What do the two statements above have in common? Both are accurate, but neither conveys the impact.
After two intense weeks, I'm strewn - and numb. My mind careens in every direction except the subject at hand. It refuses to make a to-do list. It runs, screaming, from thinking tasks. It goes into blank-screen mode when told to focus.
Happily, even without a to-do list, I've done some things. I dusted the living room and dining room, washed a load of clothes, swept and mopped the kitchen floor. My hands now gravitate to tasks that can be tackled without engaging brain. My brain applauds all this productive activity, delighted to remain thus unengaged.
Meanwhile, my emotions won't identify themselves. "Come out now!" I cry. The answer? Silence. I know they're in there, hiding behind bolted doors, getting into mischief, but I can't locate the key. Two outcomes seem possible, and equally frightening: that my emotions will stay locked in there indefinitely or that they'll burst out in unexpected places and ways.
"This is grief," a kind friend says.
"You're experiencing post-traumatic stress," another observes.
Having themselves walked through trauma and grief, these two women know what the scenery looks like along the way. One of them said to me, "I'm praying that during this time you'll float."
Her remark sounded random, laughable. But I didn't laugh.
Instantly, I recalled long summer days of youth, spent at a local swimming pool. Hour after hour, I swam, dived off the diving board and played water games with my friends. Sometimes, though, I simply lay on my back, floating. Without effort or struggle, I stayed atop the water.
The Amplified version of Genesis 7:18 speaks of a huge, wooden, animal-laden vessel that did likewise: "And the waters became mighty and increased greatly upon the land, and the ark went [gently floating] upon the surface of the waters."
The Message paraphrases the same verse this way: "The waters kept rising, the flood deepened on the Earth, the ship floated on the surface." The story continues: "The flood got worse until all the highest mountains were covered - the high water mark reached twenty feet above the crest of the mountains. Everything died. Anything that moved - dead every last one of them, gone. Only Noah and his company on the ship lived."
When the rains came down and the floods came up, who survived the trauma and grief? Those who floated. Of course, Noah and company didn't lie on their backs in the water. No one could have done that successfully during such a cataclysmic and lengthy flood. Surviving the flood required taking refuge in a vessel designed to float.
While floating, Noah and clan didn't twiddle their thumbs. They had a daily routine. But the daily ark routine - the floating above trauma routine - wasn't the same as their daily routine before the flood. Oh, no.
Once the bomb goes boom, what was previously normal is no longer even in the picture. Over time, floaters sort the scattered pieces until a new normal emerges.
Floating isn't denying. It isn't escaping. It's what John 15 calls remaining in Christ. However strewn, however numb I am, I stay in the one who will not sink and there ride out the flood.
(c) 2007 by Deborah P. Brunt. All rights reserved. Find more insights into dealing with grief in Deborah’s book, "We Confess! The Civil War, the South, and the Church."