For those of you who’ve read Passport through Darkness, it will come as no surprise to hear that I, like many combat soldiers, have been diagnosed with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD).
The first time I was told this, I gave it about as much validity as if a
witch doctor told me she had a voodoo doll of me. A little farther down
the healing path, the second time I heard this diagnosis, I thought,
“Okay. Now that I’ve accepted this, I can move on.” The third time,
after having tried avoiding it, self-willing to get better, praying,
stuttered attempts at moving on, drowning it in chardonnay, and blaming
everyone including God, and—to my great dismay only growing in despair—I
finally got serious about healing.
In spite of
my reluctance to admit I could not walk the path to healing alone, God’s
mercy reigns, and He sent several godly people who know much of grieve,
loss, and trauma to journey with Milton and me.
Through this process, God is inviting me to see pieces of my heart that I
have long closed off—from Him, Milton, and even myself. Ironically, I’m
realizing that I, the woman known for flying into war zones, seem to
have my own internal self-declared “no-go zones.” Pain and loss that God
longs to redeem in my life, but for which I’ve rebuked His kindness
because even remembering or acknowledging them feels too risky.
Slowly-by-slowly, I’m finding the courage to pick one broken piece of
my heart up at a time and holding it before my Father as a child would
her crumpled toys. It’s painful and exhausting work—testing every rotten
morsel of doubt and faith I can muster.
Bible tells us that our hearts are deceptive beyond all measure. It also
tells us that it is where Jesus longs to live, our place of deception.
We deceive ourselves, and Jesus longs to be in the midst of our
deception—a Torch in the darkness of ourselves.
Recently, I met with one of my mentors along this journey into
Wholeness, and a Blast of Light revealed a core fear in me that I’d
never even realized I held. Like Ananias helping Paul to be free of the
scales that blinded him, my mentor helped me to see a fear that has
controlled much of my life, and driven many of my life choices: the fear
of being alone.
This is why it feels so risky to
remember, acknowledge, all the broken pieces of me—both sin done
against me as well as sin I’ve done against myself and others. The act
to bear all comes at the great risk of being left alone to carry its
full-born weight all by myself. I don’t mean a fear of spending time
with no other person in the room or house. I mean the sense of being
totally rejected and abandoned. Bearing life alone.
Outwardly, I’ve acted so certain and independent that I’d even
convinced myself I didn’t need help, at least on a certain level. Others
can need me. I can help others. But, I do not need help. It was both a
beautiful and bone rattling discovery to see the lie, and face my
immobilizing fear. I simultaneously grieved over how much power I’d
turned over to this fear and felt elated to see it, admit it, and talk
with Jesus about it.
At the end of our time
together, my mentor left me with wise counsel, “Take time off tomorrow.
Spend some time to both grieve the losses and rejoice in the Hope of
I normally drive myself pretty hard,
and so I decided to unplug from the grind for 24 hours. When I woke in
the morning, I finished a novel written more than 100 years ago by G.K.
Chesterton. The ending snuck up on me, leaving me to wonder if God had
preserved this book for a century just for me. Afterwards, I wondered
for hours alone through the woods in which our home is nestled as I let
Jesus show me more of my wounded heart. Scales continued to fall. After
lunch, the autumn-colored leaves lining the shores of the lake at the
edge of our woods beckoned me to the water.
Milton and I have a 1979 Hammond boat. She’s old enough to carry a
soulful patina, but young enough that she doesn’t qualify as an antique.
In other words, we got her cheap! We call her Ebenezer Sprite.
I spent the afternoon exploring quiet coves along the river where the
flaming autumn trees reflected the Torch I felt glowing in my heart.
I was more than an hour down river when I decided I should head home
before Milton got worried. As I pulled out of Paint Creek, merging back
into the main flow of the river, the dam loomed large and white to my
left. With turbine engines boasting the power to suck you through or
blow you away no matter your size, especially in our little Sprite, the
dam roused my feelings of being small and insecure.
Just as I hit the deepest part of the channel, Sprite’s motor sputtered
three or four times, as if gasping for air. Then, she died. I eased her
into neutral, and tried to crank her up again. After a couple of false
starts, she sprang back to life just long enough for me to slip her into
gear. Then she was gone, down for the count.
was alone in the main channel of the river with a boat that wouldn’t
start, and in a current that was slowly pushing me toward the dam.
If I’d pulled out my cell phone as soon as Sprite putzed out, I
would’ve probably had coverage, but by the time I realized I couldn’t
resurrect her on my own, I’d drifted just far enough to be in a dead
zone. The far end of the lake was full of those.
All day long, I’d sought ways to be alone with God, and let the glory of
His creation work wonders in my heart. For the first time all
afternoon, I wasn’t so happy that only two or three fishermen had
whizzed by on their way to their favorite secret spot.
Nearly thirty minutes passed before the first boat came within sight.
Standing up, I flailed my arms back and forth above my head in
crisscross fashion. The lone, thirty-something-year-old fisherman
sported a high-dollar bass boat and a look that told me he was “checking
out” the woman alone on a boat. Once he was close enough to realize she
was a grandma rather than a babe, his interest waned.
After listening to what she did when I tried to turn her over a few
times, the fishermen said, “Sorry, I can’t help more, but I’ve got an
appointment in town.”
I’m thinking, “What? You
didn’t really just say you’re leaving me here alone did you? Do you see
that big, white, hunk of dam right up there? Was your daddy’s name Jack
McCall (the guy who shot lawman Wild Bill Hickok in the back)?
What I said was, “Can you at least pull me back to the center of the channel so I can get cell coverage?”
“Jack” did, and I dialed 911 as he untied the knot that tethered Sprite to his pretty bass boat and sped away.
The operator assured me they’d call the Marine police and have someone to me in a jiffy.
Another 30 minutes passed before my phone rang. “This is officer
Soandso with Marine patrol, mam. I understand you’re stranded on the
lake, but I’m not on the water today. I’m going to make some calls to
see if I can find someone to help you out.”
“Thank you, officer Soandso. But it’s getting late and I’m drifting toward the dam.”
“Don’t worry mam. It won’t suck you through.”
“Then why are there ‘Danger’ signs posted all through here, warning
people to not get to close to the dam, officer Soandso?”
“I’ll get someone out to you as soon as possible, mam. Put on your life preserver, just in case.”
I stopped wishing I hadn’t forgotten my thermos on the deck because
then I’d have to go to the bathroom even worse, and the October water
was already too cold to make getting in an option. The lake was so quiet
that I also stopped looking for another fisherman.
I settled in to watch the show around me. Seeing the red and gold
leaves flicker at God in the sun made me think that was their way of
shouting at Him, just to make sure He didn’t forget them.
The last two chapters of The Man Who was Thursday,
the G.K. Chesterton novel I’d finished in the morning, kept looping
through my head. Chesterton wrote as God when ‘Thursday’ and his friends
finally meet God, “…but you were men. You did not forget your secret
honour, though the whole cosmos turned an engine of torture to tear it
out of you. I knew how near you were to hell. I know how you, Thursday,
crossed swords with King Satan, and how you, Wednesday named me in the
hour without hope.”
“…though the whole cosmos turned an engine of torture to tear it out of you…”
That pretty much sums up how life is outside the Garden, far—oh so very
far—east of Eden. And, now, I’m staring at this hulking dam rising high
from the water, like the cold, hard Back of God turned against me, and
it’s shadow casting a flaming sword to keep me outside the Garden.
I tell this to God, and as if from Eden itself, a sudden breeze pushes
me farther from the dam. My phone rings again. It’s a local Marina.
“This is Robin. Due to budget cuts, the Marine police only launch their
vessels when an accident happens. They asked if we could send someone
out to help you. We’re on our way.”
As I wait, I
set my eyes on a “Danger” sign jutting out of the water straight ahead
which warns anyone crazy enough to get this close to this concrete Back
of God to turn around. I resolved that if I start to drift beyond it,
cold or no cold, I’m jumping in and making a swim for it. I’ll try to
pull Sprite behind me; I’m a strong swimmer and I’ve pulled her through
the water before as we swim in the summer rather than restart her as she
drifts. But if the current is too strong, and I can’t bring her along,
I’ll resolve to cling to that ‘Danger’ sign without her rather than
crash into the dam.
As the sun is getting lower, a
boat approaches. Whether it’s the marina or not, I stand performing my
same SOS dance that lured “Jack”. This time the fisherman was nearer to
60. He also checks me out, but more like he suspicioned I was a pirate
luring him into the reeds where I’d rob him of all his worldly rods and
The mysterious breeze that pushed me back
from the dam had since carried me right into a thicket of reeds near an
island. I knew once I got embedded in the reeds, a would-be rescuer
wouldn’t be able to reach me. If that happened, I’d have to abandon
Sprite and swim to them or their motor would get tangled in the reeds’
snare. A couple of years ago, I’d gotten stranded while exploring a
muddy creek. I’d had to climb off my water craft and walked it through
narrow waters full of water moccasins and leeches. I did not look
forward to anything resembling that African Queen-style experience.
I yelled across the water, assuring the fisherman I was not a pirate,
asking him to come close enough to let me tie onto his boat so that he
could pull me out.
“How deep is it there?” He queried.
“Deep enough. You won’t hit anything. I’ve drifted all the way over
here and haven’t drug bottom. I just need you to come close enough for
me to toss you a rope. Please hurry, before I get trapped in the reeds.”
“Can you see the bottom?” he stalled.
“No! Please hurry.”
“Toss me your rope.” He wasn’t budging.
I doubted my rope was long enough to reach him or that I could throw it
that far regardless, so I pulled out an old ski rope we kept stowed
away. Tying the two ropes together, I made a throw as if the Scardy-Cat
fisherman was home base and I was throwing the first pitch for the World
Series. The breeze of God must have carried it, and amazingly, my
Scardy-Cat fisherman caught it.
Once out of the reeds, he said, “I’ll get you back out to the main channel where the marina people can find you.”
“What? You’re leaving me?”
“I’m sorry, but I have to be in Birmingham for an important meeting in an hour and a half.”
“Yeah. That’s what ‘Jack’, the first guy who left me here alone, said.
Can you at least pull me to that ‘Danger’ sign so that I can tie off
Just as we began to make way to my last
outpost, I spied the marina vessel approaching. My Scardy-Cat fishermen
dropped my rope into the water as he wished me, “Good luck!” and sped
Kenny from the marina was no Scardy-cat
fishermen. He took command easily and kindly. Climbing aboard Sprite, he
handed me a rope to his own vessel. Unable to start Sprite, Kenny
tethered his large boat to our little Sprite, and assured me we’d make
the marina before dark.
Not having to steer, I
had a long while to reflect as I rode in tow. Less than 24 hours ago,
I’d finally admitted, named, and faced my fear of being abandoned, left
utterly alone with nothing but the tall and broad back of God to look
I confessed once again, that while I act
strong and independent, I often feel weak and afraid of being left all
alone to fend for myself in this far East of Eden life.
Had God orchestrated a shocking novel, a looming dam, and two cowardly
fishermen to help me go deeper into this fear, and find Him—His
Goodness—in the deepest, darkest place of my heart?
I’m not very clever when it comes to discerning between what God orchestrates or what He simply uses.
I can, however say two things with certainty. First, that we humans
have been turning our backs in abandonment of Him—and each other—since
sin slithered into our hearts. Secondly, when I dare to see and name the
dams I’ve built—and the back I’ve turned on His kindness—He meets me
with His tender hands and compassionate face.
“Or do you show contempt for the riches of his kindness, tolerance, and
patience, not realizing that God’s kindness leads you toward
repentance?” Romans 2:3-5
I actually wrote
this blog several days ago, but have just been holding it. Today, as I
found myself praying for all the leaders, churches, and surrounding
communities that are being ravaged by Sandy, I felt now was the time to
Please join me in a portion of a
prayer that I sent to a partner of ours and a local pastor in the midst
of Frankenstorm. May it be so, and even more.
We keep a prayer board up in the Mission House (what we call our
headquarters in AL) of Make Way Partners, and this morning we are
listing both of you, your church, and the surrounding community as the
winds of Sandy/Frankenstorm rage through your lives.
May you, as leaders, know the peace of the Lord as you reach out to
many who will experience much loss, fear, and unanswered questions.
May the local church hold strong, uniting as the True Body, in acts of
love and service for one another and her neighbors.
May your surrounding community know the love and mercy of God as the
winds of this Fallen Broken World attempt to grind the engine of despair
I leave for CA on
Wednesday to lead an Our Father’s Dream retreat there. Afterwards, I am
flying directly to you. I realize power outages, et al, may full well
alter all our plans at MBIC. Still, one way or another, I plan to be
with your people. I am throwing some work jeans into my bags, and if our
meetings are cancelled, I plan to come work alongside you and your
people in whatever cleanup effort may be needed.
I look forward to worshiping with you in good times or bad.”
Love, your sister headed due West along the journey into wholeness,