Why am I here right now?
I'm not entirely certain the purpose behind the story I am about to write. I'm still not entirely certain of the purpose it plays in my own life. But I know that when I first heard it, it provoked something in me. Emotion? Yes. Sadness? No, heartbreak. And yet, admiration? Without a doubt. Maybe by the end of this, I'll have some purpose to assign to it, and maybe not. Either way, I think it's okay. Because regardless, it might provoke something in you too.
At the start of this last month I attended an information clinic in Bend, Oregon at Crystal Peaks Youth Ranch. Each year they invite individuals to join them in learning how to run a ministry similar to their own, equipping attendees with the tools necessary to do so. Which basically comes down to soaking in God's Word every day and obeying the direction of the Holy Spirit. I was going to say that sounds easy, but it isn't...However, you and I both KNOW that it doesn't sound easy. And again, it isn't.
Throughout the clinic I kept fairly quiet and interacted with a small amount of people in proportion to how many were in attendance. I sat in the same chair throughout the clinic, mostly because it was a good location to pump breast milk without being seen by the speakers, but also because I was uncomfortable socializing with more people than were in my little back corner. What can I say, I'm an introvert and socially challenged. Regardless of my lack of socializing, the Lord worked. He moved in me the entire weekend, and I got to walk away with a very renewed perspective on who I am because of him, as well as who everyone else is because of him.
It was the very end of the clinic, literally the last hour of it, in which all of us in attendance were given time to just fellowship. It was supposed to be filled with worship and a message, but instead we all got to sit around, drink coffee, and "chew the cud." Because of what I heard then, I have to wonder if that time was divinely placed there for me. I have a hard time thinking that God would orchestrate that simply for me, but I guess that's reflective of the struggle I have in recognizing how special I actually am to him.
Anyway, there was a gal I had sat next to for the entire weekend. I enjoyed how throughout the whole thing she would laugh, nudge me, and make side comments. She was naturally comfortable with me, and really with everyone else. She was so unlike myself that I actually found her countenance refreshing and exciting. This woman was joyful and sincere. One might even think she was over-the-top, but I think she was gifted. On this last day, in this last hour, she started asking me questions about myself, and vice versa. We finally were starting to get to know each other (yes, at the very end of this thing). She asked about my siblings, and for some reason I started telling her about a family member of mine that has struggled with addiction. As soon as I said it, she pulled out her phone and said, "I need to show you something."
What she showed me was a picture of two women. Each had colorful hair, a plethora of piercings and tattoos, and were dressed a little scantily. What stood out most however, was their eyes. They were big eyes, but not necessarily bright. There was a dull, troublesome, sort of pain in their eyes. The two women were sisters, and her stepdaughters. The woman I had sat by began to tell me their story. Both girls had spent much of their lives in and out of rehabs, grappling with drug addiction and risky lifestyles. This woman that I sat next to--the joyous, fun, hopeful woman--detailed how the two had been diagnosed with borderline personality disorders, among a number of other things. I want to say this here: personality disorders are no joke. In the realm of mental health, and from what I learned in school studying for my bachelor's degree in psychology, there is nothing that can be done for personality disorders. No treatment. None. That alone breaks my heart.
She continued her story. One of the girls, after struggling for what seemed to her "long enough" took her own life this last August. Her sister was the one to find her, since they only lived a couple houses apart. This was only 10 months ago. This living sister had a 5 year-old daughter: my new friend's granddaughter. And she loved her aunt. But lost her. This little girl had been living with her mom, who also dealt with bipolarism, and at times had to go stay with "Damo" (Or her grandma, my new friend) and her grandpa (the girls' dad). They had developed a system in which the little girl would stay with her grandparents one weekend out of the month so that mom, the second sister, could have some time for herself. Well, in February, and only days before her little girl's birthday, this second sister took her life as well.
My friend and her husband had expected their granddaughter to be picked up by her mom, and when they didn't hear anything from her, my friend knew something was wrong. Her husband went 15 minutes ahead of herself and her granddaughter, in case they needed to be warned about what they were heading into. And sure enough, by the grace and power of God, her husband was given the strength to call his wife to let him know that their granddaughter no longer had a mom. I don't know how he did it. He loved his daughters. But lost them. That little girl loved her mom. But lost her.
The woman sharing the story with me, my new friend, told me about the suicide note and how it lacked emotion and regard for the little girl. With it was left birthday presents to still give to her daughter, without any apology for doing what she did so close to her little girl's birthday. My friend said, "You could just tell that something was off. That's not normal." Her granddaughter lived with her and her husband for a short time, still not really understanding what had happened to her mom. She told me about the confusion they faced in how to explain to a 5 year-old that her mom was no longer alive. To explain a funeral and to help her make something to place in her mother's grave. Confusion that is still there today.
She then talked about how that little girl started acting out from the trauma of losing her mom. About how she and her husband did their best to address the trauma she endured, and not to get too focused on the symptoms or behaviors resulting from that trauma. Which helped. Too bad that little girl didn't stay with them for long. She went to live with her dad and stepmom, both no longer giving the little girl's pain the attention it needed. From what this gal could tell me, it sounded as though her granddaughter had regressed a little since leaving them. She then told me that she was doing okay these days, and that her husband was too. But that he still has days that are hard.
I sat there quietly. Unable to respond, simply thinking, "This was just three months ago! And you lost your first daughter only ten months ago. And you're sitting here, calmly telling me all of this. No tears." Finally, I told her how evident the strength and joy of the Lord was in her, to 1) be at this clinic so soon after it all, and 2) to be able to tell me this story with such courage. And then I started to tell her how blessed her family was to have her in their lives during all of that...And she started to lose it. I could tell she was the sort of woman to put on a brave face. Because she quickly wrapped up the conversation and excused herself. But not without first giving me a hug, wishing me well, and stating that she would try to catch me before we left. We didn't talk again.
I kind of left that clinic feeling a mixture of renewal and heaviness of the heart. I spent the better half of the weekend asking God why I was there. More specifically, why I was there alone. Like I stated above, I have to wonder if that moment was divinely scheduled for me, perhaps to answer that very question. Sitting here typing, I do find myself seeing some purpose in this story.
Why was I there then? Why am I here now, even writing this post? This is what keeps going through my head:
I am here for that woman sitting next to me, who found herself in a family that faced tragedy after tragedy, carrying their pain so that they might not have to carry it alone. I am here for the dad who lost his daughters, for the daughters who struggle with addiction, and for the little girl who no longer has a mom. I am here for the parents struggling to raise children, and for families who feel like they have no hope. I am here for the silent sufferers, whose pain and anxiety is unseen. I am here for those who feel like they don't fit in, and for those who feel like they're not enough. I am here for poor, the widowed, and the orphan. You are all wildly beautiful and worth more than you know. I am here for you, whoever you may be. Maybe you are here for me and for them too?
I think now how silly it is to consider that just that one moment might have been divinely scheduled. Perhaps it is better to consider that maybe ALL moments are divinely scheduled, for us to be there for each other, through the joy and the pain. To be a reminder that there is hope and beauty in all of it, because God's goodness is far greater than any darkness we face.
So let me ask you this: Why are you here?