Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Faith, Hope, Love

One of my extended family members is having a hard time and reached out to some of us for understanding. This is my open letter to him.

When I received your email I wasn't quite sure what to think. For one thing, I'm not one of your kids, and that's who it was addressed to. But in many ways I might as well be one of your own, in the way that you have been emotional support for me since my mother passed away.

You said you've been emotional and you don't know why, and that you've been crying and you don't know why. You've been reliving old memories and seeking to share them with your family. I may know why you're experiencing all of this emotion, but first you'll need to hear me out.

This year, for my birthday and our anniversary, I specifically asked Chris to buy me this:

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I'm not a big jewelry person, but this struck me in a way that I can't explain. I've worn it every day since. I'm sure you recognize the symbology, as it stands for Faith, Hope, and Love.

1Cor.13

[1] If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal.

[2] And if I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing.
[3] If I give away all I have, and if I deliver my body to be burned, but have not love, I gain nothing.
[4] Love is patient and kind; love is not jealous or boastful;

[5] it is not arrogant or rude. Love does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful;
[6] it does not rejoice at wrong, but rejoices in the right.
[7] Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.
[8] Love never ends; as for prophecies, they will pass away; as for tongues, they will cease; as for knowledge, it will pass away.

[9] For our knowledge is imperfect and our prophecy is imperfect;
[10] but when the perfect comes, the imperfect will pass away.
[11] When I was a child, I spoke like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child; when I became a man, I gave up childish ways.
[12] For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall understand fully, even as I have been fully understood.
[13] So faith, hope, love abide, these three; but the greatest of these is love.
Abide is such an odd word. This is the best definition I can find:
a·bide
v.tr.
1. To put up with; tolerate: can't abide such incompetence. See Synonyms at bear1.
2. To wait patiently for: "I will abide the coming of my lord" (Tennyson).
3. To withstand: a thermoplastic that will abide rough use and great heat.
v.intr.
1. To remain in a place.
2. To continue to be sure or firm; endure. See Synonyms at stay1.
3. To dwell or sojourn.
 I've learned the truth of faith, hope, and love enduring all. I've also learned that sometimes, that's all that remains.

* * *

I've recently returned from a very dark place. That shouldn't be a surprise to you; I've dropped off the radar and withdrawn from pretty much everything. There was a point I reached where I wondered how much more I could take and how many "just one more day"s I would have to endure.

My kids are gone and that's left a big piece of me missing while I worry about them every moment of every day. There are times this year where I feared for my husband's life and waited in absolute terror for test results. Friends and family members have passed on or are going through hard times themselves. We've lost our major income stream, with no dependable replacement as of yet. Chris's health is so up and down I'm not sure what to expect any given day, and my health has been going through some massive changes. We've dealt with lawyers, IRS agents, a dozen or more major crises, and serious life uncertainty and upheaval.

There was a point at which I could not take it anymore.

It's amazing what happens when you reach the point of too much. Some of what you've stored inside starts coming out to make room for what endures.

Faith, hope, and love.

At some point, the fire becomes so hot that it starts melting away the impurities inside, the dark spots that lay hidden. This is what happened to me, and I believe that's happening to you. Every trauma never dealt with, every buried pain, every repressed memory starts bubbling to the surface. Your soul seeks release so it can make room for what you really need.

Faith, hope, and love. The alloy that forms a much stronger you.

In my case, that meant finally finding the source of my pain and trauma, and being able to start clearing it out. My trauma turned out to be shame, which I cultivated and grew to the point that it severely infected my life and made it difficult to function. Shame does that, if you don't let it out in the open. Shame shared evaporates like so much mist.

I don't need to know what pain is hiding in you that is attempting to release itself. I have suspicions as to what led my mother to commit passive suicide by not taking care of herself; I know just enough of what went on in the family to know that whatever secrets she held were shameful indeed.

She passed on that sense of shame to me. It's taken me this long to rid myself of it. She hid her shame, and I'm convinced it contributed to her death.

I know that whatever secrets she held back, you most likely witnessed in one way or another. I also know that there's other reasons for your pain, even if I don't know the details.

What matters is this: your pain is no longer lying dormant, and while you go through the process of letting it out, the world will look dark indeed. The pain obscures your vision, and it feels like you're lost in darkness.

The darkness is temporary.

* * *

I used to think of faith as a nebulous concept that I couldn't really grasp. I heard it spoken of, but never understood. Faith can only be truly understood in the midst of hardship and darkness. Now I understand.

Faith is knowing there's a light at the end of the tunnel, even if you can't see it.

Hope is the trust that when you find that light, things will be better.

Love is what keeps you from doubting your faith and giving up hope. Love is what keeps one foot moving in front of the other, even if you don't know where you're going.

If you keep walking forward, you will eventually find that light.

* * *

At the darkest part of my tempering, I desperately needed reminding. That weight around my neck is enough of a reminder to keep looking for the good, the silver lining. With some work, the good in any situation can be found.

Soon the custody issue will be decided, and hopefully the world will return to normal. Finding Chris's cancer was painful, but because we know what is wrong we have hope that he will soon be healthier than he's been in a decade. That experience also tapped us in to a medical community where much more than the cancer is being treated, to the point that he can walk again, think again, and otherwise be himself again.

From the deaths of friends and family, new life is springing up. Adapting to the changes meant life improvement for many of us, while we re-examined life and what we wanted before we're gone ourselves. Losing the income stream ending up being a very good thing for Chris; with me covering our medical insurance, he is free to pursue new endeavors on his own terms. Working for MegaBank made him miserable; now he is working for himself.

Chris's health and work status unpredictability has forced me to adapt and be flexible in new ways, as has my new job. I like my job, I like the people I work with, and I've found a very good support network there. I've also been diagnosed with hypothyroidism and ADHD, and treatment for both has drastically improved my life and my outlook.

Most of all, learning to deal with the varied curveballs thrown to us this year has made me stronger and my marriage stronger. If we could get through this, we can get through anything.

Increased strength, increased adaptability, and increased flexibility has also enabled me to be much better at kicking ass and taking names, not to mention opened pathways for me to follow my dreams.

I don't think any of those very positive changes would have come about if I hadn't gone through this dark period and come out the other side. If I hadn't been forced to deal with my pain and trauma, and let the fire of life burn it off, I would not be this strong.

Let the pain come up. Figure out what it's trying to teach you. Share it with someone. The moment you bring the pain out in the daylight and let the impurities out, you will start to heal and feel better. Then you will find the reason, the good that will come from fighting through the darkness.

We will all be here for you while you go through this. Listen to that instinct to share the past; it will help you uncover the reason why it is coming back to you so forcefully.

It will also draw you closer to your family, and create a place of safety where they can share their pain with you.


The pain, anger, and grief you're going through is temporary. Faith, hope, and love will endure, and grow.

Mel