Five years ago this week my grandfather passed away. A few days later my husband attempted suicide for the first time in our marriage.
Three years later, this same week, my only sister-in-law died in her sleep. She was 29. It startled and disturbed me, and I feared the worst for my husband who was already heading into a mental episode.
This week, this year, I started out on a high. I was so happy, consumed by my deeply engrained altruism projects. I literally said to someone, “I am in love, IN LOVE, with life right now.“ That was just a few short hours before I crashed.
I got a B12 shot, and I should have hit euphoria at the rate I was going. Instead, I started coming down off my high. I started feeling off. Something was not right. Then, I looked at the calendar, and flashbacks of the past, associations with places, people, even the weather outside, sent me into a tailspin as I remembered the events from the past that bombarded this same week years ago.
That afternoon, I came home. We had recently welcomed a roommate into our house. She had been with us for two weeks, and we loved her to bits. In my books, she could not have been a better fit. She was the first person to live with us since my husband died.
I painted her room yellow, the colour of joy. Her room was the last room my husband slept in, in our house. I took my husband’s “Be considerate” sticky note reminder off the back of the guest room door. I painted over the “I love Shawna” note my husband had etched onto the wall with his wedding band when he slept in that room one night. We moved boxes and cleaned house, and it was worth the effort because all of this was going to a good cause. Every penny of her rent money was going to support the purchase of land in Uganda, for a safe-house that would provide a stable home to dozens of kids from the slums.
But I came home, and she was gone. A note left on my kitchen table told me she couldn’t stay in our house any longer. She was reacting to something in the air. Perhaps it was an allergic reaction to the cats I used to have. I’ll never know. In the blink of an eye, another person vanished, and quite frankly, it was more than I could take.
Above my kitchen table was a card. The writing on the front was a quote by Maya Angelou, that read, “Have the courage to trust love one more time and always one more time.”
I want to, Maya. I really want to. I want to so much I have left that card above my kitchen table to challenge me at every meal; to remind me that to give, and receive love, is a gift. I don’t want to miss out on that gift. It’s just, when that gift is taken away, when that gift unexpectedly disappears, goes silent, or in the blink of an eye ceases to exist, I just don’t know if I have the courage to trust love one more time.
Last Sunday, I visited my mother’s church, Spring Garden, in Toronto. “Discourage means to take courage out of someone. To replace courage with fear,” explained Pastor Gene.
Am I filled with fear?
I looked back on my notes. Pastor Gene talked about 1st Corinthians 13 from the Bible. It was the famous message of faith, hope, and love. It was an old message, but told in a new way for me. I had never realized there was an order to the three.
Pastor Gene explained, fear is the lack of faith. Replace fear with faith and one will be encouraged. Faith puts the courage back in encouragement. Faith clears out the cob webs of fear, and makes space for the sprout of hope to grow. As hope takes over, the blossom of love opens, and that vibrant flower changes everything. When one acts, re-acts, thinks and speaks in love, there is nothing more pure, more lovely, more beautiful than true love. As 1st Corinthians 13:13 says, “Three things will last forever—faith, hope, and love—and the greatest of these is love.”
Replace fear with faith. Faith -> Hope. Hope -> LOVE!
I was at a crossroads. I knew a decision had to be made. Did I have courage to trust love one more time, and always one more time? I could barely imagine I could while being in a place of discouragement, brokenness, feeling shattered, and so very tired of being disappointed. But, if I stopped for just a moment to think, I could see that by allowing fear to consume me, I would be responsible for transforming the root of an incredible flower. I would poison that flower, and that flower would die. The root would become withered and bitter and incapable of giving life and joy to others. Did I want that? I was scared, I was scarred, I was terrified, but even in these places I could see that fear equaled death, and only faith could keep that flower alive.
I thought back to a quote from the Batman movie, The Dark Night, “It’s always darkest before the dawn.”
I couldn’t see a sunrise on this night’s horizon, but if I closed my eyes I remembered, sunrises in the past came after every dark night before them. That vision was enough to replace my fear with an inkling of faith. That inkling of faith generated an ounce of hope. That ounce of hope gave way to visions of the intoxicating bloom of love that I longed to hold in my reality once again.
Maybe, just maybe, the life-giving sun would break through this dark night if I could hold on to this glimmer of faith for just one more day.
Shawna is a writer and public speaker. Email Shawna to invite her to speak at your next event.
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