“You can be mad at God, disappointed with God, going through so much pain, you don’t want to hear any preaching or even a Bible verse. But that’s okay. He can handle that. Because you have feelings toward God, you are still in relationship with Him. If you feel nothing…that’s when you should be concerned.”
I don’t know what other people do. I didn’t even know what I was doing until 5 years after my son Joel died.
It was the early days and nights of another New Year; 2016. I was spending 3 days and nights alone in Joel’s room. I was finally able to put a new bed instead of a couch in there. And even though I cried for 2 days after I did, I let it be a bedroom again instead of pretending that it wasn’t. And I had completely redecorated it. Twice. I was thinking about how unhappy I had become. It wasn’t just about Joel’s death. It was about me. I was not happy about who I had become and I didn’t know why. I didn’t understand why I had spent nearly my entire life trying to help other people. Usually struggling young people. I had helped some of Joel’s friends graduate from high school. I had let them come over and hang out and talk about Joel. I had kept in touch with a couple that were particularly “high risk” to make sure they were okay. I taught a couple kids to drive and helped them get their licenses. I began to teach art to teenagers who couldn’t make it in traditional schools. Art became a very healing way for them to express themselves. That blossomed into teaching basic life skills. I taught kids how to fill out a job application and apply for a job. How to handle money, basic hygiene and social skills. How to handle depression in healthy ways. I guess I just became a lot of lonely and difficult kids’ Mom.
And it seemed to me that all my efforts had backfired on me. Every time.
I guess I thought I was trying to replace Joel. But something more had happened to me than just that. I realized I was becoming a rebellious, cleverly sarcastic brat who usually responded to adults like I was somewhere between 14 and 18 years old.
When Joel died, my psyche couldn’t handle it. It was too horrible for me. So it splintered. Into a million pieces. I suppose it happened because I refused to grieve.
Some of the kids started thinking of me as a peer. Because I was acting like one. And I didn’t realize that would bring out the worst in me…I suppose I didn’t really think about it. Or care.
I guess what was happening to me was similar to what happens to a person who is so traumatized, they develop Multiple Personality Disorder. Because of my complex past, my subconscious thought it was time to fight. To be furious. To rebel. To rebel against God. After all… He took away my treasure, didn’t He? He took away my sweet, beautiful Jojo. Didn’t He…?
The shards of my splintered heart all lay on the hard terra-cotta floor of our house. But I refused to let anyone gently help pick them up. Or help me at all. I was going to do it my way. I was going to stay furious for as long as I felt I deserved to. Furious at my friends (who understandably quickly became my ex-friends ), furious at my husband (why exactly? I didn’t know or care ), furious at Joel for dying. Furious at myself for being a lousy Mom. But the one thing I didn’t want to admit was the truth.
I was furious at God.
A woman in her mid 50s who had been a follower of Jesus since she was 20 years old isn’t supposed to feel that way, right? Isn’t that incredibly immature? And just stupid?
Actually no. Pretending you don’t feel what you feel because it isn’t cool is. Unless you are a teenager. Then it’s normal. So I was pretending I didn’t feel what I really felt; which made me mad. I didn’t want to face what I was really feeling, because it was uncool and immature. So that ended up making me very immature. And confused. And rebellious against authority. Which are basically the key ingredients of a teenager. That’s perfectly fine, if you happen to be one. But I was 54 when Joel died. Too late for that excuse. Way too late.
Believe it or not, it took me 5 years to soften my heart enough to let the Lord’s voice gently welcome me back. I mean, He was always there. And I was aware of Him waiting for me. I knew He wouldn’t leave me. Ever. But I finally got exhausted and lonely and ill enough to listen for His voice again.
And the instant I was ready to listen, I could hear Him.