I recently made a shocking revelation.
I’m an entire year older than what I thought I was. One. Entire. Year.
I have a weight loss goal that I really want to meet by my birthday, so I went to an online “Days to my Birthday” countdown calendar and entered my birthday. It also asked me for the year. And then it did the calculation. I won’t tell you the result; let’s just say it was a whole year more than what I expected.
I’ve been working hard lately—hard at regaining health. Battling weight gain brought on by depression and stress eating. And, I’ve seen some fantastic results. I’m feeling so much better, in so many ways. Walking twice a day, eating healthily and staying at the correct caloric intake has led to an almost 40 pound weight loss.
I’m competitive. And I like charts. I thrive on setting goals, establishing routines. So I’m using those things to help make these necessary changes in my life. And all of those things help to combat the ever-present threatening shroud of darkness that I continually beat back. Those things along with the spiritual disciplines that I know I must maintain daily or else I find myself messed up by noon.
There is a budding, if you will, of hope. Not unrealistic hope. Not false hope based on denial or addiction or any other un-sound principal. No, there is hope that can only be explained by one thing.
Back to that missing year. It’s not that big of a deal, really. The shock didn’t come from being “older” or growing “older”–or some deep-seated dread of the approaching 50s (though I assure you, I am a ways off from those digits). No, it was disturbing in another sense.
I’ve completely lost all track of time.
It’s the strangest thing. The oddest sensation. There are whole months missing from my mind…….maybe enough to make an entire year.
If you asked me when did we move here to Virginia, I couldn’t tell you.
If you asked me how old my crew was, or what grade were they in when we moved to Virginia, I would have to say “I have no idea.”
If you asked me how long has it been since my ex-husband was arrested, I don’t have an answer. It’s not there, in my brain. It’s gone.
It’s a bit disconcerting, to be truthful with you. What seems like forever ago was only just yesterday, and what seems like just yesterday was forever ago. It the realm of time/spatial orientation, it is difficult to get a bearing.
I’ve done some reading in some psychology journals in an attempt to understand this time disorientation and its relationship to trauma. One explanation stood out to me so much that I captured it in Evernote, to return to it and think on it some more–in a way, to try to understand it more:
Trauma devastatingly disrupts the ordinary linearity and unity of our experience of time, our sense of stretching-along from the past to an open future. In the region of trauma all duration or stretching-along collapses, past becomes present, and future loses all meaning other than endless repetition. Trauma, in other words, is timeless. Further, because trauma so profoundly modifies our ordinary experience of time, the traumatized person quite literally lives in another kind of reality, completely different from the one that others inhabit. This felt differentness, in turn, contributes to the sense of alienation and estrangement from other human beings that typically haunts the traumatized person.
So is that it? Is this incredibly depressing passage from an article on trauma the only answer? Because, I have to admit, there is much truth in what is said here. Linearity is disrupted. Past does become present at times. In nightmares. In haunting moments on random days. On dates that have significant meaning, such as anniversaries, or birthdays. Future does tend to lose meaning—when I allow it to. I often do feel like I live in another kind of reality that is completely different from the reality that those around me inhabit.
But. However. Yet.
What I read in scripture tells me otherwise. Because if I were to rely on the experience of the reoccurring nightmares, or the disorientation that suddenly descends when I least expect it……were I to sink even further into that sense of alienation from the world around me, there would be no hope.
And yet, I am continually being surprised by hope.
It sneaks up on me in the midst of the nightmares, the sense of time disorientation, the nights of alienation even in the midst of a crowd of people who I know love and care for me. It sneaks up on me in some of the strangest ways, yet they are also strangely predictable, because it happens over and over again. It happens most often when I study scripture. Or when I write. I’ve recently begun to write our story of grace, mercy and hope in earnest. And the writing has not been a sad, emotional, “reliving” experience, but one that fosters eager hope in me as I pursue to proclaim what Christ has done…is doing….in the lives of myself, my crew, my church and the world at large. I’m surprised by the hope I find in little things, like finally being able to complete simple to-do lists coherently and consistently without giving up in despair. And I’m surprised by hope as I watch myself turn away from yet another addiction–this time food–to healthy eating and consistent weight loss. I’m surprised by hope in the response of over 120 women who have banded together on Facebook to encourage each other to get healthy. I’m surprised by hope in the opportunity to make a trip to Haiti to serve orphans in October with 127WordWide, and a chance to care for children with incarcerated parents again this fall as we film parents in prison creating special messages for their children.
There is only one explanation for this hope, and that is that it comes from the God of all hope.
God’s people had lost years….years to famine. Years to the plague of locusts that had destroyed their crops. Four years, to be exact. Gone.
But this promise changed everything. Everything.
And I have to wonder….”God, are you restoring my lost years? Are you going to restore my lost years? Are you in the process of restoring those lost years, even right now?”
We all have lost years, for one reason or another. Loss of a loved one, sexual abuse, addictions, divorce, depression, rebellion, years without God. The Gospel Coalition has an excellent article about this titled God Can Restore Your Lost Years. I’ve found myself returning to it several times since I found it a couple of weeks ago. Read it. Read the hope that is in Joel. Read about the restoration of your lost years. And the hope that is found in God alone, for only He has the ability–the power–the desire, to restore lost years.
So, yes, maybe I am a year older than what I thought I was. And maybe I am missing months, years, sense of time—all things brought on by great difficulties. And yes, sometimes it is painfully disorienting. Frightening, even, especially in the middle of the night.
But those moments are no longer what are defining my life. They are still there, don’t get me wrong, but they do not define who I am.
I am being restored to hope.
I am fighting for joy.
And I am reveling in the promise of Joel 2:25, and pray that God will continue to restore the lost years of my life. They are many lost years. Many. But there is also still so far to go, and much that I am called to do. Much that I want to do.
I am surprised by hope, even in suffering. Only God can do that.