Yesterday, in the midst of dealing with my broken car, my water heater died. Again. Every six months it gets so full of calcium deposits that the heating element fries. It doesn’t seem to matter whether or not I have a water softener – this water heater just likes to die. The usual repair takes about a day: draining the tank, wrestling the bottom element out, vacuuming all the deposits, wrestling in the new heating element, and filling the tank again. It is never convenient and it never gives any warning. It just dies.
In the past I have been able to wrap my mind around the work of the repair. But yesterday, I couldn’t. When I felt the ice cold well water coming out of the hot water tap, I told God I couldn’t do it. I couldn’t deal with it. I got angry. I even told God that I refused to deal with it. Which is an unusual response for me. I just felt all the loneliness and aloneness of life ooze out of my heart, expressing something deep within me. The end of me and the end of wanting to do this – whatever this is – anymore.
Last night, as I was draining the water heater because, of course, I was going to deal with it, a friend sent me a Facebook message. “My son-in-law and his family and I are coming to see you tomorrow. We are going to buy you a new water heater and install it.”
Wow. A two and a half hour drive with a preschool child and a newborn on a Sunday to work four hours or more to wrestle out my nasty old water heater and install a new one. Wow.
Today they all showed up; while his daughter and I visited, and I played with the three year old and held the newborn, the guys headed out to buy a new heater. I gave no input into what kind of heater, I didn’t go with them to the store, I didn’t write a check or put money on a credit card. My dear neighbor and her husband came over to visit and complete the picture. I cooked food, the guys came back with the heater and installed it, we ate together, held the baby, drank a little moonshine and talked about all manner of things. Three families combining into a bigger family on a day of rest and work and blessing.
Eventually everyone left and I fell asleep for a bit. When I woke up, I felt again that deep aloneness which is traveling with me these days. And yet, in my aloneness, I know I not alone. These dear friends understand deep level suffering. We have each experienced soul-stealing brokenness and loss, the death of someone dearest to us, moments when we have lost our breath in the shock of agonizing emotional pain. The tenderness of joy, when it shows up, is precious beyond words. The gift of family, as we now define it, is worth jealously guarding.
In my weakness and need, I don’t always know how to ask for help. In fact, I often won’t ask for help. I hear that voice in my head that says, “You chose this life and you need to figure it out on your own.” And then I do just that; I figure out something and soldier on. I keep quiet and believe that this is what my life will be. Me figuring it out and trusting God to help me get it done. It is a lonely way to go but in many ways I am used to it; I seldom consider that there might be an alternative, a different way God might be asking me to go.
Today, God showed up in a way I could not imagine; He met my anger, loneliness and self-determination so unexpectedly. He sent rescue to me in the form of gentle friends who have been in my shoes. Friends who have known me for decades, who don’t care about how self-sufficient I might think I am. Friends who politely push past my lie that I have to do this on my own, and love me in practical and soul-filling ways. Where I have removed myself from community out of feelings of failure, fatigue, shame and self-condemnation, God reminded me that He has provided community for me. Where I was feeling invisible, God allowed me to be seen.
As I write this, the dishwasher is running and one of my kids is taking a hot shower. I am sitting by the fire while my kitty sleeps on the arm of my chair. I can smell dinner cooking and can see the toys on the floor that the little one left. Peace is stealing over me, comfort and quiet.
I don’t have an answer for the aloneness that I feel. I don’t have any idea how to fix it, how to answer the deep and often overwhelming pain in my heart. But I do know that I am loved. And that I am going to make it. Not because of anything I figure out, or my strength, or my smart mind. I am going to make it because I am weak and in my weakness, God loves me and cares for me. I am grateful for God’s Presence in the presence of my friends, priceless gifts from His hand to my heart.