The period of my life before I moved to China was one of the hardest periods of my life. I was between full-time jobs, living at my parents house because it was the fiscally responsible thing to do. I should note that my parents are great and I am thankful I made that decision, but moving in with them at 30 was exactly NOT what I wanted to be doing in my quest to break stereotypes of millennials and prove I was an adult even without being married. Every position I applied for turned into a closed door at some point in the process. At one point a friend wondered if there was something in my application materials that could better represent me, then she realized she’d already read them and “they already reflect you.” I felt betrayed and worthless, not sure what I was doing wrong. And I deeply wondered where God was in the midst of this mess, why I was having to wait for so long after taking some big steps of faith, struggling to see any way out.
In the midst of this, I encountered the song “You Have Me,” by the band Gungor. They captured the depths of my feeling with phrases like: “Out on the farthest edge / There in the silence,” “My faith was torn to shreds,” “I thought I had seen the end / Everything broken,” and “I’ve wandered heaven’s gates / I’ve made my bed in hell.” This song captured my hurt and the questions that I had for God in a way that most Christian songs didn’t. I felt like I was wandering on the edge. Everything seemed broken. I’d made my bed in hell. And God seemed silent.
Yet, the end of each of those lines in this song is “you were there.” “But you were there.” “Always faithful / Always good / You still have me / You still have my heart.” In those dark days, this song reminded me of the incarnation, that God was with me, even when I couldn’t feel it. These words reminded me that even when I was in the depths, I was not alone. I was held in the faithful arms of my father in heaven.
Eventually, I made the decision to come to China, and it was a story I could tell that felt very neat, like all the loose ends magically got tied up. It was inspiring to tell people, but it also always seemed to me to minimize the pain of those months, like the pain didn’t matter. A few times people asked what I learned from that time, and I’ve always struggled to answer. Even now, more than four years later, I can’t give you three principles the experience taught me. But when I was in Jeju recently, I was challenged to think about an experience where I have seen God at work AND how it have helped to build my resiliency. And that question has helped me to reframe and process the experience. Maybe it is okay that I don’t have the three principles, because the experience did build my resiliency. I was on the edge and God seemed silent, and God was still there. My faith was torn to shreds, it will never be the same, and God was holding me. I made my bed in the depths, and God never abandoned me.
I don’t know what other hard periods I will face in my life, but I suspect there will be some. Passing through this deep darkness has helped me become more resilient to whatever the next hard thing is. It has helped me to be more empathetic and suffer with others who feel on the edge and that their faith is being torn to shreds. It has helped me to appreciate even more the words of Heidelberg Catechism question and answer 1: My only comfort in life and in death is “that I am not my own, but belong—body and soul, in life and in death—to my faithful Savior, Jesus Christ.”
I’m going to link up to Velvet Ashes “The Grove: Held”