Thursday, June 12, 2014

How to Keep Walking

Have you guys all seen the movie "Eat, Pray, Love"? 
Or read the book by the same name? 

The one where Julia Roberts spends three months in Italy eating, three in India praying at an ashram, and three in Indonesia learning to love again? I watch it whenever I can't deal with my life in a major way. Or I read the book again. I think I've read it two or three times now. There is something transcendent for me, watching this woman wander the world to find herself. I would love to do that. And maybe I will sometime, but that time is certainly not now.

Being so well versed in both the written and visual forms of this story, I have begun to notice differences in theme between them. The most notable is Julia Roberts talking about a ruined fort she goes to in Rome in the movie version. She's talking about how the fort has been through the cycle of being built and used and abandoned several times over the course of history. That part is in the book. The part that I like best that is NOT in the book is the line "Ruin is the path to transforamtion."

Ruin is the path to transformation.

Can you feel the power of that? It completely knocked my socks off the first time I saw the movie. I think I wept unabashedly, right there in the theater. Thank heavens it's dark, so you don't have to make your Julia Roberts' inspired bawling quite such a public experience, even though you are totally in public. I muffled my sobs in my sleeve and blindly dug around in my purse for a gum wrapper or Target receipt and pen to write the quote down.

I started thinking about it again recently, in the wake of ruin.

The short story is, we got a dog. 

We loved the dog. The dog started growling at and biting my kids. We got  trainer. The dog didn't change. The dog bit my youngest in the face. We returned the dog to to pound.

This experience completely destroyed me. Completely. 
I lost a huge part of my trust in God. 

We had prayed as a family, right there in the pound, before we brought this dog home to know if it was the right one for us. And we all felt a resounding "Yes." My 11 year old had been praying every night for a year for a dog, and that she'd have the patience to wait until it was right. My youngest had tried to overcome her fear of dogs and had begged me, "Can we take her home, Mommy?" only to be bitten in the face by the dog after 5 weeks of doing nothing wrong and everything right. (Don't worry. She was not majorly injured in the incident as the dog had not bit to hurt, only to warn. Just some very small bruises.) That night she looked at me with tears streaming down her face and said, "Mommy, I forgive her. We can just try harder. Please, please don't take her back." 

I couldn't bear the anger I felt. How could He do this to us? To my kids? We tried to be so smart and so careful. We did everything right. And still it ended so sadly. My heart broke into pieces more and more as the days wore on. 

Depression is an odd companion for me. I am a fairly high energy person. with a great zest for life. Yet here I was wondering if everything I had experienced up to this point was just a mean spirited joke. Soon the list got longer. I threw in my jump into professional art, my business running the barn sales, all the changes I had made to help my life at home go smoother, all things God had inspired me to do that had required huge sacrifices on my part and were showing very little return. I sat and sighed, and forced myself to get small things done like folding laundry, simply because I knew that having that chore done would lighten at least a small corner of the darkness I was wrapped in. I think it was about here that I realized that this conversation was no longer about a dog. 

I didn't get any large answers for a while, though I looked very hard. So I just kept walking. And by "walking," I mean I remembered that this is the year of "Creating Space." And so I started creating space again, because I simply couldn't bring myself to do anything else.

I finally mailed a table I painted 2 years ago to my sister, along with her birthday presents. The package got there exactly one month to the day after her birthday. I mailed some lovely children's clothes that my kids had outgrown to my youngest sister. I had crammed them in some random box and showed it in a corner about 3 months earlier. So I found a better box, folded things nicely, included a present for her impending birthday (this gift would be a month early) and dropped it all in the mail. 

I noticed that each time I got to things, and pushed them forward, a little of the darkness waned. I was still really, really, mad. And I didn't trust God farther than I could throw Him, but I knew that forward was the only way I could go. So I looked around for other things that were In The Way.

And guess what? I found about a million things to do. That's why I haven't posted. I have been cranking away like crazy on all the delayed projects. All those things that were great ideas at the time, but that I never had the time or money to complete. So they just sat there looking at me, like guilt and failure. All of my ruin. 

Now all of it is slowly turning into opportunity. And new ideas. And material for the blog that will keep you guys entertained for hours. Here's just the smallest peek:

And there's so much more. I have so much to show you and tell you.

But the point today, isn't the projects. The point is the "walking." I kept moving forward, following something I trusted, even if I didn't trust God. And eventually after a lot of thinking, and a lot of praying, and a lot of doing, I unlocked what was really going on. I found a fear deep, deep in my heart, that I had been chewing on and crying about for several years. Because of the dog, I stopped trusting God. And once I stopped trusting God, I really started digging through the garbage of my heart. And in the darkest place of all, where I felt completely tricked and abandoned and used by those I care for most, I found the real shard of glass. The source of great pain and self doubt. 

And so I picked it up and looked at it in the light, while I built and painted and cleaned and mailed. I thought and thought about it and felt what I needed to feel. And cried. I cried a lot. 

And I talked to good friends who have known me a long time and didn't have to be told the back story. And they looked at the shard and commented and helped me see some new options. 

And one morning, I realized I had all the pieces in place and the puzzle was already solved. And that while I was doing the work, making myself think and pray and keep moving forward, that God used my hands to put things where they needed to be. 

My shattered heart is whole again, in a way that I didn't think would be possible right now. I know exactly who I am and where I am going in my family, in my creative life, and in my larger world. And God took the extra time to thank me for all the work I have done to myself, by showing me from sources too varied to be doubted, what an amazing person I have become. My ruin has been the path to such an astonishing transformation. Every where I look, my weak places have become strong. And I am renewed and ready to go out and serve and create.

And today, of all things, I got an email saying that the Northern Virginia Lab Rescue is ready to start trying to match us with a dog. 

Friends, keep walking. The answers will be there, I promise.

Talk to you soon,
CM Shaw

1 comment:

  1. Marian,

    Oh sweet friend....thank you for writing your heart.
    And keeping it real.
    And for showing so many encouragement for the journey.