Nineteen years ago I sat on the shores of this beautiful place while the fairytale I had written started unraveling and torrents of pain and destruction rushed through my beautiful life, destroying everything I thought I had.
Nineteen years. That’s one year longer than her – the one whose years mattered to Jesus – the woman who had suffered for “18 long years.”
When I sat there all those years ago, watching the sun put on a stunning display of beauty, dancing in and out of the clouds, shouting the glory of God over a deep and terrifying ocean whose depths only God knows, before sinking right into that dark sea, I heard God whisper to me for the first time ever. I felt like my own sun was sinking into the depths of all that was dark and unknown, and the beauty that had been there just weeks before was disappearing before my eyes, just like the sun sinking into that ocean.
I was sure that I would drown in the depths of pain that were tearing through my life, flooding my mind with images of terror I had boxed and locked away forever.
I knew that it was going to be a very dark and very long night. I could feel that. And as the sun’s last little sliver dipped below the horizon, I wanted to wail out loud. I wanted to scream, “NO!!! Please don’t go! Please don’t leave me here, alone in the dark!” It was a wailing of the soul that found no words but threatened to sink me right into that ocean.
And that is when He first spoke to me. “Yes. The night has come. But I am here, even in the dark. Just as the sun is still there, shining, I am still here, with you. I will not leave you, but it will be a long, dark night. But remember – for every sunset, the sun will rise again. I promise.”
And I just sat there, knowing that the ocean of pain inside of me that was beginning to flood and overwhelm my mind, body and soul was as big as the ocean sitting in front of me. And I knew also, right then, if only for a moment, that God was bigger still.
Years have passed. A lot of them. There were the first six years of overwhelming, non-stop flooding of memories that had all been hidden and lying silent and dormant within me. I did not think I would survive those years. Indeed, I wasn’t meant to.
But I lived. I survived those years, just as I had survived the two decades of torture. Everything I knew crumbled around me and the losses were devastatingly great. But He was there, holding me in the dark, even though I couldn’t see Him or hear His voice anymore. And when I look back on those years, I see evidence of Him working tirelessly to hold me here, to life, when all of hell conspired to take me.
And then, there were more years. The years where I fell silent again. A decade exactly. Enough was enough. I finally knew enough to keep my children safe. I’d had enough and my small support system had vanished. I was alone again, with children – now three of them – to raise. So I put it all back in a box, sealed it and buried it all deep. I was alive, but not really living.
You can’t really live if you can’t have a history – if you have to deny who you are and never ever allow yourself to be known.
So I survived that decade. I don’t know how. But I existed through those years. And we added 2 more children, making 5 amazing, precious souls who were depending on me to do something I didn’t even know I would have to do. I didn’t want to know. I just wanted it to all be over and behind me. So it was.
It was all behind me because it was all following me.
And it was still night. And the God who is bigger than the ocean of pain I still carried inside of me held onto me still. He was working through the night, and I was just – asleep.
And then there was 2011. I don’t really know what happened, but God said. And it all came back. It was time for me to do the thing I would have to do to really be free and to really see my children freed from this hideous legacy.
And I have survived these past 3 1/2 years.
And it is still night.
I had no idea that a night could last so long or be so dark.
Exactly 19 years ago this week, I sat on the shores of that beach and watched my life sink into the deep, dark depths of recovering from two decades of unspeakable trauma.
Two days ago, I stood on those shores again. The place was barely recognizable. Instead of a few wandering souls at sunset, it was packed with thousands of tourists. High rise condos now line the once peaceful and deserted place of beauty, and I almost did not find a spot to take a picture without a dozen people in it.
The friend who sat at my side 19 years ago is with Jesus now. I miss her terribly. I imagined that she, having been a local there for decades, would be appalled at the commercialization and crowds that now mark this place that held solitude and beauty for both of us, and I decided it better if she could not see it now.
But I also couldn’t help wondering if she knows that my night has not yet ended, if she knows how grateful I am because her prayers saved my life dozens of times, and her presence with me in the dark was a gift that simply can’t be measured in earthly terms. I wondered if she has a house on the crystal sea, and how much she must love it there, even more than she loved it here, because she is the one who taught me to love the ocean and the sunset so much. I wondered how it is to never have to watch the sun sink into the depths of the ocean bringing a dark night again, because she knew so many years of her own dark nights here on earth.
And while all those thoughts and questions danced in my head, I stood there, surrounded by thousands of tourists, with the sun warming the tears streaming down my face, because the night has been so long. And I couldn’t help but wondering – does God know that my night that began here in this place has still not ended? Does He care? And those words – the first time I ever heard Him speak to me – has He forgotten them? Were they just my imagination?
Because time is a deceiver and hope deferred brings uncertainty to promises made in the dark so many years ago.
So I stood there and silently prayed:
“Do you see me standing here in this place I don’t even recognize anymore? Are you collecting these tears into your bottle? Have you really numbered ALL of my wanderings, or have years slipped past you? Did I really hear your voice that day when my sun sank into the deep abyss, or was that just my imagination? Do you really know my years? Do they move you at all? The night has been so very long, Jesus. And I have survived it, because you have held me here in it even when I could not perceive what was binding me to life. But will it ever be more than just surviving?
Will the sun ever rise?
God, I am ready for a new day. Desperately ready. Would you bring the sunrise?”
And my husband held me in his arms and made me a promise while I sobbed out loud in front of all those people: When it is all said and done, and the sun finally rises, we will bring the ashes here, to this place, and we will cast them into these waters – into the ocean that is big enough to hold all of them, and which is held in the hand of a God who is bigger still.