“Be still and know that I am God.” Psalm 46:10
A lot of stuff happened this school year. Like, a lot. My parent’s divorce was finalized, I had another big health scare, my father and I fought a lot, my father got engaged and remarried in the week following my birthday, and most recently my sweet kitty had to be put down and I lost a friend to a car accident.
Of all the things the happened this year, the biggest one to process was the fire.
On April 25, at 2:30 in the morning, I struggled out of sleep and grasped for my phone.
“Are you awake?”
“Well, I need you to wake up and listen to me.”
“Why? What’s going on?”
“The house is on fire.”
I sat up, in shock. It took me a long time to form a response to my father’s words, and when I did I was surprised by how calm I was. I asked if everyone was okay, if we knew how it started, and, finally, I asked if he needed me to come home. He told me no, we got off the phone, and I laid in bed for a long time, just thinking. Processing. Finally, after about an hour of silence, broken by periodic thoughts that I shared with Sean, I emailed my boss to let her know I wouldn’t be coming in to work, laid down, and tried to sleep.
The following day I stayed in bed. Sometimes I would cry. I would remember things I wanted, things I may never see again. My mom dug out the old photos of my dad and I, when I was just three, “building” the house. I called her, and we cried. She didn’t live in the house anymore, but it was her home for 21 years just like the rest of us.
I spent a lot of time listening to people tell me why God did this. I spent even more time talking to God myself, trying to gather what His plan was from Him.
I realized how blessed I was by the people in my life. The friends and family who came together, who offered support emotionally and financially, who donated clothes and food. One friend offered to drive home with me for a weekend – a 6 hour drive – even though it was just a few weeks before finals and we barely knew each other.
Imagine making the drive home, a drive you’ve made more times than you can remember. You turn on the road you’ve lived on for at least 20 years. It’s a familiar place, right? And then, as you come up over the last hill, you see the cleared remains of your home. Part of the foundation is still standing, charred, but that’s about it. And suddenly this place you grew up, the only place you ever remember living, is completely unfamiliar.
In that moment I sobbed uncontrollably. I stopped my car, and as my father opened the door I basically fell into his arms, overwhelmed by grief. We walked around the yard. The garage was a pile of ashes. The house’s foundation stood, but the roof had fallen in. My cat climbed out of the crawl space, her meow raspy and her fur covered in soot.
My oldest friend helped me sort through and document my belongings. We spent hours in the basement, saving what we could, throwing everything else aside for the dozer that would inevitably be brought in later. I was fortunate, many of my belongings were boxed away before I left for college, and were protected by the water damage that plagued most of the basement. I cried as I found memories that could be rescued, and as we threw out a large crate of old notebooks that were once my closest friends.
It wasn’t until a few hours later, when he and I came back to the house once last time, that I realized what God was doing for me. We walked through together, so I could say a final goodbye, and take a few picture for my poetry class. I saw Amy (my dad’s wife)’s furniture in the living room, I saw her clothes in my mother’s closet, her lotions on my mother’s side of the bathroom counter. And for the first time in months, I was unbothered by this. The anger inside of me had subsided with the recognition that the place my parents shared was gone. Whatever took it’s place would be Dad and Amy’s, together. It would not hold traces of a time when my parents laughed together, would not have memories of a time when things felt normal.
God had blessed me not only with peace, but with the opportunity for a new normal and a new home. He had absolved me of an anger I thought would never end, and given me what I needed to begin moving forward.
My sophomore year of college, when I got mono and a uti and began having intense stomach pains all at once, while my parents were working on their marriage, I remember thinking that it was one of the most eventful years of my life. Now I’ve come to realize that part of the transition to adulthood is events. The older you get, the more things that happen, because there are more things that affect you. I’ve also come to realize that each of those things is just another opportunity for God to shape you and move you forward, even when you don’t see it.