew fairly well and watching it devastate an entire school campus; to losing my Uncle to cancer at the age of 51 — these are just some of many painful experiences that had slowly begun to take their toll.
I was so busy just trying to breathe through it all as life threw one more painful event after another at me that I never saw the scales tipping. When we were dating, I had transferred back to a private university in Texas, and while there I never found a church home. I told myself I should find one, but every time I tried — it was like inviting a wave of pain and unanswered questions to come sweeping in. So avoiding it became easier than facing it.Days turned into months, months turned into seasons, and seasons into years.
(Part 4 here)