Saturday, February 21, 2009

DERAILMENT

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Last week I was given the daunting task of presenting my timeline to my Life Group. I’ve always heard about timelines but never dreamed of having to document my life from birth to present, graphing all the highs and lows, and then presenting it to a group of friends. The timeline served to help me document the growth and lessons of my life as well as giving my friends an overall idea of the woman I am. I was initially elated at my project until I traveled back in time and relived the pain. The emotional intensity was brutal. Several times I stopped and thought of several reasons I could have given that would excuse me from the assignment. Knowing my life, I would get away with it only to be given the same exercise in the future but instead, would have to present it to people who didn’t have my best interest at heart. So I plodded on.

As I recounted my life to my friends I began experiencing bursts of epiphanies, like a Fourth of July fireworks finale erupting inside me. My whole life has been a continuous series of derailments. The timeline I held in my hands began to resemble a map of the territory of my soul. Interspersed between the sloping landscapes was my train hauling the boxcars of pain, courage, fears, weaknesses, joys, sorrows, failure, beauty, dreams, longings, desires, mistakes, lessons, and passions. What made me think that my route would start from point A and end at point B without any mishaps? Isn't life about the misadventures peppered with the unknown and unpredictable?

The first major derailment diverted me away from my dream of photojournalism. I envisioned myself as a single, carefree, photojournalist living in New York City, traveling every pocket of the world documenting the truth. I was NEVER going to be saddled with kids and NEVER shackled in marriage. Yet, at nineteen-years-old, I found myself pregnant, chose her life over mine and became chained to an abusive marriage. In the ensuing years, my life was dedicated to the three lives I selected over my dreams and despite my unconventionality my three children still love me. I have no regrets and their existence is like shining stars in my dark skies.

When I derailed from the faith I was brought up with I operated with seething anger, unforgiveness, bitterness, revenge and grudges. The message I received from my well-intentioned parents was that God didn’t accept me due to the poor choices I’ve made in my life. Thus, I shunned Him. I navigated through treacherous territory placing myself in dangerous situations. I had faith only in myself and wondered why I failed miserably. As I chugged along in my journey I craved peace but couldn’t find it and my search brought me to avenues filled with static and torment. Thankfully, this derailment took me back full circle to the One who welcomed the prodigal child with open arms. Ironically, the peace I longed for was found in the last place I wanted to look.

I barreled through my second husband’s life with my cargo-filled boxcars of bone-crushing weariness and unmet needs. I wanted to be taken care of and mistakenly assumed that an intelligent man with a substantial salary would alleviate my burden. My second husband is a good man, just not the man for me. His quiet, unassuming nature was no match for the tempest that’s always raging in me. I didn’t come with an owner’s manual and it soon became evident that he was not equipped to live the rest of his life with a woman whose mouth hurled words that slashed like shards of glass. I was a veritable whirlwind to his steadfast patience. I honestly don’t blame him for checking out. No human being should ever have to carry the weight of another’s unrealistic expectations. This derailment taught me that marriage is not an escape hatch for a weary, single mom.

My odyssey on the road to redemption continues forth with purpose now. Through my freight filled with fear and pain I learned to stand unwavering against the face of adversity, confident in my ability to survive regardless of the obstacles. As I look back at my boxcars I no longer weep with remorse but welcome the derailments that shaped me into a woman with a cause. Armed with self-assurance I look ahead, moving toward a life that I didn’t plan but content in the knowledge that it is where I’m supposed to be.