The house is quiet. There’s nobody here except me and a lone summer house fly. Last Wednesday was my birthday, and it came and went fairly quickly, as birthdays are wont to do. Nothing particularly wonderful or magical happened. Nobody rode up the driveway on a white horse. No miracles happened. After waiting all year for it, the day ended with a sort of quiet fizzle, and I woke up the next morning with life pretty much the same as it was the day before. And can I just say (because every divorced woman knows it) that the other side of the bed seems to stretch into infinity like a vast and empty wasteland, especially when we’re depressed or lonely. Not having someone to do life with hits hard on birthdays and holidays.
Can I get an Amen? Anybody?
I had the sobering realization the other day that some of my houseplants have lasted longer than my marriage did.
A long time ago I starting using my birthday the way most people use New Years’ Day, for reflection and setting new goals. It’s a day to stop and survey the stunning gap between where I am and where I want to be. Consequently, it’s also the time of year that I struggle the most with discouragement and an overwhelming feeling of hopelessness. This latest birthday has been really difficult for some reason, probably because there were so many things I had wanted to do by this age. At this point I feel like I’m running a race I can’t win, mostly because I’m just too tired.
The Fourth of July is also always a long and lonely day for me. I have cried pretty much all weekend. The harsh and painful reality is that there is no husband grilling hamburgers out on the deck this weekend. We’re not having a picnic, or going to the beach. We’re not all going to the parade, or the fireworks together. The only thing I want in all the world is to spend the day with my kids, but since the divorce they are always with their dad, usually on vacation somewhere fun and sunny. Today they’re up in Old Forge, one of my favorite places to go in the summer. We camped there a lot when I was growing up, and I want to go back someday and smell the pine trees, walk through the woods, and go in all of the little shops. It’s a place I associate with happy family memories of campsites and candy, souvenirs and sandals.
There’s a wicked little imp who dances around my pillow every night, singing “You’re nothing but a failure … you’ll always be a failure … no one will ever want you … even God can’t help you … it’s too late! it’s all too late!” It’s the last thing I hear every night, and the first thing I hear every morning. It’s like being poked and prodded with a tiny little pitchfork all night.
I wake up exhausted every day.
The last fifteen years haven’t gone at all the way I hoped. Most of my friends who were divorced around the same time I was have all remarried, and now they have new homes and families of their own. I never, ever, intended to raise two girls all by myself, and it never occurred to me that I would be alone this long. I had thought that I would be done with school; that I would own my own home, and that my counseling center would be up and running by now. It feels sometimes like it’s too late for all of my hopes and dreams, and I have a hard time most days hoping and dreaming for anything anymore. A lot of my prayers have gone unanswered. I don’t question God’s authority, but sometimes I just want to know why?
I ran into an old friend this afternoon in the drugstore. We met about thirty years ago in a campus ministry group, and as we talked about all we have been through, and where life has brought us, we kept coming back to the fact that no matter how hard and harsh life can be, God is still ultimately in control. Even when we can’t see it, He is guiding and directing us. He has led and kept us through it all, and we have to believe He will continue to do so, because if we don’t, there’s really no reason to go any farther. There would be no reason not to quit.
Christians often like to pick what we call our “life verse”; a portion of Scripture that has personal meaning for us, and seems to sum up what we feel our individual life with God is all about. Mine is Philippians 3:12-14:
Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already arrived at my goal, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me. Brothers and sisters, I do not count myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.
This is what brings me back every time. So, tired or not, there will be no quitting today. I haven’t come this far to give up now, even though it may look to everyone else like I haven’t accomplished anything yet, and quite possibly never will. I know better than anybody that I have stumbled and fallen many times, but as far as I’m concerned, every day is a new opportunity to start again. One more time.
Sometimes I have to write my way back to a right way of thinking.
Happy Fourth of July everybody. Have a safe and blessed holiday.