Sunday, October 28, 2012

Weathering the storm

Curled into a ball in my bed, under three layers of blankets, even my head was buried under the covers. My heart was pounding hard and I pressed my chest against a heated flax pillow. Although it defied common sense, I thought I could still my heart, keep it in my chest by putting pressure against it.

I had spent the evening in Maryland, having dinner with family members. I drove home listening to the radio, dire predictions about the storm they are calling Frankenstorm—the “perfect storm”—a combination hurricane and classic nor’easter that could bring historic and catastrophic rain, winds, and flooding to our area of the country. The radio announcers went through lists of essentials that local residents need to survive the storm—batteries and water and first aid kits and tape for windows—especially since they foretold extensive power outages that may last for days after the storm.

There used to be a plastic bin in my utility room full of a variety of batteries, neatly labeled “Batteries” on the side of the bin. In theory a great idea, exemplary organization. When I got home I went looking for the bin and it was just not there. I vaguely remembered that perhaps the batteries had expired and maybe I reused the bin for something. Vaguely—maybe I did, maybe I didn’t. No batteries. So just before midnight I went to the grocery store with all the other panicky locals preparing for the storm of the century. No batteries in the store. I got a few cans of cat food and some peanut butter and left. Now that I didn’t have batteries and couldn’t find batteries and it was already midnight, was I going to descend into freak-out mode?

Earlier that day I had attended a church women’s retreat. One part of the teaching centered on the first part of the book of Genesis—God creating man and woman and Adam and Eve’s temptation and fall. We heard about God’s design for a woman’s fruitfulness. And that while woman is a helper, man was created to labor and to protect her. I sat there, holding a Styrofoam cup with almost-cold coffee and I became both sad and angry. Not because I thought that God intended for a woman’s role to be subservient, but that the man I chose to be my husband failed to protect me. He not only failed to protect me, but I needed protection from him. I thought I did my part to fulfill my role in God’s plan and the man who was the other side of the equation checked out.

I don’t know why this marriage failure situation occasionally cycles around and affects me so much, especially when I’ve had years to absorb it. What it boils down to is that I’m alone. I have to make all the major decisions in my life on my own. When I’m sick, I’m alone. When the car breaks down, I’m alone. When my father dies, I’m alone. When the storm of the century is bearing down on the mid-Atlantic, I’m alone. Most of the time I’m alone and sometimes I feel really vulnerable.

So I’ve got no batteries, no man to protect me, and the storm is coming. I crawl into my bed under the covers with my heart pounding and I wonder if God really exists. Is this whole God thing a fantasy story, a fable that human beings use to explain something they can’t understand? I say aloud to the God I’m not sure exists, “I need you to be. Help me in my unbelief. Please exist.”

And I think about what life would be without God. My arrogant self-sufficient brain tells me it’s probably a fairy tale. But my heart aches for God. “I don’t know what to say to you,” I mumble under the covers while I hold my pounding heart. “I have no words. How do I pray to you when I’m not sure you exist? I feel alone and afraid and I don’t know if you’re there. What do I say to you?”

One thought comes to me, one little glimmer of hope. If He exists, He loves me no matter what. He loves me even when I doubt his existence. He loves me and forgives me my weakness. So maybe He and I can just weather the storm together and I won’t be afraid.

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