It was a rough winter for us, to say the least. And then it stretched into two years. But let me start at the beginning.
Wife and I became extremely frustrated with our careers, which were completely draining the life out of us. Our attitudes were rotten. Depression was suddenly our roommate, and we only had depressing stories to share at the end of the day. We were coated in negativity, and we oozed bitterness and anguish.
My grandfather died just before New Year’s. Then, a few days later, we found out my mother-in-law’s cancer had come back — for good. She didn’t have much time.
Did I say it was a rough winter?
While I worked, wife travelled to be with her and drive her to appointments, always at her side to care for her. Being apart made us more miserable, though, and it was counterproductive. Eventually I flew out to bring back wife to recharge at home and regain our footing.
A few days later, we looked at each other and I said, “What are we still doing here?! Let’s go.” So we resigned and moved, solving several problems at once, we thought.
Winter elongated through spring and summer as we cared for the one who cared for my wife as a child.
We got rid of nearly all of our possessions, feeling freed from these earthly chains. Wife’s mother was wonderful and we had a few good days by her side. We were needed in this story, at least. But not having jobs or significant work to do eroded any new sense of purpose and self-worth.
Fall found us with the need for our own place, in order to restore the quality of the relationship with her mother and establish boundaries with her father. Less care was needed, and our purpose was dwindling. Winter brought a sudden bodily change, and her mother was, well, different. She held on for one week like this before leaving for good. It was agonizing and overwhelming not to have her in our lives anymore.
Emptiness began displacing the remaining purpose and identity we had in the world, until we were empty. Void. What now, God?
I kept having dreams and visions of a dried-up tumbleweed, waiting for the next wind to send it rolling away. The wind started blowing, and the tumbleweed started to roll. But a single, thin strand had taken root in the ground, preventing it from moving on.
It was somehow still winter, though 18 months had passed. Here we were in a new land with no good friends nearby, no jobs, no money, no homestead, no children, no pets, and nearly no possessions! Worst by far, though, was the lack of purpose and identity.
The tumbleweed was dried-up and alone in a vast, empty desert.
We went through 7 jobs in 18 months before God opened our eyes to see that jobs are not a good shelter for our souls. The curtain had been pulled back on the American Dream, and we could never go back. All of our motivations had shifted.
Yet that hopeless tumbleweed was held in place by a single strand — undoubtedly the church.
The people, not the building. It was the only thing we had in the world. Everything else was stripped away, leaving us all but dried out. I have no doubt we would have moved onto the next place and the next — doomed to wander for years to come — without that one root holding us back.
The church anchored us by teaching our purpose and identity through our Lord, and spring finally arrived. The tumbleweed showed signs of life after all.
What can you hold on to, when everything else has been stripped away?