I’ve heard time and time again that God turns our messes into messages. He never wastes a hurt. God doesn’t make mistakes. But when I was young, even younger, like last month, I couldn’t and still can’t always grasp that rationalization. It slips through my fingers like wet spaghetti. Yeah, right. There’s a purpose to wanting to drive my car off the bridge. Sure there’s a purpose to losing my mind, my job and my sense of security. Nope. I can’t see how those things could be used for any good, ever. But I’m also never looking too hard. It’s hard to see the possibility of goodness, purpose when your eyes are squeezed shut and your fist is pumping in anger at the sky.
Even shortly after a trauma, when I come out of a depression or actually find a strand of sanity in the madness; even then it’s hard to be anything but cynical about there being a purpose in that pain. But sometimes God lets me in on His reasoning. I get invited to the boardroom. I get to sit at the adult’s table. I don’t always get to give my input, but I get to listen and learn. I hear God explain why He did what He did. I’m introduced to faceless people that I might get the fortune of meeting; people that He decided could benefit from my misery. I’m always reminded that I’m not the boss. Being privy to this information helps me understand why He did what He did, but I still wish I had gotten a vote.
But without the pain, would I have benefited as much? Would I have earned my stripes? Rapid and intense growth is almost always painful. And I have emotional and physical stretchmarks to remind me of that.
My son went away to a boarding school that was just one salute shy of military school. He left when he was barely 12 and returned when he was 16. During that time he experienced significant emotional, mental and academic growth. He matured as young man, as a Christian and as a human being. And he ate well. He grew so much during those 4 years. And he has physical signs that are daily reminders to me of just how much he changed. He will carry those marks forever.
When I was pregnant I grew rapidly courtesy of growing a baby and Hershey’s. And I will always have stretchmarks to remind me of what I got after months of discomfort and hours of mind numbing pain. I got a boy. A brand spanking new, perfect, little bald baby boy. And I was transformed from being Jen to being mom. I kind of knew what I was in for when I saw the plus sign on the pee stick. But nothing could have prepared me for the profound changes I would experience during that growing season. And now, looking back, I realize I had to go through that to be able to share that experience with every other female who was going through her first pregnancy.
My other struggles haven’t always earned me such clear visual reminders. I wasn’t rewarded with glistening silver lines when my marriage fell apart. Instead, I was rewarded with my current husband, my soul mate. I wasn’t given a medal when I went into a semi-psychotic depression several years ago. But since then, I have been given the opportunity to share my experience with others who thought they were all alone. And the other day I got to share my severely distorted perception of life and myself with a young man who was having a crappy few years.
“You don’t understand!” he said, citing all the differences between me and him. I listened to his pain, his venomous tirade of everything that was wrong with his life and how things could never, ever possibly get better, ever. Then I paused, closed my eyes and got 17. When I opened my mouth I told him he was right; I didn’t understand what he was feeling. But I remember feeling pretty shitty at 17, too. I hugged the door frame as he sat stoically pissed off just three very heated feet away from me. And I shared the gory mess of my past.
I laid out the details of how I ran away to my best friend’s house when the air got too thick at home. I would sneak out my front bedroom window, onto the porch and would ride my bike to her house and we would get high as kites in the wet bushes at the edge of her driveway. I told him how when we were in our senior year, this only friend I had, my best friend in the entire world, decided to quit school and move across country to become a stunt woman. When she left me, my world fell apart and I crashed. I told him about the first psychiatrist my parents brought me to after I got suspended for paraphanalia in school. I told him how that jerk didn’t talk at all. Bad idea to send a severely depressed, isolating, withdrawn teenage girl to a psychiatrist who doesn’t speak.
After the 55 minutes of unbearable silence I went home and reevaluated things and promptly decided that they sucked. After swallowing the pills, the ambulance arrived to take me to the hospital. And I told this young man who sat staring at me with mouth open wide and eyes frozen how the nice tech in the ambulance happened to be a classmate. Talk about shame.
We were both silent for a moment. “But one thing I can’t identify with at all,” I said as I swallowed hard to prevent my mouth from spewing out more and ruining the moment. “Is telling my mom how I felt. I never did that. And that’s pretty cool that you do.”
I told him the three words he craves to hear but not from me and then closed the door. I walked to my office, sat down and breathed. Yep, it was in that very moment that I realized that it had happened again. God had used my mess, my seriously screwed up past as a message. I’m not sure if it was a message of hope. But I got through it. I was standing there, still alive, and relatively happy. So that was something.
I laid in bed and thanked Him for letting me have that moment with my boy and He whispered in my ear, “I told you so.” Yeah, yeah. Then I said the three words that I never get tired of hearing myself. “You were right.”