Eve’s Plight

Riddled with pain, ceaseless pain, unfair pain. Why must we suffer? Her words ring in her ears, a shell of bitterness exploding near her heart.

To suffer: to endure pain or distress; to sustain loss or damage; to be subject to disability or handicap.

First watching him unravel, then rehab, then food stamps, then the fighting—always silent and simmering. At least the kids are gone now.  More silent nights, empty mornings. How long can we go on like this? Then one empty morning: emergency surgery. Something is terribly wrong. It’s the colon, all twisted up inside her aging body. It’ll have to be partially removed. Eight months of physical and emotional trauma: baggy clothes, liquid diets, naps upon naps, visits from friends; more silence. Why? Why are You allowing this to happen? What are you trying to teach me?

She learns to cope through the years, ceding to his control because it’s easier. She still loves him somehow, so it seems like the right thing to do. But is it? I don’t know anymore… Waking up alone, feeling a rustling pang in her heart—something used to live inside there, but she doesn’t know how long it has been gone, where it went. She turns onto her other hip, the less arthritic one, and tries to fall asleep. Soon, the pain causes her to lie on her back, stare at the ceiling, and bargain with Him. If only…  When will you relent?   Please…  I’m so tired…    so tired…   SO tired.

Her children see her periodically, but not enough. They worry about her, care for her. Mostly she seems fine, so they go about their own lives with their own problems, until they wake up in the night to hear her crying on the sofa just outside the guest room.  I’m fine, honey. Don’t worry about me. I’ll be just fine. 

Just fine. The perfect answer to a life full of pain and hardship and doubt. Just fine. The patented, blasé, over-used excuse to avoid telling them what’s really at stake. We’re getting a divorce. She tries to protect them but they are old enough to know how difficult this marriage has been, how one-sided and sacrificial and costly. Her soul is at stake. I can’t go on living like this. Nor should she, they think. But it feels like this final act will cost too much. Can I follow through? Will I be brave enough? It will take too much of her soul.

She tries to walk with her children—grown adults—through the beautiful park where they grew up. She hobbles and stumbles and spasms her way to a nearby bench. This cannot be right. My greatest love is the outdoors. So. Much. Pain. She needs to rest, to stretch, to buy a new body. Could she trade it in for a new model? Wouldn’t that be lovely? Her children take pity on her and help her back to the car. She really should get that looked at. But there’s the bills, and the lawyer, and the moving. I can’t take another thing.

She begins to cry. Her life seems like an unjust travesty; an epic Russian novel where all the best characters die tragically. Why must we suffer, Lord?! I have served you with my whole heart. Why must you TAKE and TAKE?! Her children have no answers. They can only hold her as she cries, the parent-child roles reversed in the cycle of life’s cruel irony. She is grateful for them, but she is also ashamed at having to drag them through this. If only she could live unscathed, surrounded by the beauty of Eden and all its delight; a pain-free life. What a glorious miracle. What an unrealistic dream.

She goes to church and is comforted by people she knows and loves, and by the message of scripture preached. But she is still left wanting. When will this be over? Take the pain away, sweet Jesus. If only it were so simple, so instantaneous. And so she cries through the service, longing for an eternal home that seems so far from her present reality. She weeps for her no-longer husband, for her broken family. She also weeps for her broken body, riddled with scars and pain and disability. Will this be how I spend my days? Weeping? Mourning? What good can come of all this suffering? Tell me!

She doubts and toils and sleeps—a lot. She sleeps to ail the pain of her body, her soul. She sleeps to remember happier days of old. She sleeps to see glimpses of Heaven; peace and abundant joy overwhelm her in these dreams of Zion. This is what she clings to. Peace. Joy. Lay me beside still waters, deliver me from evil. Deliver me…deliver me…

She awakens.

There is singing: echoes of beautiful notes surround her like the sound bouncing through a canyon. Sweet water touches her lips as she takes a long drink from a golden chalice offered to her. Whose hands are these? The hands brush the dripping water off her chin and raise her face. Those eyes! Penetrating her very soul, eyes stare deeply back at her from a radiant face. “Come” he says. She begins to walk. What?! She feels no pain, no aches, no shooting spasms. Only joy: pure, unadulterated joy. She runs across a field, dappled with flowers and long, abundant grass. She is running! She can’t believe it. How long has it been?

The man seems to have caught up with her, smiling. “Welcome” he says. She is crying. Not from pain or heartache or anger, but out of the overwhelming feeling of being fully loved. Never in her life has she felt this intense a feeling. For the first time in all her years of suffering, the hole in her heart that has grown wider and deeper with each new devastation, feels mended. She is finally whole; a wholly new creature.

She walks through the gates, others welcoming her in joyfully. Some she knows already, some she has yet to meet. They all walk toward a radiant, beautiful, smiling man. This man knows them all; he knows the hairs on their head and all the pain they have suffered. He has suffered too. Something about him causes her to surrender to a deep sensation of peace.

She is known. She is loved. She is home.   I am Home.

“He will dwell with them, and they will be his people…He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain, for the former things have passed away…

Behold, I am making all things new.”

-Revelation 21:3-5



Twenty-seven. Almost to the minute.

I am sitting on a small dune in South Haven, Michigan surrounded by sea grass and finely pebbled sand. Looking out across the lake, my eyes are speckled with images of tiny sail boats and a long, lean boardwalk with a beautiful red lighthouse at its tip, warning sailors of the shallow waters at the entrance of the harbor.

It is balmy; perfect, really. Josh Garrels accompanies me, my ears pleasantly listening to his poet heart and musical versatility. I stare at the serene—almost placid—Lake Michigan and breathe deeply as my spirit settles into the last minutes of my twenty-sixth year of life: a difficult one, to say the least.

“Lift up your shoulders, child; breathe in.

Carry the weight of love, you’ve been given,

Storm is passing by, light breaks in;

As you learn to sing.”

{Josh Garrels, Colors}

Sailboats glide gently in and out of the burst of sun reflecting off the water, their grey silhouettes beckoning adventure. Wind, sail, water, tranquility; a simpler life. Is that the secret?

The fading light is dancing on each flowing piece of sea grass, held within the halo of dusk, swaying gently in the sleepy wind.

Sunsets have always held a special fascination for me. Something about the source of our light and warmth going away, and the remembrance of it. It is the token of another sigh, another tick of time’s fickle clock, another life lived.

“We are children of the Sun King.

Hold onto my hand, this mysterious evening;

it’ll meet us  like a dream.”

{Josh Garrels, Fire By Night}

Peace descends as the sun slides lower onto the horizon, settling into the west like a small child being gently placed onto the pillow after a long day of play.

Every day the sun rises, works for us; it gives us sustenance, comfort, and hope. Every night it retires, with the full knowledge that it will have to rise again. And it always does!

What a beautiful miracle! What an example of your steadfast love! That you would rise, work, sacrifice, and dwindle into the promise of a coming dawn. How poignant. You will come again, as surely as the rising sun. Such a beautiful promise. Yet, such a far-off hope.

You have blessed me with another year of life. You have kept me from the lion’s den, shielded me from myself, from the inevitable pain that living in sin provokes. Thank you.

Thank you for calling me child, daughter, blessed. Words that evoke strength and meaning in a world that has left me feeling empty since birth. You are the longing which my soul so desperately craves. You.

You are in everything. The rocks cry out your name. The babbling brook, the sparrow, the small child, the old man; all cry out your name. How easily we forget your nearness. We cry out for you in our loneliness, not remembering that you are there in a hug, a moonrise, a letter, a tear.

Thank you for not allowing me to ever truly be alone, though I feel the pangs of loneliness often enough.

“Child, the time for you has come to go.

You will never be alone.

Every dream that you have been shown,

Will be like a living stone;

Building you into a home,

A shelter from the storm.”

{Josh Garrels, White Owl}

The sun is finally setting. A huge red-orange ball dips, slides, slips, glides into the serenity of Lake Michigan. The lighthouse and its boardwalk are blackened against the intensity of the ball of fire, making a spiderweb of art and structure: a pure form of beauty.

The glory lasts about two minutes, then it is gone. The light of day is gone. Almost instantly, the smells of dusk permeate the air: hints of freshly cut grass and the overwhelming fixture of lilac float between the houses as I walk back to the cottage.

Summer is coming.

The trees sway slightly as the last whispers of the day drift through their branches. Night is here. Rabbits, raccoons and stars—the pilgrims of the night—emerge. And we begin to retire into our nests and burrows for the evening.

Another day. Another breath. Another life.

My friends will be waiting to celebrate with me. Presents and cards and strawberry-rhubarb crisp. Here’s to another year!

Twenty-seven and counting.