March 3, 2008

The most horrible month of the year

Posted in Working through Life at 12:49 pm by Matt Porter

Thus endeth the month formerly known as the second month of the year. Behind such innocuous nomenclature lurk evil, despair, and doom. Well, maybe not doom, since we escaped with our lives and part of our sanity. Dinner with friends on the first of the month, Friday-end-of-the-school-week on the last—those are the bookends on a twenty-nine day excursion through the nether regions of the earth. Next to the entries for Sheol and Hades in our Hebrew/Greek dictionary, I have penciled in 02/2008. But I think you get the point.

Let’s start with Lent. As I was reading up on the season, I saw a snarky comment someone made along the lines of, “Have a miserable Lent!” To which I thought, “Haha, miserable Lent, hehe, that’s funny, *snort*” My wife was also greatly amused by this black humor. Gentle reader, note the past tense used in the last two sentences. The past tense may be used to denote a story-telling mode, or it may be used to indicate the presence of a state in the past which has not continued to the present. The majority of this post employs the first meaning. The two sentences to which I drew your attention employ the second meaning; to wit, that any amusement derived from the above quotation has been short-lived and does not continue unto this present time. Lent, like Advent, is a season of preparation for the approaching holiday. Lent, especially, is a time to reflect upon our sinfulness and our need for a Savior. And, oh, the wickedness upon which we have been privileged to reflect. Our sin here, their sin there, here a sin, there a sin, everywhere a sin sin. (See the Sin Is Ugly post for details.)This managed to hit us very early in the month and very squarely between the eyes, and is still doing so. Think Chinese water torture with, say, elephants instead of dripping water. Feelings, thoughts, motives, and actions have all been plowed up, turned over, and exposed for what they are, and the process is rather unpleasant.

Partly because of being up in a spiritual heaval, and mostly as a result of other things, last month was a struggle with depression and despair. I don’t know that I have ever felt as out of control as I have this month. It is as if our actions have no bearing on our situation, like we’re being carried along by some inexorable destiny which destroys all our feeble efforts at staying afloat. This isn’t a gentle “God is leading me to a new phase in my life”; this is “All my roots are being ripped out and all my branches are being snapped off and my heart is being torn out of my chest and I can’t breathe and I have no idea what’s going on or where it’s taking me or what’s going to be left of me if anything survives.” That’s closer to it. The only constant throughout the entire ordeal is that we are doing what we should be—we are supposed to leave, I am supposed to uproot my family and start a new career, we are supposed to start a new life in a new place. In spite of all the mess around us, that conviction has never been shaken; if anything, it’s been strengthened. Every time I worry about the future, I get something along the lines of “Shut up and follow.” Well, loosely paraphrased.

So that’s the terrible month of, well, I can’t even say it. It’s name turned into a curse in our home, invoked every time something else came down: “It’s F–––––y!” (See, that’s allowed if you use dashes, or so I hear.) Maybe ten years down the road, we’ll look at this time with some understanding of what was happening. Maybe we’ll never get it. Or maybe this will continue, a constant reminder of something or other. I guess we’ll have some idea if we ever survive the month of M–––h.

Not to say that we haven’t learned some things already, both spiritual and otherwise. I’m finding that while God may be kind and gracious and loving, He can also be ruthless when it comes to exposing our hearts. I’ve plumbed enough of the shallows of my sinfulness to know that there is no end to its depths. I found that six-point-five years of good marriage can suddenly and drastically improve, and that spouses who are best friends can quickly become better friends. I’ve learned to appreciate our marriage and our family much more, and that we can draw strength from each other. I’ve learned that troubles can squeeze us closer, rather than force us apart. And, overall, I’m more aware that I need Jesus—that He, not my tradition, is the answer to my sin. And all that (eventually) gives me hope.

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