A Tightrope in the Withered Places

69537022_502212617231981_586373691441414144_nAugust 8, 2019

I just really do not know how we are going to make it through this time. 

I think that at least three times a day, usually in the evening. I think it in all caps. I think it in italicized bold 100-point font, in bright red letters and underlined. I think it in a rage.

I am so mad that we have to go through something again when we have not even healed from the last thing, when the last trauma was so awful that we are all still wholly broken. Cleaning that throat wound broke Abby and me both, and having that throat wound broke Greg.

Yet here we are again, required to dance the same dance to the same song. And while we know that Greg will ultimately be okay, and that we will all survive, sustained once more by God, right now, this minute none of us know that we can, in fact, do this again.

It’s the most frustrating dichotomy: we cannot possibly do this, but we know it will be done.

We cannot make it. But we will.

After all, our little family does hard things over and over. 

And we know this. You know this. God has been faithful to us, and He will be again.

But I can also say with honesty that I think all of us would rather just take a pass this time–we would rather just skip the Hard Thing. Certainly, it’s not anywhere near a “take this cup from me” sacrifice that is being required here–but it is more suffering,and frankly, we don’t want to suffer anymore. 

And yet.

One thing we learned early on–almost twenty years ago in Seattle–is things could truly be worse. I could have been long-widowed. One of our daughters could have been the sick one. We could have gone bankrupt, lost everything. 

We know this so well.

So, generally,we walk the tightrope. Recognizing that, like everyone, we suffer less than some, but more than others. Grateful that we are still upright and moving, however slowly.

But there are times when we all just want a few days off the tightrope.  We want to leave it behind.

Abby leaves for college on Saturday. She will again be 1,004 miles away. 

She and I are spending every moment together–she is ensconced on the corner of the red couch–her spot, from which she has barely moved since being blindsided by this latest diagnosis. Tonight, as she and I sat in silence, a sound like none we’d ever heard–a long, low guttural moan–that of an agonized dying animal–came from the bedroom where Greg and his dog were both sleeping. I dashed in to check on the dog, but Abby knew instantly: it was her father, in his sleep.

I woke him, and he apologized for scaring her. He said he wasn’t having a nightmare, that he wasn’t sick.

Completely shaken, Abby sat,saying angrily, over and over, “I didn’t like that . . . I didn’t like that.”

That’s the crux of it, really: when all you do is fight battles, there’s not a lot to like. Sure, we take time out to admire nature, and the girls and I find things every day that bring us comfort–today, I watched an ant carry a moth’s wing ten times his size, and I looked at the pink sunset and called Tasha to make her look, too. 

We reach–daily–for the joy, but we are reaching past so much pain.

September 3, 2019

Greg is a week away from surgery, and today, I found last month’s forgotten words on my phone. That night, I had spat them there in five minutes using voice recognition, thoroughly disgusted with the fact that my husband was moaning, my daughter was weeping, that we couldn’t even enjoy a few peaceful evenings before she left–instead, she was going to be leaving carrying a new, tiny trauma. 

I read them with mild surprise, and I held their truth.

In the past weeks, we have been building bridges out of spiderwebs and toothpicks, talking on blue-sky doctor’s drives about the what-ifs. (There aren’t a lot of whys. There aren’t many what’s nexts? There’s just the simple acknowledgement that this is our now.) 

This week I realized that, in all likelihood, things will never be okay–at least not in the typical sense: I will not have the home, car, or marriage I want. 

I realized that, but I felt no grief. For a few minutes, I just sat on my bed and considered that fact: “It will never be okay.”

The prophet Habakkuk declared, “Though the fig tree does not bud and there are no grapes on the vines, though the olive crop fails and the fields produce no food, though there are no sheep in the pen and no cattle in the stalls, yet I will rejoice in the Lord, I will be joyful in God my Savior.”

That day, I realized this is my truth: I serve a God who is for me, who saves me and keeps me from starving in even this most withered of places.

I considered my God, a sustaining God–who answers my smallest prayers and shows me so much grace and mercy–and I thought about how much I trust Him, with my pain, with my sorrow, with my daughters. I thought of all the times I have seen His hand move on my behalf, of the good things he has built out of our sorrows, of the people whom we know solely through cancer and anencephaly, of all the good He has built from all the loss.

There is no wishing away the bad without also wishing away the resultant good.

And that, I cannot do.



2 thoughts on “A Tightrope in the Withered Places

  1. Ohhhhhhh! What a beautiful expression of hope for all traveling in a dark place. Rachel, your army feels the pain acutely. We grieve for your family, we pray for you all, and we rejoice that we know God will see you through. My deepest love!

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