“Sometimes God doesn’t ‘close a door and open a window.’ Occasionally He slams the door on your fingers, and you’re left with a throbbing pain, unsure of where you went wrong.” ~Jeff Goins, Wrecked
I hate good byes. With a passion. Even the simplest goodbye – that of telling my roommate that I’m headed off to school or to work, causes a twinge of discomfort. You see, I’m an Army brat, and my father’s 23 years’ service caused my mother, two brothers, and me to live the typical nomadic life unique to military families. The pros of this lifestyle afforded me the mind-opening privilege of living all over the world and the United States. This lifestyle also infused me with the qualities of flexibility and adaptability, and now helps me to embrace and welcome change rather than resist it.
Alas, the perils of that nomadic lifestyle wielded a double-edged sword: I had to say “Good bye” so many times that I grew to despise the words. When I read Wrecked by Jeff Goins and contemplated how he defined the phenomenon, it wasn’t hard for me to point out the times in my life that have wrecked me: Each of those times included a good-bye.
According to Jeff, “To be wrecked begins with an experience that pulls you out of your comfort zone and self-centeredness, whether you want it to or not.” My first instance of being wrecked came with being the first to recognize the onset of Alzheimer’s in my beloved maternal grandmother. Former First Lady Nancy Reagan aptly called Alzheimer’s “the long goodbye.”
I watched my grandmother slip away before my very eyes. Eventually, her only response became the ghost of a smile that would dance over her lips when we read Bible passages to her or sang hymns. Physically present, her mind said good-bye seven years before her frail body was laid to rest.
Later, I was wrecked by the shame, fright, anger, and despair I saw in the eyes of a friend whose perky, cheerleading 17-year old daughter was raped on prom night. As if the rape wasn’t devastating enough, my friend learned that this single, horrific act left her daughter impregnated – and infected with herpes and HIV. We had to say good-bye to her daughter’s innocence, and the clean, trouble-free slate that had once been her daughter’s future.
I was wrecked by the grief and despair I saw in the eyes of another best friend and her family, and in the eyes of my pastor and his family, each of whom lost strong, stalwart sons, 16 and 26, respectively. My girlfriend’s son was killed in a car accident on the 4th of July; the life of my pastor’s son was snuffed out in a motorcycle accident by a careless motorist who abruptly and fatally decided to make a quick turn – even though she knew she was in the wrong lane. These were two painful, unexpected, heart-wrenching good byes that turn the believers’ world – and our faith – upside down and leave no room for pat, easy answers.
I was wrecked again when my pastor-husband, after preaching a Sunday morning sermon and praying over souls at the altar, suffered a massive heart attack that wrenched him away from me, his children, and his loving congregation. I was on an airplane when it happened, winging my way to a women’s convention California. I didn’t know that my kiss good-bye to him early that morning would also be our last.
Wrecked is a book I took in very slowly. I had to take my time to read it because so much of it provoked and challenged me. Musing on my wrecked experiences caused periods of deep reflection that were accompanied by tears. Jeff writes, “In our grief, we find purpose. In suffering, we find significance.” I came to understand this as I tried to alleviate the pain and suffering caused by these and other good byes. I cannot reverse them; instead, I have held grief-stricken people in my arms as they cried, and cried with them. I have listened mutely, yet with understanding, as they railed against life and even railed against God. I have not insulted them – or God – by offering religious or pseudo-spiritual answers. Instead, I refuse to shrink away from them or from the pain, because I recognize that “If [I am] going to change something. . . I have to “enter into the brokenness and experience some of the pain therein.”
I’d like to believe that my relationship with good byes is designed by God, because my feelings about good byes have made me uniquely suited to pray and intercede for those whose hearts are broken by them. By God’s grace, I allow good byes to wreck me because by doing so, I’m enabled to say the good-bye to self that is so necessary to allow the healing love of Christ to flow through me. These are the good byes that wreck me, and I have no choice.