I have just spent I do not know how long reading the story of a woman I do not know. I found her blog through a comment on the blog of an MK from the same country I grew up in (not one I know, I found her through a comment tonight as well). I do not know this woman’s real name, because she and her family are missionaries in a sensitive area, so she blogs without full names and without concrete details. First I read her recent entries about how she and her husband are getting help because of a toxic leadership situation (she was able to go to the leadership the next step up) that has nearly destroyed their marriage. Then I read a sub-page with the story of the loss of her first daughter at five months gestation in the second year of their marriage and how clearly God walked with her in that, which literally brought me to tears. After I blew my nose and dried my eyes, I saw the next sub-page was titled ‘A Clear Spring Morning’ – and contained the story of a crisis three years ago when her husband was taken for five days (with the very real possibility that she would never see him again) and her with four kids. Their mission community mishandled the debrief afterwards and there were accusations and pain, much pain.
The lyrical quality of her words, the raw honesty without the distraction of physical details, the very real depth of the heartbreak this woman has been through and yet her unshakable faith and knowledge of a loving God… my heart aches. I know, for some of you (perhaps many of you), whom stories do not affect you in the way they do me, you are thinking what’s the deal? Why care? I can’t answer that fully, partly because I do not know the full answer, and partly because some things cannot be explained. I did not finish the page with the story of the crisis, though I know she received her husband back safe because he is mentioned in the most recent entry from last month. I could feel time slipping away from me as I sat wrapped in her words and I finally had to literally put my head in my hands and say Ruth. I know you care, I know you are an emotionally sensitive person, I know you are good at helping people by being a listener when they need it, sharing their stories. I am glad God made you that way, even when sharing other people’s pain hurts. But you cannot finish this story – you do not have the time tonight. This was three years ago, and yes, she needed someone to listen to her then and she had no one but this blog where she could not tell so much. But she does not need you now. She made it through and God was with her, clearly with her, just as He is with her in the trials she is facing now. If you need to do something for her, pray for her – God will know who you mean. But you must stop reading. You need to write your own post and then go home.
So here I am. Perhaps this glimpse into my head and heart is more than you wanted to see. Perhaps it’s more than I should have shared, especially since I can’t explain it all – caring for people can get you made fun of, crying over stories, real or not, can get you teased (someday perhaps, I will write my thoughts on why movies make me cry), vulnerability can get you hurt. I know all that and I do it anyway. But that is where I am tonight, my heart tender for a sister in Christ who I’ll never meet this side of heaven, sad that our (ours in the broad sense) missionary community let them down when their support was needed most, grateful that our God understands pain and doesn’t ask us to pretend it doesn’t exist, but walks with us through it.
It is still Thursday, though, and I am still very thankful. This list looks a little different than it would have if I hadn’t found that blog tonight, but I needed to post it anyway. I am thankful for:
- thus far never having been in a situation where I did not know if a loved one was still alive or not. There were those few frightening days when my father was so very sick with a drug-resistant strain of malaria when I was young, but he was always there, not in some unknown location. I do not know if I would have the strength to survive a situation like that, but I know that God would give me what I needed.
- that I do have that assurance – that even though I have not been through the same kind of suffering that woman has, I have been through enough darkness of my own to know without a shadow of a doubt that God would not abandon me there.
- writing and how it helps us to share our hearts and to process through things, even when we can’t share the details. Even when the sharing means being vulnerable and that scares me for so many reasons.
- (on a lighter note) the last of the Thanksgiving leftovers for lunch today, so I didn’t have to have peanut butter and jelly
- warm scarves against the cold wind – I have several that make me smile every time I wear them, either because of where I got them or because of the happy memories associated with them (one warm fleece one actually has smiley faces on it – how can you not smile?)
- the chance to get to know some of my co-workers from the field during the three day training we had at work this week, even though it made me tired and my brain hurt, it is very nice to be able to connect actual people to the names now
And I am thankful for you, for reading all the way to the end of this, for helping me feel (right or wrong) that this is a safe place to share. Please feel free to share yourselves – I will always listen.