We call 2014 – The Year of Pain. It is also the year we decided to be baptized. Isn’t everything supposed to be glorious when you decide to come back to God? I never expected death and devastation, trauma and pain to be a part of my pathway back. Yet there it was overwhelming me with pain and promising everything in return.
We started attending in December 2012. By December of the next year we were ready to move toward solidifying our relationship with God within a church community. We had been attending regularly and had just joined a small group that I was asked to lead. It was a privilege and an honor to be asked but we were told that since it was a couple’s group we were both required to be baptized and my husband had not been at an age of understanding. We were ready for this and looked forward to it. Then the year changed to 2014 and the world began collapsing.
In January one of my daughters, then 22, had to be hospitalized for something that can only be explained as a nervous breakdown. In February my sister, only 48 years old (two years younger than I am), passed away unexpectedly. In March our 23 year old son (my step-son), a recovering addict, began stealing and pawning valuables from our home and cashing thousands of dollars on our stolen checks. Our business took a nosedive and it was then I began grappling with depression.
My husband began to be absorbed by his son’s day-to-day life and that took it’s toll on us. In April we started writing our baptism script; the words that tell those baptizing you that you understand what you are doing and for what reason. I realized then that I was not completely over my frustrations with Christianity. It may have been due to the bouts of depression. As my husband finished his script I began arguing with someone about my own. By May I had decided to wait to be baptized, thus causing my husband to pull back, and we turned over the small group to someone else. Probably a wise decision in retrospect.
Holidays were horrible that year. Each one more uncomfortable than the last. On Fathers Day our son nodded off in addiction, in the middle of his dinner plate and I watched my husband go pale. This was destroying the family. I was in a major confusion funk. I doubted my life purpose, my ability to be a good parent, a solid wife, a practicing Christian, and an inspired business owner. I was expected to help others suffering with horrible life-choices but all I could see were the ones in my own home now.
My oldest son decided to marry his sweetheart that month. They lived on the other side of the states from us so travel would not be easy. The truth is I couldn’t do it; financially or emotionally. I thought my oldest son, always so understanding, and his fiance would understand. They did not. My son took it as a sign that I didn’t approve of his decision and they became bitter.
In July my step-son finally entered rehab but quickly came home when he was able. Much too quickly. He started up again almost immediately. At that point I wasn’t sure how much more the marriage could take either. In September he asked to spend the night. The next morning we found him on the bathroom floor. After performing CPR, following him to the hospital and sitting with him for 2 days he passed away and my depression became full blown.
All I could wonder is if people younger than me could die what in the world was the use of the rest of my life? Then I began to doubt how much of it I had left and determined there wasn’t enough time to care about anything anymore. My husband, dealing with his own sorrow and grief, struggled for normalcy. Our business, which had started to thrive, suddenly became difficult to keep up with. We were both exhausted, both trying to recover, and we both began making dumb mistakes and bad decisions.
I was not emotionally ready for either the news in October that ISIS was killing children or that I had a long-lost brother who insisted on getting to know me. It was a tight-rope every day. Breaking up dog fights between our huge German Shepherd and our son’s Pitt-Bull was also not an event we needed.
Needless to say, ending the year with the holidays, minus two very important people you love, has got to be the hardest way to say goodbye to the most difficult year of our lives. It felt like all the promises had been forgotten and only pain remained.
And yet, reviewing this horrible year I noted a very important thing; God had not forgotten us.
If it were not for the small group we joined, regardless of the direction it took, we would not have had the support we needed through the most turbulent year anyone could imagine. With our son’s tragedy came clarity in dealing with clients we could never have otherwise understood. His death unexpectedly brought our family closer too. We began to hold tightly to those things we appreciated about each other and to be more patient with the grief of loss we recognized.
And what about my questions and frustrations with Christianity? I am convinced that it was a very necessary part of my own personal growth. I believe if I had not been dealing with so many other things I might have glossed over this discomfort and pain and missed the very things that would bring me comfort and strengthen my faith at the end of that year.
God is good even when life is bad and He has a plan. Always easier to see in retrospect, we must learn to focus our eyes on the Father rather than on the events and people around us. We must first have faith that He can do all things, and then we must believe that he will do what is best for us.