On Shattering & Gold
"So much happened, almost all at once. It just seems like its too much for one human to bear."
"It is," she responds, tears in her own eyes. "Its the only way for us to shatter completely, to really transform. By God's awful grace in delivering that much pain at one time."
I wasn't quite sure why God handed me a trauma coach in the midst of my chemotherapy. The other healers I understood. But not this one. Sure, chemo destroys the body and is my surgery was surely a trauma of sorts, but I wasn't sure that I really needed a trauma coach. Yet the minute she and I connected, it was clear that she was here for a reason.
It took nearly six weeks for me to bring up - in an off-handed comment - that surgery and the cancer diagnosis were just the tip of the iceberg in the last few months. That along with those sledgehammers came additional blows from menopause, infertility, heartbreak, and abandonment.
"Why didn't you bring these up earlier?" she asks.
"Because I don't feel like I can indulge myself in grieving those things while cancer is also on the table."
"You can't not grieve them," she whispers. "They are exactly what is making this all so devastating. No one should have to suffer all of that at one time."
And finally, for the first time in well over a month, I let myself cry over it all.
* * *
I sat next to a dear friend at the early service last Sunday. One of the few people who knows the whole story of the last four months, he has held my hand through too many tears and continues to sit by my side as I visit church after church, waiting for a pastor somewhere to reveal to me why this all went down this way, even as I know the only voice that can provide those answers is God's.
Toward the end of his message, the pastor displayed a photograph of a beautiful vase - cracked throughout and mended with gold. He explained that in the Japanese art of wabi sabi, it is believed that broken objects - things that have suffered cracks and have a history - become more beautiful after the damage. The broken places aren't to be hidden, but celebrated. They shine like gold - so valuable.
I got the message.
Three days later, my friend texted me.
"Those golden mending lines in your heart will glow with happiness."
* * *
"You seem very contained about all of this," she remarks about 20 minutes into another session. I know I appear that way. I can feel my heart trying to restrain all of the emotion surrounding the events of the last several months. I feel it -the sadness, anger, frustration, fear, grief, loss. But not with the intensity at which I know its begging to be felt. "What are you afraid will happen if you stop containing it?"
I know the answer without having to think. "I'm afraid I will absolutely shatter. I'm already so broken. I'm afraid if I feel the true intensity of all of this, I will be even more broken than I thought possible."
Everything feels broken in this space. My body, ravaged by surgeries and chemotherapy and injections and lack of sleep. My brain, now clearly suffering the side effects of the many drugs my body is taking in. My heart, its ability to trust stolen away and its tendency to isolate and hide in overdrive. My life as I knew it is over, who I once was has disappeared. I'm afraid of what else could possibly break in this space if I allow myself to let go and fall into the thickness of all the loss. Will it be possible to ever put me back together again? Is there enough gold in the world?
"Do you think God will still be there if you shatter?"
"Yes," I murmur. Because I do.
* * *
That's the thing of it. The one thing that hasn't broken, somehow, is my faith. Sure, I'm disappointed and frustrated and, some days, even angry with God. But each time He brings more darkness into this space He also brings His light. He shows up, again and again, to remind me of all that lies on the other side - plans far greater than I could have made for myself. I feel his presence as Hope and I roam the neighborhood - feeling miles of space between us and the rest of the world. As I lie on the couch, fighting for sleep. He is there on the sickest days and on the days when I can revel in the warmth of the sun. He is there and will continue to be, no matter how broken I may become.
My faith isn't broken. And maybe that's all the gold that is needed to repair even the most shattered of hearts and minds and bodies.
* * *
She's left on a three week adventure of her own, assigning me the task of shattering in her absence. Of making a ceremony out of it. Allowing the last blow to strike so God can really go about the mending process. Doesn't this passage say He will do just that?
But he said to me, "My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness." Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ's power may rest on me. That is why, for Christ's sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.
2 Corinthians 12:9-10.
Its time to really shatter. For when I am weak, then I am strong.