I was as wounded and scabbed and scarred as they come. All I wanted to do was forget.
But I couldn’t just forget. I couldn’t forget the image of his body on a morgue table. I couldn’t forget the feeling that his love for me wasn’t strong enough to change the outcome of that day. I couldn’t sit still long enough to let my wounds heal because all I wanted to do was run.
Thanksgiving break couldn’t come soon enough. I needed out. Out of the college town that sung my praises, even when my depression drowned out their cheers. I needed home. The arms of my mom and the safety of a place where I could take off my mask and stop acting like I was strong. I needed rest. I was tired and empty and so sick of faking “fine”.
My day had been filled with distraction after distraction, task after task that popped up and had to be finished before I could head home. I was preparing to trek back to Georgia—an eight-hour drive from Louisiana’s capitol. A drive I had made so many times before. But something about this time was different. The year had taken more of a toll on me than I even realized. I was anxious and restless and found it hard to shake the resentment that tightened my tired muscles. I was eager to leave the day and to abandon the moment, to drive in hopes that I would forget all the moments that came before it. Even just for a little while.
By the time I finally finished everything I had to do and hit the road, it was nearing 5 p.m. When I pulled onto the interstate, it quickly became apparent I wasn’t the only one eager to head home for the holidays. In fact, the entire population of Baton Rouge seemed to be parked on the freeway. After about two hours, I had moved about two miles. When the traffic finally broke, my eight-hour drive had quickly become a 10-hour drive and I had the road rage to prove it.
But I drove. And drove. And drove.
For a while I let my mind be hypnotized by the passing street lines. Zip. Zip. Zip. Zip. They flew past like fireflies as dusk settled and my restless day turned into my anxious night. At the core, a part of me felt reckless—never fully present in a moment or concerned with anything more than the pain of my past and the hopelessness of the “now”. My whole year had felt that way.
Dragging through stop-and-go traffic, I remember texting a few guys in my phone. One in particular was bad for me. Or should I say, I was bad for him. I was bad for all of them. But that had never stopped me from getting my fix before. After all, the hole in my heart from all that had happened through the year was gaping. The brokenness that riddled my bones was only ever temporarily fixed by the encouraging words of friends and family. The loss hadn’t just left me broken, it had left me desperate. And desperate girls do desperate things when they don’t feel loved.
This guy was no different than every one before him and my intentions were no more pure. It felt good to know that I could make a man desire me with just a few words. It felt good to know I’d have a hook up waiting at home. As I gave myself away to the imagination of a man who wouldn’t matter, a part of me felt powerful again. A part of me felt like I was in control.
The other part of me knew it was wrong. It was all wrong. It had all been wrong for the longest time. I wasn’t ignorant to the spiritual warfare that was ripping me at the seams; I was just too numb to fight it anymore. The tension was unceasing—it had been for a while. And rather than fight to seek hope and find solution, I just absorbed it. I absorbed the tension into the DNA of my character and came to a half-hearted peace that this was as good as it was going to get. This unsettled angst was my new norm and if I wanted to feel okay, I just needed to accept that, and move forward.
It’s hard to describe what the tension of warfare feels like. For me it was a constant tugging in my chest, a tightness that was only eased by sitting through a church service and hoping that counted for something. By drinking myself numb or distracting myself with men or drowning myself in my work and my athletics. So I did all of these things well—anything to pretend. Anything to be affirmed and to feel wanted. But the tension hadn’t ceased through the year. If anything, it had grown stronger and tighter, clenching me like the grip of a father who refused to let go of a thrashing child.
Like the grip of the Father who refused to let go of my wandering soul.
I was apathetic on the outside, but screaming on the inside. Screaming that this wasn’t the life I had planned! Screaming to a God who I proclaimed to love, but in the depths of my heart, doubted was even good. Screaming in frustration that I even cared so much! How weak I must be—what a pathetic, soft woman, that my emotions and my pain could rule my days.
I felt captive to the world’s perception of me. A slave to pretending like I was healing, giving pre-packaged glory to a God I didn’t know. My lips stayed sealed with my ever-practiced smile, but my mind was screaming for freedom. I was at the breaking point and the internal battle was ravaging me. It had been a year of anguish. Several years of feeling lost. Then found. Then lost again. It seemed like I was on a roller coaster ride and my heart wanted off. I was done!
My car continued to speed down the interstate as dusk became darkness and night crept into morning. Even though the mile markers assured me I was headed home, it felt like I was crawling. The hours dragged by and my eyes sagged heavy and my phone buzzed loudly and all of it just felt annoying.
It wasn’t long before I realized it was 1 a.m. and, for the most part, I was the only car on the road. I spotted a few deer eyes glow past in the woods, but they were hard to catch amidst the fog. Fog so thick and dense it blanketed the street and swirled up from the center median. My car split through it at 80 miles per hour as my mind slumped numb in the driver’s seat.
It was almost easier not to care. It was almost easier to crawl into the sheets of a “friend” and keep secrets of what happened in the dark. It was almost easier to talk the talk and rest in the lies and accept the praise. After all, I knew all the right things to say—whether they were truthful or not. It was almost easier to take the depression meds and convince myself they’d work one day. To laugh along with the world’s sense of humor and be entertained by the newest craze. It was almost easier to fall back in my pity when the tension was tight. To blame my behavior on the scars of my circumstances and to rationalize that it would someday all be alright.
It was almost easier to exalt my wreckage than to seek the seemingly fleeting God who was wrecked on my behalf. If the year had convinced me of anything, it was that that God, the God everyone shoved down my throat—the Healer and Redeemer and Restorer—was far, far away from me. Sure, I was good at regurgitating His memorized praises, but in my broken, burnt-out state, my calloused heart prayed not for salvation or for strength, but for proof. For months I’d pleaded for proof.
Prove it. If You’re so real, if You love me the way everyone says You do, reveal Yourself to me. I want what everyone else seems to have and if somehow that’s from You, give it to ME! Prove it!
In desperation I’d spent months petitioning a God who I demanded cater to my needs of proof. I’d tried fighting the tension by demanding God fix my circumstances and bless me out of my mess. Half-believing He might and half-believing my prayers were a last ditch effort that I could pretend I hadn’t been desperate enough to pray, if anyone asked, when still nothing had changed.
I’d tried challenging God into restoring my brokenness, never realizing that He heard my cries and knew my brokenness better than I knew myself. Never realizing that my pleas for revelation were about to be answered by a Father who wasn’t trying to preserve me, but who was willing to wreck me for His glory.
A Father who’d been waiting for such a time as this—to wreck my life.
I glanced over in time to see a street sign glowing green in the night.
Thank goodness. I was nearing the state line and home was in sight. My eyes hung heavy as my phone buzzed and when I caught the road, the fog was dense and spinning. Before I could make sense of the moment, my steering wheel began to jolt and jerk. Cranking side to side, I realized my wheels were twisting through mud and grass. I had been speeding down the left lane and was now dropping off the side of the road. My mind snapped out of its haze and, in desperation, I clenched the cold leather wheel and pulled it hard to the right.
Get back on the road! Get back on the road!
My heart pounded and my muscles spasmed in fear as I tried desperately to regain control. When the fog split, I saw the front of my Jeep speeding forward almost completely perpendicular to the asphalt.
No! No! This can’t happen! Get on the road!
I watched as my front two wheels lunged back onto the fogged pavement and charged straight towards the right, wooded embankment. In an attempt to correct my course, I desperately pulled back towards the left, just as my wheel caught a deep divot and, in the deepest parts of me, I knew it was over.
My arms fell limp and my body gave way to the force that was overwhelming my car. Fear paralyzed me. A piercing, screaming, indescribable type of fear. A fear that floods you as fast as a waterfall but forces time to slow to a drip. My stomach felt as though it might bulge up into my throat as I realized equilibrium was off. I closed my eyes, took a deep breath in, and let out a gut-wrenching groan as sound flooded the night.
Crash! Tear! Shatter!
My body slapped and ripped against itself, against the window, the car wall, the steering wheel. My ears rung as the volume roared and my neck whipped with the rolling force.
Crank! Wrench! Reel!
My eyes tore open in time to see a steel signpost speeding closer. The muddy ground. The empty street. The freezing sky.
Pound! Crack! Screech!
My head burned and my eyes stung and I felt debris pound against my face. The sound grew louder and I realized, as I choked back some unknown heat, that half of that sound was roaring out of me. My body thrashed and whipped and coiled and…
Everything went black.
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