One sleepless, anxiety filled night, I cried out to God and asked that question: “How am I going to make it through this? I need your help! DO SOMETHING!” And the answer came, just as if God spoke: “I don’t need to do anything. Everything you need and everything you want is already inside of you.” What an interesting message, I thought. What is already inside me?
“The Worst Day of our Lives,” I wrote in my journal. We had painstakingly designed and lovingly worked on this large facility – a combination dream home and conference/retreat center – for 13 years. It was completely custom, and, not having enough money to have it built, we eked out the cash for supplies from our meager monthly income and did everything ourselves, by hand. It had been back-breaking work, with real blood, sweat, and tears poured into it. Lost? Destroyed? How could this be? This was God’s project, we thought. We had committed the whole process and the outcome to God, believing and hoping we were creating a sanctuary for others, a place of peace, healing, and restoration.
A gas explosion? That’s something that happens to “other” people, not to you – not to me! It’s something freaky you see on T.V. How could such a thing happen? We learned later that a worker had pierced a gas line (propane) with a nail (which means the nail pierced the protective steel casing), but he didn’t know he had hit the line. No one did. And, so, the gas leaked, filling the interior walls until it finally reached a pilot light in a gas fireplace in the wall and blew up. Thankfully, the worker was long gone, Stan was asleep in the room farthest away from the explosion, and I was out of town. The good news was just that: no one was hurt. The bad news was that explosion tore open the wall and roof, the roof was caving in, and the fire had raced through most of the interior walls. We were going to have to gut the place and start over.
How could this happen when we were already maxed out emotionally – already up to our eyeballs in the paperwork and monumental stress of all the mess of the problems with the conservation easements?
The following days and weeks were a blur of unfamiliar activities. No one gives you a manual for what to do if your house blows up. Where do you start? What do you do? Immediately after the fire, we wandered through the ashes and debris staring. It was simply overwhelming. We couldn’t find essentials: car keys, check books, and worst of all, the documents pertinent to the lawsuits. We needed a place to stay. The questions and the anxiety were overwhelming. I started throwing up.
After the insurance company hired mitigation and construction crews, reality hit me: this wasn’t going to be fixed overnight. We had months and months, maybe years -- even with the insurance paying for crews – before anything would be back to “normal.” It was an unholy mess, chaos beyond imagination. The burning of the Icynene™ insulation resulted in a massively toxic cloud and residue everywhere, and we were not allowed in the falling-down building.
We were displaced. We had no choice but to physically relocate to the tiny loft we owned in Denver. We didn’t take anything because any stuff that hadn’t burned up was toxic and had to be discarded.
Between the lawsuits and the construction project, there were too many details for my poor brain to handle. Even though the construction crew would take over the building task, I had to answer a million questions a day. There are no words to describe the depression, despair, and exhaustion I was experiencing.
My mental health was getting a little wobbly. I never cried after the fire. I was afraid if I started to cry, I would never stop and they might have to hospitalize me. I was afraid I would start to scream and never be able to stop, and so I kept quiet. To me it looked like I was facing a huge mountain of manure that had to be moved, and I only had a very tiny toy teaspoon. That’s what it felt like every day – a big mess and no way to even make a dent on it. My emotions were getting more and more fragile, more raggedy. How was I going to make it through?
One sleepless, anxiety filled night, I cried out to God and asked him that question: “How am I going to make it through this? I need your help! DO SOMETHING!” And the answer came, just as if God spoke: “I don’t need to do anything. Everything you need and everything you want is already inside of you.”
What an interesting message, I thought. What is already inside me? I remembered my favorite benediction that simply lists the graces we receive: “You, Child of a most loving and merciful God, Have been blessed by the Baptismal Font, This Community, The Bread and Wine, The Holy Scriptures, and The Grace of our Lord, Jesus Christ.” Well, what more could one ask for?
I realized that throughout my life I had accumulated a deep well of “good stuff” inside of me in addition to the graces listed above: a treasure trove of scripture that I had memorized; happy memories; good values; inspiring sermons; positive stories; and the love of family and friends. I began to imagine taking big buckets and dipping them deep into this abundance that I had been storing up in my heart, mind, and soul over my lifetime. In the midst of crisis, I dipped those buckets deep into all the “good stuff” that had accumulated in my well, and pulled up bucket loads of grace, peace, strength and courage. The only sane thing to do was to drink from the wealth of my well, face the problem courageously, be bigger than the problem, and soldier on.
Thus, the post-fire days were transformed from the worst days of my life to just-enough-grace days as I faced down the temptation to be angry and feel sorry for myself. I became keenly aware that there was no point in caving in: we still had to deal with the wreckage, whether we wanted to or not. And, our loss, no matter how huge, was small compared to what others go through.
Was I exhausted? Yes. Disappointed? Yes. But I was thrilled to discover the depth of the well inside of me, and the contents that sustained me. Encountering that abundance and plumbing the depths of that well changed the complexion of those days. Please don’t misunderstand. Those were neither fun nor pleasant days. They were exhausting and unpleasant, but they were filled to the brim with the surprise of the grace of “getting through.”
The murky new future I had driven into was just one more chapter in the story of my life -- the chapter in which my mettle was tested and God gave me what I needed. He didn’t rescue me from what I had to face, but he had stored “everything I wanted and everything I needed” inside of me. May you never have to dip into that well, but when you do, may you find it filled with God’s grace and peace, ready for you to guzzle in your time of need.©Sharon Cairns Mann
You, Child of a most loving and merciful God,
Have been blessed by the
The Bread and Wine,
The Holy Scriptures, and
The Grace of our Lord, Jesus Christ.
May the love you have heard about, participated in, and been freely given, shine in you and from you into the world. Go forth in peace my brothers and sisters. Go forth in Peace.