Where Does Real Courage Come From?

Thursday, December 5, 2013

Perfect Storm


                                                           Reflections on Luke 15:14-16


Now when he had spent everything, a severe famine occurred in that country, and he began to be impoverished…and no one was giving anything to him.
                                                                                                Luke 15:14, 16


Curious, isn’t it, how invincible we feel?

We watch others slip and fall. Not us. We watch others lose control and have to rely on friends and family to come to their rescue. Not us, never us. We always have a plan, always a way out -- even if we don’t know what it is. We’re that sure.

That invincible.

He’d spent everything. I wonder how long it took him. Was it months? Years? Is it possible he didn’t care it was gone – why should he? -- if he traveled in the right circles, if he invested in people who had money, power, influence. People who’d secure his future. Maybe he’d found a wealthy young woman to fall in love with him. Maybe his new business partners were swimming in cash. Either way, he wasn’t stupid. If his party life was to continue, he needed to be wise, crafty.

Especially now, with no money left.

Invincible.

The storm now raging around him was all his doing. His did this – his decisions, his actions had left him bankrupt. But there was another storm descending on top of him at the same time. A storm of greater power, mixing and converging with his own. This one was not his doing. This one came from God above. Bigger than him. Stronger than him. And not just for him – for everyone in the country. There came in those days a famine no one expected. It hit, and hit hard.

Devastating the nation. No food. And for him, no money.

Thank God he’d invested in the right people. They’d see him through. They’d never abandon him, not now, not while people are suffering. They’d band together. He’d eat at their tables. They’d weather the storm with laughs like always and he’d make it because he always makes it. He comes from privilege.

He thinks he is privilege.

But the doors shut, all of them. His friends who were his friends are not his friends. Not in the storm. He’s left outside, impoverished and bereft. He did everything. He went everywhere. But “no one was giving anything to him.”

Hunger, he’s never known it before. He’s never felt it. He’s got to do something – but what? He’s got to eat. If he doesn’t eat, he’ll die. So he walks the streets, pounding the doors, sun up to sundown, today, tomorrow, until someone gives him work, any work, just to feed himself.  Just to live.

Invincible.

Finally, it happens. A job at minimal pay. He’s sent to the fields -- a hungry man charged with feeding hungry pigs. And there he is, watching them eat, wishing he could eat what they eat, and looking around to see if anyone sees him do what nobody does. Never. But he does it. Quickly. Pig slop. Into his mouth.

As the perfect storm rages on.

*       *       *

“Hey,” Erilynne said. It was a little past two when she got to Callie’s hospital room. She was surprised to see her alone.

“Perfect timing,” Callie smiled.

“Nobody here today?”

“Mom’s here. She’s down in the cafeteria getting some coffee and making a few calls.” Erilynne went up to her, gave her a hug and sat in the chair by her bed. For the first time in a week, Callie looked more like herself. She had color in her cheeks and a quiet softness in her eyes. The pale, harried look was gone. After a few minutes of catching up, Callie reached for Erilynne’s hand.

“Before Mom comes back, I’ve got to tell you some things.”

Erilynne leaned in, welcoming this little window of time between them.

“A few years ago, I started having panic attacks. Dave was having a hard time at work. He’d come home, wound up and angry, and dump it on me – which was fine. I want him to do that. But add the stress of two kids at two different schools – one in junior high, keeping up with the house, working with you at church – and all of a sudden I start having this physical reaction.

“So I called my doctor who sent me to another doctor and eventually started taking anti-anxiety meds.”

“Did Dave know about this?” Erilynne asked.

“I didn’t tell anyone. Dave had too much on his plate. Plus, I think it would’ve freaked him out if he knew I’d gone to a psychiatrist for meds. I handled it on my own and it worked. For the most part, the panic attacks stopped. The meds gave me that little oomph to keep me balanced. It was no big deal until, well…”

Callie paused, letting go of Erilynne’s hand.

“We weren’t expecting another baby. Dave was actually happy about it so, naturally, I tried to be too. But, honestly, I didn’t want it. I could barely handle two and the idea of having a newborn in the house sent me over the edge. The panic attacks came back with a vengeance. So I called my doctor to see if I could increase the dose but she told me, ‘not during pregnancy.’”

“You mean, off the meds completely?” Erilynne replied.

“You got it.”

“So what did you do?”

“I managed. What else could I do?” She let her words hang in the air a little too long. Erilynne’s face started to show concern when Callie quickly thought the worst. “O my God, no, I’d never hurt this child. You’ve got to believe me. I didn’t do anything to cause the miscarriage.”

Erilynne reached out to calm her. “I believe you,” she said, reassuringly.

“It just happened. At about eleven weeks, I started bleeding. We went to the hospital but there was nothing they could do. Dave was totally upset. He kept trying to comfort me, promising me we’d have another. I didn’t have the heart to tell him I didn’t want another. I didn’t want this one.”

Callie dropped her head and turned away, tears coming.

“I went back on the meds as soon as I could. I tried to get my life back to normal but I felt so guilty, like somehow by not wanting the child, I killed the child. I know it sounds stupid.” Callie reached for some Kleenex on her tray table. “Anyway, I started upping the meds on my own.”

Callie wiped her eyes and stayed quiet for a minute or two. “I took too many,” she confessed, and didn’t say anything more about it. Nor did Erilynne push. But the question was there between them. Was it simply an error in judgment? Or, did Callie try to end her life? That night, as Erilynne and I talked about their conversation, she said, “I wonder if Callie even knows the answer. Maybe she’s trying to figure that out for herself.”

“You feel good about your talk with her?” I asked.

“Not really,” Erilynne admitted. “It bothers me she never talks about God. All she talks about is how she handles her problems on her own. Not with Dave. Not with the Lord. It’s like He’s not part of her life.”

“That’s odd,” I remarked. “She’s very outspoken at church.”

“Well, turns out, that’s why she wanted to talk to me. I think Callie’s survival instincts kicked in. She’s not stupid. She saw the handwriting on the wall and knew I was the go-to person. She had an agenda.”

“What kind of an agenda?”

“First, she wants no one to know she was in the psych ward. I mean, she was adamant. She doesn’t want people talking about her and getting the wrong impression and, personally, I agree with her. I told her it’s not my business to tell anyone. That’s between her and Dave.”

“Absolutely,” I offered.

“But then came the real push. She wanted me to promise I’d keep her front and center in the women’s ministry, all of it -- her counseling practice, bible teaching, small group leadership. She had that desperate look in her eyes again like she knew her world had come crashing down and I was the one – the only one – who could put her Humpty Dumpty life back together again.”

Erilynne shook her head. “It was really sad.”

“What did you do?”

“Nothing. Her mom walked in and ended the conversation. Callie kept looking at me with those big blue eyes of hers, wanting some confirmation that I’d make the promise. But I didn’t give it to her. Before I left, I told her we’d talk again soon. What else could I do? Her life is way out of control and, here’s the news flash: It’s not my job to rescue her. That belongs to Jesus.”

“And she never talks about Him?”

“Not a whisper.”



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John 15:1-11, the Vine and the branches. "Is He everything to you?