Week One of the Psalms Training Experience taught by me on Wednesday October 20, 2021
Last month was, perhaps, the most difficult month of my life. Just thinking about it now is actually a bit depressing but, if there is one thing I learned from my time in the Spiritual Formation program at Talbot, getting it out of my head and onto “paper” might just be helpful.
It all started in a funny enough way with wasps invading our house and some other shenanigans that are worthy of a separate blog post. Perhaps I’ll write these things down also. Maybe in the format of a modern day Greek epic poem. For now I’ll (as the British say) leave it and delve into other things.
As many of our friends know, Melodie (my wife) has struggled with celiac disease for the several years now. Its a gluten-intolerance so severe that even the tiniest bit gives her food poisoning like symptoms. If you want to read about it more you can check out my blog post here When November sucks/ Angry at God. Lately her symptoms, which we thought were connected to her celiac disease, have become more acute and the episodes more severe. In addition to all of the things she normally experienced (vomiting, etc.) she was having intense pain in her abdomen and side. This pain got so bad that I took her to the A&E (the UK’s version of the ER) where they admitted her to the hospital ward and started a series of tests and medication to hopefully determine what was happening.
Her first stay in the hospital was for a week, and I was keeping it together. Her second stay in the hospital (7 days after coming home) was for 10 days and I was stretched to my limit, barley keeping my head above water. Her third stay in the hospital (4 days after coming home again) lasted 4 days and it just about broke me. The agony of watching my wife (the strong and capable woman I love) go through such an ordeal; experiencing so much pain; and laying in a hospital bed unable to even walk around the room was a lot to bare. Yet, I had to be strong for my boys and be available for them. It was a difficult balance between reassuring them and creating space for them to share their own hearts.
During this time, the stress and pressure of the whole thing caused me to acquire a nervous twitch in my left eye. There were also times when the stress and pressure was so intense that my vision went fuzzy and narrowed casing a weird vertigo type experience. I know I made some mistakes and was extra aggravated with people around me. Those times continue to play about in my head, especially after I’ve offered all the apologies I can but there continues to be animosity and hurt feelings. I’ve agonised over my place in this community and struggled for encouragement.
In addition to Melodie’s illness I had the extra stress of completing my PhD, my required submission date being 30 Sept. I’ve heard the pressure of that alone has caused some people to crack. Being in a foreign country with no family support, navigating the medical system, maintaining my community commitments, finishing my PhD, and working a 20 hour per week job; all of these things started to add up. I believe I was as close as I have ever come to being overcome with it all. However, a few things kept me on the teetering edge of sanity. Our church stepped in and provided meals, my in-laws flew in for a couple of weeks to help with the boys while I finished my PhD, and, most uniquely, I gave up praying on my own and surrendered to a long established liturgical pattern of prayer in the form the Roman Catholic calendar app.
While I’m not becoming Catholic anytime soon, I was heartened and encouraged by many of the daily prayers that are part of the liturgy presented. I’ll probably write more about this later but I cannot express what a comfort it was to know what to pray when I was at a complete loss for words, especially as each daily prayer included several thematic Psalms where the author poured out his/her heart to God in distress and agony.
Through this entire process, especially during times when the panic and stress started to become overwhelmingly too much, I would experience moments of profound peace beyond any explanation and periods of joy that defied reality. I believe this was so much more than a form of cognitive disadance or moments of emotional high. Rather, I know this to be a relational aspect of being held by God through the miserable moments in life. Even when I indignantly questioned his care during my dire circumstance and angrily challenged his notion of kindness I would come away with an underlying sense of peace that accentuated the fact that he was in charge. God has purposely called me (and my family) not only to this circumstance but also through it. Although sometimes it seems like I’m grasping at a thick and an almost tactile fog, I continue to rely on his calling and faithfully expect God to see us through.
Melodie is recovering well now and it seems like she has, finally, seen the right doctors. The medicine she was prescribed seems to be working as it has alleviated her symptoms andSTREE
will hopefully stop further episodes. I’ve submitted the PhD and, for good or for ill, it was the best it could be. My viva (oral defence) is scheduled for sometime in December and then I’ll find out what happens next. Things are evening out a bit as we head into the October holidays. Hopefully there will be time to rest and recover a bit. Your support and prayers mean the world to us.