Thursday, July 17, 2008
the brown shirt club
While we were in Atlanta, our matching brown shirts generated a lot of attention in the mass of 19,000 women we found ourselves a part of. Wherever we went people came up to us, sometimes with tears in their eyes, to express their love, sympathy, or prayers. I had one sweet lady come up to me and ask where she could buy one of our shirts, and I had to tell her these were it, all special ordered with no extras. I felt kind of like we were in a club--one that was painfully exclusive, with a membership qualifier no one would willingly pay.
As I walked around in Atlanta I had conflicting emotions "duking" it out inside me. Part of me felt more understood, more of a sense of belonging than I have in a long, long time. But part of me still felt isolated, immersed in a sea of women out of whom only a very, very few who would ever be able to say, "I've walked that path too. I know what it's like."
I think being alone is one of the most excruciating places to be emotionally. July 25 of last year, the day I received the news my baby was not going to live, was saturated with an intense sense of loneliness. It was as if in a matter of seconds, I had suddenly become different. Now I was in a place of quasi-isolation, surrounded by those who loved me, yet unable to share a common link. That's why it was one of God's greatest gifts to me to connect me, one by one, with other people who were walking this path right there with me. I will never fully understand what that connection meant to me, how it helped me to cope with the pain and heal in the aftermath.
Yet even as I was thinking about this idea of a grieving mother's club, it dawned on me that just about everyone is in a club of some sort--one that makes them feel separate, alone in their hurt, and unable to be understood by the vast majority of people around them. It could be cancer, addiction, abuse, illness, depression, obesity, divorce, or any number of other types of pain, but regardless of what it is, it is there, threatening to tear you down, and making you feel isolated from the people who are right there beside you. However you have become a member of your particular club, once you are there, you are unable to withdraw membership. Even if you are able to break free from the painful hold it has over you, you will never go back to that place you were before you entered into it. The scar will always remain.
I think there are a lot of people out there walking around with the stigma of their club ingrained in their heads like an unwanted tattoo. It is so far removed from the place they wish they were that they don't want to have anything to do with the others who are in the same boat with them. I understand that. I understand not wanting to have to talk to others who have lost babies because it is so far from the reality I wanted in my life. I understand not wanting to expose the most vulnerable part of your hurt. But I also understand the healing that comes with connecting with others who can relate better than anyone else with the hurt that is a reality in your life. I read something the other day that nailed it on the head. It is from I Peter 5:9-10. It says, "Resist the devil, being steadfast in the faith, knowing that the same sufferings are experienced by your brotherhood in the world. But may the God of all grace, who called us to His eternal glory by Christ Jesus, after you have suffered a while will perfect, establish, strengthen, and settle you."
What a beautiful encouragement! When the devil tries to tear you down using your particular club as a weapon against you, this verse tells us to remember that there are others who can relate! Don't let Satan feed you a lie that you are alone, deserted, without anyone who understands or cares. And then the verse goes on to say that God can use your suffering, no matter what it stems from, to perfect, establish, strengthen, and settle you!! What a promise! Any pain we go through, any club we unwillingly become a part of, God can use in our lives. He can bring something good from the pain. This is a promise I have witnessed in my own life. It is one that I know is true. I never wanted to be a member of the brown shirt club, but look where it has brought me. It is part of who I am, and it is something I pray God will continue to use as long as I live.