“It’s me, it’s me, O Lord, standin’ in the need of prayer.”
The other day I wrote about suffering, and as I have continued to think about it, a particular vision came to mind. In 2011, I experienced one of the most challenging periods of my life. Actually, the difficulties began in late September 2010, when my father died, leaving me and my siblings orphans. That’s how I looked at it back then, my mother having died 15 years earlier. It didn’t matter that we all were fully grown with children of our own, our last living parent had died, and that made us orphans. I didn’t know it then, but that was the beginning of my tribulations.
In January of 2011, my partner told me she didn’t want to live with me anymore, that when she sold her house and moved to a new place, she was going by herself. Oooookay. I knew we’d had our difficulties, but I somehow thought we would resolve them. I was wrong. In March of that same year, through as set of unfortunate, unethical, and unfair circumstances, I lost my job. And in May, I moved out of what had been my home for six years, and the end of nearly eight-year relationship. I found myself in a two-bedroom condo, surrounded by boxes, wondering how on earth I’d gotten there.
Here is where the vision comes in. As I recall those times, I felt as though I’d been stripped naked, standing before God with literally nothing left to lose. Now to be clear, I still had things I could lose—I was blessed that both my children and my dog were still present in my life, for which I was exceedingly grateful, and in a very real sense, I still had possessions and had the basics of food, shelter, and a variety of necessities, as well as other things. But some of those things that defined me for much of my life, that gave me a sense of purpose, of self worth, had all been stripped away from me, and I was essentially naked. I was bewildered, in pain, and uncertain about what was going to happen to me. I was truly standing in the need of prayer.
Even today I can close my eyes and see myself, arms stretched out to the sides, open, vulnerable, defenseless. Not literally naked, but spiritually and figuratively laid bare. It was interesting during that time that I felt strangely at peace. I had experienced a lot of loss in a short period of time, and some days I was overwhelmed and depressed by it, but I also got to a place of peace about it all. Instead of sitting at my house all day in front of a computer, searching job ads and applying for positions, I started volunteering once a week at the local food pantry. I started journaling every morning and wrote a daily gratitude blog that I continued writing for 1,000 days, long after I’d finally gotten a full-time job and moved out of state.
And now, seven years later, I have a job that pays me better than I’d ever been before, a new partner whom I love, and a new home. (Same old dog, though. She’s been with me through thick and thin and several moves.) In essence, everything I’d lost has in one way or another been restored. For some of us, we hit a time during which we are laid bare, stripped of possessions, people, and prestige. It is from that place of “emptiness” that was can slowly be refilled, that what had been lost can be returned in a different, sometimes better form. I don’t reckon it always happens that way, but it did for me.
On our life journey, on this journey of 40 days, we’re going to experience loss. We’re going to suffer sometimes unimaginable pain and difficulty. Many of us find grace during those periods. We discover deep pools of strength, resilience, and healing that are only revealed when everything else has been stripped away. It is during those times that we learn what we’re made of—I sure did. And, as the old folks say, “I wouldn’t take nothin’ for my journey.” Indeed I would not. I am grateful for each lesson I gained along the way. And so it goes, and so it is.