In 2013, the word was Peace. The word came to me during the Christmas season, when I was anxiety-ridden and in a deep pit spiritually and emotionally. So, despite the beautiful, calming definition of the word peace, I immediately thought negative thoughts:
-Oh, no. One of my parents is going to die!
-Paul and I are going to go through a rougher time and I'll have to fight for peace. Otherwise it will elude me.
-I'm scared to find out the answer to "Why peace?"
Well, January had me in marriage counseling alone, which was okay, because my counselor was so good, so intuitive, and asks such probing, thought-provoking questions that I have to "dig down deep" to find the answers to my own problems, independent of my husband's. The counseling really wasn't so much about marriage as about me at that point. I was broken. I needed to be healed. I didn't even know the depth of my pain nor the source of my restlessness.
The number one toughest question my counselor asked was this: Do you feel like you just don't belong anywhere?
You know she's right on the nerve when all you can do is cry and nod.
I was not sure where I belonged in the lives of our three grown kids who had flown--or were about to fly--the coop by spring. They were in meaningful careers and had significant others consuming their schedules. I felt they didn't need me, and since my identity was inextricably tied to them, I was lost. Midlife and the thought of a nearly empty nest was paralyzing and choking me.
We had no church family. After 17 years in our old church, where I'd enjoyed close relationships with many people, we were now homeless. But we chose to leave that church for several painful, powerful reasons. Trust had been badly eroded and we were both dying spiritually. We were both depressed and angry. Our adult children had been wounded and disillusioned there. They were now hunting for their own churches, and had their own anger and trust issues. Thank God they didn't walk away from Him! Thank God they still wanted to go to church somewhere! That is huge!
It was January, and we were now in our seventh month of searching for a new church to call home, For a place to belong. The hunt was exhausting; some churches I liked, Paul didn't, and vice versa. It was hard every Saturday night to ask, "Where are we going tomorrow?" and hear back, "I dunno." To wake up Sunday and ask, "Where are we going this morning?" and hear back, "I guess _____ because we have time to get ready before 10:30." In all my life, I had never dreamed that we'd meander, wander like nomads, from week to week on the hunt for a church. I wanted to belong somewhere, to settle in --without settling on--a church, more than Paul seemed to. At times I felt like a bloody cavalry rider strapping a bleeding general to the saddle, disoriented, staggering, wondering if we were retreating from, or advancing toward, the front lines of battle. Worse, there were moments I had to remind myself that the bleeding general is my friend, not my foe.
On top of that, I had been teaching high school art as a volunteer, so I wasn't officially on the faculty with all its rights and privileges. Moreover, I wasn't confident that I was making a difference in the lives of my needy students. I was pouring a lot of time into the class without a thanks from the students. (If you want warm fuzzies, teach first grade, not eleventh.) I had an hour a week with them; could they see Christ in me? Or was I so transparent that only my joylessness showed?
Where was my peace? This was only January, and I felt none.
(To be continued...)