People say tornadoes sound like freight trains when they’re on the ground.
I’ve never been in a tornado, but I have seen (up close and personal) the destruction caused by them. And, in a way, I’ve survived a different type of tornado – one that struck my heart and my life.
It was 2013. I was in debt up to my eyeballs, I had health problems the doctors couldn’t diagnose, and the man of my dreams…well, I thought he was going to propose. I really did. But he ended up leaving instead.
The breakup came by text message, right before Valentine’s Day, and right before a big trip he and I were supposed to take.
My life came crashing down in what, quite literally, felt like an instant.
After the dust settled, I began clawing my way out of the hole I was in. I saved money however I could: by eating cheaply or not at all; by scraping deodorant from the bottom of the deodorant stick; I even cut open spent toothpaste tubes to salvage whatever paste might be left.
I also canceled all my travel plans, including the trip I’d been planning with my ex, and I refused to go anywhere except to work and to the doctor.
No more makeup or clothes.
No more hair products or haircuts.
No more going out.
Basically, I let myself go. I had to – because of my finances, yes, but I also didn’t see the point in trying anymore. If such intense, horrible heartache could happen in an instant, why bother? I was only setting myself up for failure. At least, that’s what I thought.
Battling extreme depression, I tried to tell myself that my writing was enough, that I didn’t need anything else. But no matter how much I poured myself into my work, I couldn’t make any progress. And nothing, absolutely nothing, quenched my thirst.
Thirst. The very word makes my throat dry as I remember that season of my life. It’s like I was searching for something and hadn’t even known it. Acceptance? Love? The kind of love that wouldn’t toss me out like yesterday’s garbage?
As the weeks unfolded, I succumbed to depression more and more. I was mired in darkness—and not the kind that’s fun and exciting. It was the kind that’s gut-wrenching and heartbreaking.
Emptiness, by its very nature, is weightless – yet, the emptiness inside me somehow carried an unbearable weight.
The weekend of my birthday arrived. Desperate to make the emptiness go away, I partied so hard I was sick for three days. My friends took pics of me passed out at my dining room table. In one pic, my forehead was resting on a banana (“banana pillow birthday” someone captioned the pic).
I had hit a new low.
That same weekend, an F5 tornado struck the small town of Moore, Oklahoma, killing 24 people and injuring 212. The tornado was a mile wide, and it was on the ground for 37 minutes. The destruction was inconceivable–like a nuclear bomb had obliterated the small town–and I was moved by the images I saw on TV.
More than moved. I had a long history of recurring nightmares about tornadoes, especially when I was a kid, and I felt drawn (like a calling) to go and help with the cleanup and relief effort.
The idea sparked purpose in my heart. This was my chance to do something that would make a difference. Sure, I was incapable of helping myself, but I could help others.
Yes, I thought to myself. I could lift people up. I could rescue them…little did I realize, I was the one still in desperate need of rescuing. You see, I went to Oklahoma, thinking I was going to save people.
In reality, it was Christ who led me there because I needed to be saved—from destructive behaviors, from unhealthy mindsets, and from a whole lot of brokenness caused a toxic lifestyle and a lifetime of bad decisions.
Iniquity. Sin. Missing the mark. Whatever you want to call it, I was filled with it, and it was separating me from my Creator. That’s what the unbearably heavy emptiness was.
Guilt. Shame. Rejection. Fear.
I had no idea. No one had ever told me any of this, and I never knew this was the reason Christ had died on a cross — to take all those things upon His own shoulders, because He knew I couldn’t handle it…and it’s true. I couldn’t.
I was being crushed under the weight of my own brokenness. But whom the Son sets free really is free indeed, and I’m proof of it.
Stay tuned for the conclusion on Thursday….