Leaps Along the Way
I find it fascinating that books find you at the right time. After Josh’s message on New Beginnings, I read Clarissa Pinkola Estes’ book, Faithful Gardner. I had to stop to take a breath as I cried on the treadmill. The war refugee Estes describes as her Uncle is a survivor of unspeakable trauma. She recalls as a child that he struggled with what would be now described as PTSD; fits of rage, nightmares, distance and the use of alcohol to cope. Uncle would describe “that man” as though the trauma were another being that he was struggling to reintegrate to his true self. As the book concludes, he sets fire to a small patch of former woods in an act of rebellion (read the book to know why!). With a sense of triumph in the face of yet more adversity, he tells Clarissa that the fire will burn it to the ground but that the raw earth was the prime space for a new forest to grow. He goes on to share that it is hope that arises from the burnt, raw ground and that it is absolutely the most ideal conditions for new growth and that gardners like God have known this for all of eternity.
I faced my own burnt ground in 2017. I had entered into a 2nd marriage years before that the still small voice in my heart was telling me was not the direction I needed to move. The divorce, though anticipated, still felt like a scorching. I was left with a huge house I couldn’t sell. Children that I was now cut off from, and my own children suffering the consequences of my choices. Over the course of a year, I faced a challenging job, divorce, moving, one child in college and one getting ready to graduate and leave me a empty nester. Scorched. In the Faithful Gardener, Uncle shares that sometimes God picks up the whole road or path you are walking and just moves it. I felt the disassociation as I pulled back like Uncle did into “that man” because my path was turned upside down.
I practice choosing a word instead of resolutions, so the word for 2018 was healing. I slowly felt the growth coming back to the burned ground. Friendships grew. My parents and children surrounded me in perfect love. I found Imago Dei! And then I went to a Regional basketball game for my nephew and ran into an old friend. He asked me to go out with him for appetizers, and I said NO! Went home and cried (this is now our running joke whenever appetizer are mentioned). My old friend persisted and tried an Indian food dinner invitation. The powerful lure of naan got me to say yes.
As we began to get reacquainted and a new beginning bloomed, there were times I still felt conflicted. How could I even trust that this time it would be OK? As we moved forward and spent time together, I felt a love like I hadn’t experienced before. We decided to commit to one another and to take the bold step to get married. We chose a word together for 2019, and our word is leap! The joyous feeling of knowing deeply that you are in the flow and finally on a path that God has intended does not come without the past, however, as Josh shared in his message. For me, it is double sided. I know that I have learned and become the person I am today because of the pain of not following where God has led. The other side however is regret and pain. Why oh why so much wasted time? So many hurt feelings? The ripping apart of families? Angry former partners and friends. I describe it to my counselor as “a haunting.” It isn’t a longing to go back. It is a desire to let go of the memories that a song, a place or date on a calendar can bring. As I reflect on Josh’s message, I’m coming to realize that a new beginning can’t come without a consideration of the past and lessons learned, and that I must forgive. In that act of forgiving, I can let go of the wish that the past was any different and with that, it can no longer impact my future. A friend gave me a sign for my birthday that I keep near my bed that reads, “Don’t let yesterday take up too much of today.”
So with great hope, I embrace my new beginning. Brien and I will be married in April, and I know I will cry tears of joy for the grace of a God that makes all things new.
Submitted by Beth Crider, in honor of Brien Dunphy who has been willing to take the leaps along the way. Beth is the Regional Superintendent for Peoria County and Brien is the AD for Peoria High School. They are all school, all of the time and live here in Peoria with their dog Rockne and two college girls, Abby and Kate.