How Will We Make it through the Night?
By: Susan Deborah Schiller
Snippets from the writing of Brennan Manning
"When tragedy makes its unwelcome appearance and we are deaf to everything but the shriek of our own agony, when courage flies out the window and the world seems to be a hostile, menacing place, it is the hour of our own Gethsemane. No word, however sincere, offers any comfort or consolation. The night is bad. Our minds are numb, our hearts vacant, our nerves shattered. How will we make it through the night? The God of our lonely journey is silent." — Brennan Manning
I discovered this in an old journal while moving things around the other day, a whole notebook, but only the first few pages were used. One day's worth of ponderings and prayers… a day of inner groaning and a heart that was silently screaming.
It was July 22, 2011, the day our divorce was signed by the judge and made final. Randy had been gone for many months, starting his new life in another state. And I was alone.
I wrote, "Who am I? Why am I here? Who do I want to be? Where do I want to be? Who do I want to be with?"
Jesus at Gethesemane wept in such anguish of heart that blood poured out him. My anguish could not possibly be as great as His, but it felt like more than I could handle.
Since that day in July 2011, I have been with many women who were grieving the loss of their marriages, families, hopes, and dreams. And it feels like Gethesemane… like your soul is being ripped out of your gut, as if by force. It's like being hit with a grenade and your whole abdomen blows open!
What hurts the most, I think, is the sense that even God has abandoned us. And I wonder if perhaps Jesus felt the same, on the cross.
"What most identifies me as a daughter of God?" I wrote.
Love for my enemies, I replied.
I read in "The Rabbi's Heartbeat" by Brennan Manning: "Only reckless confidence in a Source greater than ourselves can empower us to forgive the wounds inflicted by others."
I recalled listening to the words of my husband's attorney, "It is final."
And I picked up Brennan Manning's books, well-highlighted and dog-earred, and I jotted down more gems in my journal:
"In boundary moments such as these there is only one place to go – Calvary. Stay there for a long time and watch as Abba's Only Begotten dies utterly alone in bloody disgrace. Watch as He breathes forgiveness on His torturers at the moment of their greatest cruelty and mercilessness. On that lonely hill outside the city wall of Old Jerusalem, you will experience the healing power of the dying Lord… The crucified Christ is not merely a heroic example to the church: He is the power and wisdom of God, a living force in His present risenness, transforming our lives and enabling us to extend the hand of reconciliaton to our enemies."
Abba, I thank you and praise you for the great trials. I know my soul is being strengthened. Thank you for holding out your nail-scarred hand and walking with me in all the dark places I must go. Thank you for causing me to grow into a fuller, deeper, and richer walk with you, knowing I am your beloved one.
Lord Jesus, teach me to weigh and measure the things I allow into my life, keeping only those that have eternal value. Help me to find my sense of worth in you alone.
Brennan continued to speak to me from the pages of notes in my journal,
"Lacking a lively awareness of my core identity as Abba's child, it is relatively easy to become enslaved to the approval and disapproval of others."
Anthony DeMello, in "The Way to Love" wrote:
"Look at your life and see how you have filled its emptiness with people. As a result, they have a stranglehold on you. See how they control your behavior by their approval and disapproval. They hold the power to ease your loneliness with their company, to send your spirits soaring with their praise, to bring you down to the depths with their criticism and rejection. Take a look at yourself spending almost every waking moment of your day placating and pleasing people, whether they are living or dead."
Pages and pages of notes…. I spent nearly the whole day in the Garden praying, crying out in anguish, and trying to find the Light on that darkest night of the soul.
Brennan took me continually to the cross of Christ, saying, "The lives of those fully engaged in the human struggle will be riddled with bullet holes. Whatever happened in the life of Jesus is in some way going to happen to us. Wounds are necessary. The soul has to be wounded as well as the body. To think that the natural and proper state is to be without wounds is an illusion. Those who wear bulletproof vests to protect themselves from failure, shipwreck, and heartbreak will never know what love is. The unwounded life bears no resemblance to the Rabbi."
Thomas Moore wrote, "Our depressions, jealousies, narcissism, and failures are not at odds with the spiritual life. Indeed, they are essential to it. When tended, they prevent the spirit from zooming off into the ozone of perfectionism and spiritual pride."
When it seems impossible to go on, my friend, visit with Christ in Gethsemane. Let him touch you with his nail-scarred hands. Let Abba hold you in the dark night of the soul. Let the peace that passes all understanding fill you with the knowledge that you ARE his beloved!
I don't believe the pain ever really goes away completely, but it does get better. I take heart in Brennan's stories because he lived as a priest most of his life, but yet was a broken man. Divorced. An alcoholic. A husband and father who failed his family. A man I have been tempted to judge. His last book was his memoir called, "All is Grace".
Indeed, all is grace. Even when I don't understand. For all of us have fallen short of the grace of God. Me, the "nice girl, the good girl" most of all.
I dare to believe that there will be reconciliation and that enemies will become friends. I've seen it in dreams and visions. First, we must be reconciled to our own souls. We who have been abused usually hate ourselves so deeply.
We take the shame and blame, the judgments of others, so personally. We depend on their approval. We are captives to those controlling bonds.
Gethesemane severs those bonds.
Our suffering forces us to reckon ourselves as dead and to embrace our risenness with Christ. A new identity begins to emerge – a core identity of being His Beloved, the King's Bride.
When it seems impossible to go on, dear heart, go to Gethesemane. I'll be there with you, my friend!
With all my love,
Susan Schiller knows how it feels to lose everything: marriage and family, church and reputation, finances and businesses, and more. Susan's upcoming, interactive memoir, "On the Way Home," tells the story of how she came to be known as "the most abused woman" her counselors had yet met and how she learned to navigate to freedom and fullness.
Today Susan helps people write their life stories, unearthing the treasures of their past and sowing them into their future, creating new family legacies.
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