Friday, December 17, 2010

an oldie but a goodie

I've spent so much of my life in the past few years feeling abandoned. Not only because I sense that no one is listening when I pray, but because I feel as though my life is a matter of being stranded in the desert. I know many carry heavier crosses than I. I know my life has comforts and riches that I don't deserve and that should make it seem easy. But the crosses I carry seem absurd and senseless to me. I don't see any good that can come from them and I don't understand how it could be God Who has left me here alone.

I have felt truly alone at other times - well, one other time that I can remember. My heart hurt so much I thought I might be dying. But I didn't believe I had been abandoned by God. I could never "run to the cross," as some of the saints have said. But I could collapse on it and beg God to take my suffering away. I don't know how to make that prayer now.

Sometimes it helps, a little, to step back far enough (it's very hard to get that far back) to realize that I'm not actually crazy. I rail and rail about how tough infertility is, but it isn't just good rhetoric - it's true. We're all being put through the furnace, and no amount of toughness would enable any person, no matter how saintly, to walk this way and not stumble and fall under the weight. I may fall more because I am weak; but I am not crushed under the burden because I am worthless, but because it is heavy.

And I am married to an untreated (indeed, undiagnosed) PTSD sufferer. And probably manic depressive. And definitely recovering alcoholic. No one, no matter how long they have known me or my husband (not even if they've known him much longer than I have - although I am sure his old friends would dispute this) knows what our marriage looks like from the inside. I could tell a thousand stories and still no one who has not had a similar cross to carry could understand what it is like to be here.

I'm not crazy. I sometimes think, when I feel like I'm living in hell, and entirely abandoned, I must be losing my mind. But I'm not losing my mind. The suffering I imagine is actually here; and if I get up the next morning, if I keep fighting, it's proof not that I've been delusional, but that I'm a survivor.

I can't claim to have had a close, or even a non-schizophrenic, relationship with God of late. Some things resonate with me and some don't. But this seemed appropriate, I thought, and perhaps it will resonate with some of you as well, familiar though it may be.

One night I dreamed a dream that I was walking along the beach with my Lord. Across the dark sky flashed scenes from my life. Through the scenes, I noticed two sets of footprints in the sand, one belonging to me and one to the Lord.

When the last scene of my life passed before me I looked back at the footprints in the sand. I noticed that during the low periods of my life, when I was suffering from anguish, sorrow or defeat, I could see only one set of footprints. This bothered me and I questioned the Lord about my dilemma.

"Lord, You told me when I decided to follow You, You would walk with me all the way. But during the most troublesome times of my life there is only one set of footprints. I just don't understand why, when I needed You most, You left me."

He whispered, "My precious child, I love you and will never leave you. During your trials and testings, when you saw only one set of footprints, It was then that I carried you."


  1. this totally resonates.

    We had this printed on some sort of 80's mirror type thing and it was hanging in my childhood bathroom. I read it SO MANY times.

    When I just read that again, after at least 15 years, I realized I memorized it. And hopefully, I internalized some of it.

    Thinking of you and praying for you each day, my friend.

  2. I remember the first time I read "Footprints." I was in elementary school and I thought was so deep, but I didn't quite get it. IF does put us through the furnace (what great imagery!). I just wish I knew if there will fruits to all this darned suffering!!!

  3. I was just thinking of "footprints" the other day, and how I should look it up to read it again.

    I know we all have different crosses, and always we can find examples of those who have even more difficult struggles (and those who appear to have it much easier). Still, it seems to me that you do have alot of suffering in your life right now. I wish things were easier, or at least that you would get some relief ... a rainfall in the desert, an oasis, just something to bring you some joy and hope in the struggle.

    I was re-reading CS Lewis' "Mere Christianity" last week and came upon the contradiction of things like "take up your cross" and "can you drink of the cup I must drink" alongside "my yoke is easy and the burden is light" (I haven't looked these up to get exact wording, but I hope you know the passages I mean). Lewis goes on to explain how these aren't really contradictory, but I don't know. Nothing about the burden of IF seems "easy" and "light" to me ... though perhaps those who are deeper in their relationship with God could cast some light on it.

    Another thing your post reminded me of - when I was watching Dr Phil, probably around 2004-2005 (after awhile I found it got too sensational/distasteful, but I did really like watching it for awhile). He said, or maybe wrote, something about comparing his life as he knew it was, with the illusion of what everyone else's life appears to be. How different people's relationships and families can appear to what the reality is. I don't have experience with the different dynamics of your relationship, so I can't possibly know how difficult it must be.

    I don't know what you have explored already, if your DH is at all willing to seek help for his difficult struggles, or if you have access to support because I'm sure it wouldn't hurt you either ... anyway I hope there is something you can access that can help you on your journey.

    right now I am seeing a counsellor to help with my situation. I used to have spiritual direction but stopped a couple of years ago when I was hired for my current job, and schedule & timing did not permit. I sometimes wonder if I would need the counsellor I have now if I'd kept up with the direction ... although my counsellor has alot of training and is able to offer specific help to me... but I am not able to be as free with how I see things from a relationship-with-God standpoint, nor is she "qualified" to help me in this regard. I hope your spiritual director is someone you can speak to about anything - doubts, struggles and all - and someone who can support your journey and your questioning.

    It's funny, last weekend I was struck by the reading (I think from Isaiah) that was the desert which will get rain and spring with life, etc. so I tried sitting with that in prayer, but instead I ended up going to the bent-over woman passage I'd written to you about ... maybe I was writing that more for me.

    You are in my thoughts and prayers. I hope you will SOON find some relief, some joy and peace, really knowing and feeling loved just as you are, for who you are, without you having to do anything in particular or change who you are.

  4. "Footprints" is one of my dh's mother's favorites...we have some momento's around our house with that saying on them that she left behind (she died when my dh was a teen). We had it read at our wedding too...his sister did the honors.

    None of us know what happens behind closed doors....people like to portray this image of complete happiness when in reality there are struggles like the rest of us...that being we really want to receive picture Christmas cards with unhappy people in them? Of course not.

    I like that you are being real. We all have struggles. Ours are different from brother (who is now divorcing) told me one day that he would love my marriage and I said that I would love his kids.

    I hope you can work something out with your dh so you can find some of that inner peace. Praying for you.