If, like me, eleven has always been a meaningful number to you, it’s safe to assume that 2022 should be a banner year. Like a once-in-a-lifetime year! I turned 47 (totaling 11), D turned 11, and his school bus number at his new school, in a new town was 11. I also founded Building 22 this year; DOUBLY meaningful. So all signs point to the perfect intersection of dreams fulfilled, right?
If you remember back in March, I shared that my word for 2022 was Poppy. She represented resurrection and healing to me, and I’d had that word confirmed in the most miraculous way via a sweet red-haired doll. So here we go! Hearts healed! Promises awakened! What followed was death after death, loss after loss; decades-long friendship gone, partnership vanished, romantic love lost in the most dramatic way, community dissolved. My heart. Oh, my heart. How it hurt.
I’d cry out from my knees on the floor to my Father, asking Him over and over why healing evaded me; why I couldn’t come out from under this. I’d throw myself into more prayer and worship, thinking gratitude might offset it. I spoke against any lies I might have believed out of my pain. I repented for not having expectant hope that things would get better. I saw my therapist and my doctor. And still, the constant ache. I kept comparing it to having lost my father and marriage, and by all measures, this pain was far worse. It was taking me out in an unrelenting fashion. I didn’t recognize myself. Joy was totally gone and no manner of ‘beauty-for-ashes’ could convince me that it would ever be back.
Then, on December 9, something happened. Bochy’s Place, the safehouse and recovery program that I’m working with in preparation for Building 22, hired a new team therapist. As part of her early work, she is completing testing on both our residents and staff. On the other side of a Zoom call on that Friday, Dr. Juli reviewed how I think, make decisions, and receive and express love. I nodded knowingly as she reviewed the first 2 categories. All seemed in line with the years of therapy and personal work I’d done to understand myself a bit more. Then, she started reviewing the last category; affection. The first words out of her mouth had me wide-eyed. Then she kept going. I began laughing. No more nodding. ‘This just can’t be right. This quite literally counters almost every interaction I have with my close relationships. I’ve never acted this way.’ As a follow-up, she asked me how I interact with my son, D. Pregnant pause. ‘Well, definitely more in line with your assessment.’ Then I began rethinking what had caused me pain in my last romantic relationship, and how I had been so very confused by my feelings. Perhaps there was some meat to the results.
Following my normal protocol, I took my confusion to God. Over the next couple of weeks, not only did the pain not subside, it intensified. Christmas came and my grief reached a fever pitch. How could advent, the ultimate season of hope, bring me nothing but torment and heartache? What sort of ungrateful, damaged person acts like this? On the 26th, as I prepared to climb into bed early and read the book gathering dust on my nightstand, I felt His soft, kind prompting. He wanted to talk.
And I believed Him. For the first time this year, I knew that the pain did not point to my dysfunction. I felt the ache leave and the tears flowed differently; a tributary of healing and gratitude that finally knew that she’d been created for and from big love. That lingering feelings weren’t failures. I knew that little Poppy was made in the image of her Father, and that was exactly who He’d always wanted and planned for her to be. And while I appreciated this new awareness, I was, in no way, prepared to ask for 2023’s word. Yet, I heard it anyway. Better. Alongside Ephesians 3:20, God had also given me John 11:11 (those blasted elevens again!) as a foundation for my year of resurrection. For the hundredth time this year, I felt prompted to read it:
“Our friend Lazarus has fallen asleep; but I am going there to wake him up.”John 11:11 NIV
And I sensed ‘Keep reading.’
“Lord, if he is sleeping, he will soon get better!”John 11:12 NLT
It doesn’t end with resurrection, nor does it go directly to ‘better’. There is a gap. I imagine what Lazarus’s days following that dramatic tomb exit were like. The stench. The stiff limbs. The emotional upheaval. It couldn’t have been pretty. And what must precede a resurrection? Gethsemane tells us that even Jesus, the gold standard of righteous suffering, asked that His death be taken from Him. Jesus. There is pain before, during and after the resurrection. What seems like a simple transition from 11 to 12 is not a numerical unit of measurement. It’s a deep, slow departure, a painful reemergence, and eventually, something resembling healing.
But as I pondered the loss of this last year, in contrast to what I originally imagined as a glorious Venus-worthy rising, I simply heard ‘Yes, but what remains?’. Dr. Steve Bonenberger says it this way:
Amidst the rubble and smoldering embers we usually see the valiant fist of the survivor materialize for the very first time. Is this emotional awareness my superpower? Who knows. I do know that after months of unbelievable pain, simply coming into alignment with what He is saying has brought such peace. And the year feels more complete, knowing that Poppy doesn’t carry the weight of a massive promise, but is definitely the beginning of something to come. Something better.