But on the first day of the week, at early dawn, they went to the tomb, taking the spices they had prepared. And they found the stone rolled away from the tomb, but when they went in they did not find the body of the Lord Jesus. While they were perplexed about this, behold, two men stood by them in dazzling apparel. And as they were frightened and bowed their faces to the ground, the men said to them, “Why do you seek the living among the dead? He is not here, but has risen. Remember how He told you, while He was still in Galilee, that the Son of Man must be delivered into the hands of sinful men and be crucified and on the third day rise.” And they remembered His words, and returning from the tomb they told all these things to the eleven and to all the rest. Now it was Mary Magdalene and Joanna and Mary the mother of James and the other women with them who told these things to the apostles, but these words seemed to them an idle tale, and they did not believe them. Luke 24:1-11 ESV
The first few months of this year have felt an awful lot like the first few months after I left the church last year.
Namely, they’ve felt like death.
I’ve tried to write this more than a few times in the last six weeks with no luck. I’ve been at a loss, hitting wall after wall. I keep running into my broken heart, unable to get words out anywhere, to anyone. If you know me… enough said.
Because this version of me is one I’m not comfortable with, I have at times tried to wrangle words into some semblance of order. Fighting to make them fall in line in a way that feels right. This hasn’t worked either, and in my world, nothing feels right or okay if I can’t give it language. Words help me make sense of what’s happening. They help me keep going. They help me heal. Even words haven’t been at hand these days though. Everything has been completely stilted. Stopped. Silent.
For the last few months my response has been to keep things hushed in nearly every area of my life, mainly in an effort to manage the pain. The first few weeks, maybe month of quiet were distracted ones. There’s work to do? Great, let’s do it. The more the better. Another book to read? Hand it over. Working out? Check. Making cookies for a friend? Double check. Oh, there’s conference downtown I could go to? Someone else wants to go to dinner? YES, LET ME FILL MY CALENDAR ALL THE WAY THROUGH 2020.
This is passive silence. Distracted silence. It can look a lot like Netflix. It shuts off the lights, marks everything "do not disturb" and distracts. It's useful silence, but it doesn’t heal anything. If you’re lucky it might get the bleeding to stop. I can’t tell you how many nights I laid in bed on my phone reading another dumb news article. Seriously, so many nights. It would be easy to shame myself for it… and maybe I should, I don’t know, but I think I needed to check out. Numbing is not a permanent solution, but there is a place for it. Sometimes it just hurts too much. For me, some form of checking out can help establish appropriate space on an issue or relationship. Perspective, right?
But this is not sustainable. Numbing can turn into burying if I’m not careful, and ultimately the goal is healing, and that doesn’t happen in the no man’s land of distraction. Thankfully, I’m getting better at recognizing when I’ve been numbing too much or for too long (see: counseling #allthepraisesfortherapy). Thankfully, I also have solid people in my life that know the difference between giving me space and invading my space, and when to do both. Also, the Holy Spirit. Hard stop.
My hush to take a breath has since transitioned to a hush to heal. Wound work, surgery, healing, these things require active silence. Distraction just neutralizes silence's effectiveness, so it's not an option anymore. This is THE WORST because you no longer can you let yourself pretend it doesn’t hurt. You can’t bury it. You can’t act like the gashes in your chest aren’t gushing blood, and you can’t pretend you don’t need a doctor AS OF YESTERDAY to do something about it. The kind of trauma caused by MSC and experiences like it may be primarily emotional and spiritual, but you can’t tell me it’s not as dire as physical trauma. If I am not purposeful in dealing with these injuries, with the Holy Spirit and with trusted friends and professionals, I am very aware that I could spiritually and emotionally die. I don’t want to live spiritually or emotionally dead, none of us do. Pain doesn’t just go away. We have to deal with it.
Please, if you remember anything from this already insanely long post, don’t bury your pain. Get help. That can look like a thousand things, you know what it needs to look like for you.
It’s kind of felt like living in some kind of heartbreak wormhole. I burrowed myself in a cocoon of silence to escape some of the pain, and that morphed into engaging that same silence to begin the next phase of healing. And no, we’re not yet at the butterfly stage. I’m still in this cocoon. It’s left me gasping for air, often flip flopping between active silence and passive silence for days on end. I can only take so much at once. I won’t pretend I know exactly what I’m doing, but I do know this:
The LORD is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit. Psalm 34:18.
He is so near to me. He always has been.
One tiny bit at a time, I’ve been trying to face the ache in my heart these last few weeks. This mostly looks like me saying out loud to God, “I cannot fix this. Actually, it feels unfixable. I’m pretty sure it’s dead. I don’t even think You can fix this anymore. Help. This hurts. Please help.”
As I have looked my grief in the face, the words have slowly begun slipping from my fingers, mostly without my blessing. Into emails to myself, onto post-it notes, scraps of paper, even my wrist. Fragments. Starts and stops. Glimpses to what's actually going on in my heart, glimpses I would much rather stuff in a box marked for, let’s say, 2035. Dealing with death is not for the faint of heart, and my heart has been very faint.
“Sometimes things break. Sometimes things break. You don’t always see it coming, out of nowhere without warning, like a punch right to the stomach, takes your breath away.”
Yeah. Even now I have tears in my eyes. After this year, the last two months even, I understand why so many people walk around broken. Facing this kind of heartbreak is exhausting. It strips everything away. It exposes every weakness. For me, it hurts more than the initial injury.
• • • • • •
Last summer was a similar season for me. My life flipped so quickly. So much, so many disappeared in an instant. It took me weeks and weeks to get my head re-oriented to what remained, what was still real. I get why people have those “what even IS life?” moments. I’ve had a good handful or five myself. Just getting to the point where my head and heart stopped spinning so much was a huge relief. I’ve lived a few dizzying seasons, but nothing like leaving MSC. I had begun to think maybe life would always spin a little off-kilter. I was scared. New normals are hard enough when they’re happy, but when they’re shocking… what do you even do?
I think it was early July by the time I finally started to get a rhythm. Finally started to find some new people to talk to, for starters. Not friends yet, but hope that there would be new friends. As soon as I opened myself to that possibility, I ran straight into another quicksand of grief. Wait, I don’t want new friends. Do I have to get new friends? I miss my old friends so much. I hated that I had to find new people in the first place. It felt unfair. It felt wrong. I felt like I wasn’t being a good friend to my old friends. One thing at a time, just keep going, it’s not always going to feel like this were more than mantras to me. They were helping me survive. I began to realize that any kind of “new normal” was going to be a moving target for a long time, and I started to become okay with that.
Somewhere in this settled-ish season of going to work every day and working out every night and plowing through the stack of books I suddenly had time to read, dinners with co-workers and Saturdays sleeping in (moment of silence for sleeping in), I woke up one morning mad. Like, super mad. It actually caught me off guard because I had kind of been killing the whole “Dear World: Whatever THAT was that happened back there, I am STILL HERE and I am SHOWING UP no matter what you throw at me” game.
I wasn’t mad at people. It wasn’t that kind of anger. I was mad about everything I had lost, and at this point, I had just begun to hear what would quickly steamroll into dozens of stories of what others had lost too. Of brokenness. Of relationships and families devastated as far as the eye could see
It wasn’t okay. I wasn’t okay. And I was mad.
I was laying in bed, the sun streaming through the window, my heart racing. The word ricocheting in my bones that morning, the prayer that I couldn’t keep still inside, was resurrection.
God, I want resurrection. I am asking You for resurrection. I don’t know how, I don’t know when, and I don’t know where, but You are the God of resurrection and I need some of that over here. If I can’t believe that You can revive, I don’t believe the gospel at all. And I do believe the gospel, so I am asking You to show up with some breath.
Before that day it hadn’t even occurred to me that resurrection was possible. Even a sliver of hope for resurrection felt foolish for so many months. I’m serious, the thought had not crossed my mind all summer long. Not once. I was not some charismatic party girl shouting warfare prayers from my bedroom floor every night. Hardly.
I was broken. I was numb. I was in shock. Everything about MSC and the people I loved felt busted. Smashed. I mean, we’re talking, we might actually need to live on different sides of heaven because I’m pretty sure those people are never going to speak to me again.
I had exactly zero hope for any of my former relationships to ever breathe again.
There was no “half-dead” going on here.
Dead. Dead, dead, dead, dead, dead.
Remember how He told you, while He was still in Galilee, that the Son of Man must be delivered into the hands of sinful men and be crucified and on the third day rise… but these words seemed to them an idle tale, and they did not believe them.
But that morning was different… somehow, out of nowhere, my heart stood up. Resurrection became my right, my hope, my story, even if I couldn’t see it yet. I started praying for resurrection. Not warfare prayers, my charismatic upbringing has for sure taken a serious chill pill in the last year, but quiet ones. Sure ones. I started believing again that resurrection was possible. God, you can do anything. I want to be the kind of girl that believes that.
Breath. Blood. Heart. Hope.
…He has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead…1 Peter 1:3
• • • • • •
I forced myself to go to church on Easter this year. I wanted to be there and I very much did not want to be there. My last Sunday at MSC was Easter Sunday. It holds some of the worst memories of my life, but I can’t exactly skip Easter services for the next twenty years because of them. Hashtag healing. Or something. #jesushelp
I was expecting the typical Resurrection Sunday sermon. You know. Jesus is murdered. They bury Him. The tomb is empty. He is risen! The end.
I believe that message, that hope, the gospel, with everything in me, and I need to hear it all the time.
That said, I honestly wasn’t in the mood to do anything more than show up this Easter. That in and of itself was enough of a win for me. Encountering the gospel anew in a way that would change my heart wasn’t on my agenda. I was just trying to make it through the day.
I won’t go into why this season has felt so much like death for me personally, but suffice to say, I didn’t have the foresight to realize that my answered prayers would bring so much devastation with them. Morning Star has effectively ended and this is an incredible mercy. It is the rescuing, Father heart of God. It has brought freedom, it has opened wide the door for so much healing and reconciliation. It is evidence of the faithfulness and goodness of God a thousand times over.
I just never realized that the goodness of God would be so hard to swallow. The ugly demise of MSC has exposed much auxiliary decay. When I look around, I see ruins. I see so many broken relationships and fractured families. I see, and feel personally, how much devastation has been wrought. It’s been crushing my heart. The death of Morning Star has brought incredible freedom, yes, and also exposed so much heartbreak. New beginnings can be just as painful as they are prayed for.
I tell myself to be thankful. Thank you, Jesus. Thank you that I’m even having this awful conversation with You. I think to myself, somehow, I can be thankful my heart hurts this much. This pain is a gift. It means He has moved.
It’s also super strange to be having that conversation with yourself. See: What is life?!
This is where my heart was on Easter. Throw a one year anniversary, new and old heartbreak, and a thousand other triggers into the mix, and I was a wreck inside. Everything felt like death.
And then, my pastor had us turn to Ezekiel for that day’s message. As in, Ezekiel and the valley of dry bones.
I was in tears before he even started talking, because I knew what He was saying to me.
This story is not over.
I don’t care what it looks like to you, what it feels like. I am the God of resurrection. I can do anything.
The best part of this story in Ezekiel is that God is legit not messing around. It’s almost funny. He is not unaware that He’s asking Ezekiel to declare life to bones. Bones. This is far past decay. This is dead, dead. Dead, dead, dead, dead, dead.
He’s not even bothered by it. He’s like, “Yeah, I do this all day every day. I am God, btw. Let me show you how it’s done. It’s actually pretty fun, Zeke.”
The hand of the Lord was on me, and he brought me out by the Spirit of the Lord and set me in the middle of a valley; it was full of bones. He led me back and forth among them, and I saw a great many bones on the floor of the valley, bones that were very dry. He asked me, “Son of man, can these bones live?”
I was crying my eyes out in service because He was so pointedly reminding me that what I see and feel is not His reality. He has spent the whole year bringing resurrection. As far as this latest set of dead bodies so to speak, if God is asking me, “Can these bones live?”, I think the answer is yes. And that answer makes me cry my eyes out even more, because believing that is true is harder than facing the reality that I am currently staring at a bunch of bones.
God’s hand is not limited by the current snapshot of my life. He is not unable to restore, mend, heal or make right. He’s the healer, the Creator, the giver of breath. He’s the one who can fix it. He’s not asking me to fix it, He’s asking me to believe that He can. He’s asking me to believe that death isn’t the end of the story. Maybe He’s asking you that too.
The moment we find ourselves believing that death is the last act, we’ve stopped believing in the gospel. We’ve stopped believing in Jesus.
So I prophesied as I was commanded. And as I was prophesying, there was a noise, a rattling sound, and the bones came together, bone to bone. I looked, and tendons and flesh appeared on them and skin covered them, but there was no breath in them. Then He said to me, “Prophesy to the breath; prophesy, son of man, and say to it, ‘This is what the Sovereign Lord says: Come, breath, from the four winds and breathe into these slain, that they may live.’” So I prophesied as He commanded me, and breath entered them; they came to life and stood up on their feet—a vast army.
I have no idea what the future holds. I have no idea which dead situations and relationships in my life will be revived and which ones won’t. I don’t get to make that call. But if I have learned anything in the last year in this i n s a n e journey, it's that I can trust Him. And He loves me. I am reminding myself all the time. At the end of the day, all I need to know is if He can fix me. The parts of my heart that aren’t beating, the parts of my heart that are dead. That’s all you need to know too. The answer is yes, He really can.
Then He said to me: “Son of man, these bones are the people of Israel. They say, ‘Our bones are dried up and our hope is gone; we are cut off.’ Therefore prophesy and say to them: ‘This is what the Sovereign Lord says: My people, I am going to open your graves and bring you up from them; I will bring you back to the land of Israel. Then you, my people, will know that I am the Lord, when I open your graves and bring you up from them. I will put my Spirit in you and you will live, and I will settle you in your own land. Then you will know that I the Lord have spoken, and I have done it, declares the Lord.’”
I believe with all my heart that He is opening up graves all around us. It's what He does best. It's His signature move. But don't look to the graves around you for resurrection. Start with your own grave. He wants to renew your hope. He wants to bring your bones back to life. Let Him put His spirit in you, let Him show you how to live brand new. Let Him settle you in your new land. Take His hand. Let Him bring you back to life, all the way. He'll take care of the rest.