Over the last two years, my abusive, actor/model husband forced me out of the house. A marriage I knew was a mistake. I had been trapped in my marriage since 21 days in when I discovered he preferred men to me. I had too much shame to go through another divorce, or humble myself to seek help with what also grew into seeing him consumed in drug, sex and alcohol dependencies. It was especially hard to be humble or justify a divorce in our church and friends group when he was “so cool, soo sweet and soooo handsome”. We would walk into church, or a party where men and women would fall over themselves to shake his hand – the very same hand that was raised against me the night before with a baseball bat and chased down the street. Dear God literally ripped our lives apart, put in a restraining order for 5 years to ensure we could never go back to each other and re-enter the abusive cycle together.
My former CFO, a church-going man, was paying my key employees out of his bank account so he could create doubt in front of a judge that the corporate intellectual property was actually a part of my company, since the property in question is usually owned by the company that pays the employees and I, apparently, wasn’t paying them? Dear God gave me the strength and a business partner, mid-takeover to fire every single person on my team, stare bankruptcy in the face, and then God blessed me with three times the amount of employees and ten times the profits.
If my friends hadn’t decided to stay clear of me through the divorce process because they preferred to keep my former husband in the division of assets, they surely didn’t stick around when I had no income to take them out and buy everyone a round of drinks with, and certainly not when I needed a couch to crash on. Dear God took every shallow, two faced person I used to title “friend” and made them completely inaccessible to me. Even when everything was done, the calls for apology from half of the “friends” that reached out, fell on ears that had been filled with Dear God’s voice and their tone became as a fool’s clang; I could no longer tolerate their presence in my now grace-filled life.
My family died to co-dependency and guilt, died to traditions instilled for generations that only enslaved us in “what would the church think, what would my parent’s think, what would my grandma think” and started listening to the only conscience that matters, the conscience of Dear God. The more we listened, the more love and sanctuary became resurrected in our lives. If Dear God had not ripped away my real estate in the divorce, and my financials hasn’t been destroyed in the take over, there would have been no patience or grace to move in the small corners of a 3 bedroom condo, and dwindling family business. In our struggle, Dear God wrapped us up so close in proximity, we had no way to escape the hardships of relationship and forgiveness. Dear God took away all of the escapes used in this first world country to become filled with his blessed gifts we had only been too arrogant, self-important and self-righteous to use for the first three decades of my life.
I accidentally lost everything, and simultaneously gained everything.
Remember when I accidentally decided to live in faith?
Well, living in faith has been harder than living in self-reliance, at least to the naked eye.
In the last year, I have plummeted into a violent divorce, my company has suffered a hostile-nearly successful take over. I have not a single friend left from my previous life I can call to talk with. My family looks at me like a dead pariah. I went from making six figures to no figures. My real estate properties are auctioned off to what must have been the lowest bidder. I have became alone in the desert, figuratively and literally; I am trapped somewhere between Las Vegas and San Bernardino with nothing but a water bottle, one Facebook friend and stale, budget motel room.
What is faith? I’m not entirely sure, actually, but I’ve decided it has to be better than what I’ve been doing.
I’ve been living where everything is in existence because I’m so amazing; why wouldn’t I think that? I’m well-educated, well-traveled, dated or married prestigious people (“prestigious” voice in your head should mimic an exhaustive, posh British accent), I’ve held impressive titles at companies and even tried my own hand at being self-employed. What’s the point of living in faith, because I’m so prestigious?
Oh right, the point where I’ve become so important, I’ve alienated all people around me. I’ve become so important on my resume, that unless I’m at a corporate social, no one wants a stupid thing to do with me. When I fly into a town, I go out as the life of the party and I’m heralded as the friend from somewhere other than there. A toast is made, I’ve likely hooked up with a local (assuming I’m single at the time, of course) and then I fly away.
On Facebook, I get to window-shop these friends, build little towns and send them Candy Charms. But when they have a baby, I don’t get an invite to the baby shower, I get a group message, when their baby gets christened, I’m squinting at the screen, not able to participate in the inside joke that has the priest in pinch. When someone needs a shoulder to cry on, I don’t get tagged in the photo, because there is none. The most important things that happen in life, there are no photos; leaving a blank screen on the timeline of my life.
So, Dear Jesus, I will live in faith. I don’t know what it means, but let’s get started on this process, because I need to believe in something bigger than myself.
If you’re reading this, it’s completely by accident and recently, the accidents appear to be more deliberate.
[absolutely no salutations for “dear diary”, at this point we’ve known each other for some time, no reason to be formal and just because this is the first time I’ve typed to you, rather than scribbled notes in a leather book, bound to be lost, or discovered anyway, doesn’t mean we start being formal. Besides, no one’s going to see this, unless it’s by happenstance.]
Anyway, Diary, today I accidentally healed my mom’s dog.
I know, right?
This is not just any dog, Diary, this is my mom’s favorite wiener dog. She has three wiener dogs. In fact, it’s not that I don’t love the dogs, I mean they are so stupidly adorable it makes my Head of Sales visit my parent’s home, lay on the floor and be licked to death. It just became difficult to relate to my mom outside of the dogs. The dogs and I started to engage in a love-hate relationship especially as two dogs was double the fun of one, but three became crazy!
Number three, also named Maximum, or Max for short, wound up stealing triple the room in my mom’s heart, leaving the other two to bark incessantly and generally get under the feet of the entire family. What room there was left for people after the dogs, became unevenly shared. At least that’s how I felt and on some level Max became a small burr of resentment aimed towards my mom that I took out on the dogs.
Friday my mom didn’t come into the office; she’s one of my bookkeepers at our family business. At first her absence didn’t trigger me to think it all uncommon because often mom has errands to run, or my disabled sister to care for if she wants a “sleep in day”.
It was unusual for my mom though, despite us having trouble in our relationship, for her to not call or text her whereabouts if she was going to miss time in the office.
“Mom, where are you?”
Heavy breathing and a nose blow.
“Mom, you there?”
“What’s up?” half annoyed. Mom being emotional again.
“Max is dying.” Sob.
Didn’t I feel like a heel! I promised I’d be over in a bit, despite her reluctance to un-invite me. It’s hard to say no in a moment of pain, no matter how much she didn’t like me much either right now.
When I arrived at the house, my mom looked like she was the one on her deathbed, not the dog. Even the stone in my heart started to melt into lava as she walked up the stairs, taking me to Max.
“See, he’s …. not moving anymore.”
I saw, “Since when? I didn’t know …”
“Since last week, he’s just been getting worse and worse. At first he wouldn’t go down the stairs, so I had to carry him. Then he couldn’t walk to the door. The last two days, he won’t eat or drink and he can’t get out of his kennel.” Sob.
I could see the dog was all but dead. Mom sat right there in front of the door of his crate, petting his unresponsive head. The tears and sobs became too much, my mom got up, put her hand on my shoulder and walked towards the door, “I am going to get your sister from school [her day program], she’s really been bothered by Max dying too. I mean, I went to the vet, but there’s nothing they can do, you know doxies and their backs … that’s how we lost Simon too. And the money, we just don’t have the money right now to fix it anyway, we can just make him comfortable.” And with that, she was out the door and I heard the muffled thump of her feet dragging from stair to stair, until the front door opened and shut behind her.
I looked down at the lifeless animal in the cage. He wasn’t even wrapped up like he always was. The other two dogs were listless and skittish, like they were tiptoeing past the angel of death, staying out from under his feet as Max so clearly was unable to do. Something came over me, that had never come over me before … It was like my hands belonged to someone else as they moved into the cage, closer to Max, into the cage and rested on Max’s crooked back and head.
“Dear God, [I like to do a “dear” since it didn’t feel like we were that close, not like you and me, Diary] I don’t know what I’m doing. I’m not even a big fan of this dog. Actually, I don’t even know if I’m a big fan of You. I know that I’ve never read in the Bible when I was a kid that an animal was ever healed, it seems to be only for people. I don’t think you even do healings anymore, either. But, God, this dog is my …., ” The tears started to roll down my cheek, “Mom’s favorite dog. I don’t even really like my mom right now, but I do know, that if this dog dies, everything we are trying to rebuild may never happen because she could just break. And the company is in a tough spot, I need her at the office. Zoe, my handicapped sister won’t understand death easily with all the other tensions around right now. Lord, please, I don’t have faith it will happen, but if you can heal the dog, I can muster up enough faith to try and heal things with my mom and maybe even You.”
I’m not sure what I was expecting, but Max didn’t look any different when I removed my hands from the kennel. I didn’t hear any miraculous living dog running after me when I left and closed the door behind me. I didn’t think much more of it when I left, except a pang of sadness that felt exacerbated by everything else that was going on in the world around me. I certainly didn’t feel some “God experience” like I’d seen on T.V. or heard about in those charismatic churches. It felt like nothing was hopeful when I closed the front door behind me, heading home.
Mom came into the office on Monday, on time and cheery. Cheery. I gave a false smile and a wave when she came in, which she returned and appeared to prance all the way to her desk.
“Mom, how was your weekend?” I asked, half unexpecting a response.
“Great! How was yours?”
Is she being snide? Over-medicated, maybe? “Okay, didn’t do much, worked or stayed in bed.”
“Okay, sounds good.” She barely looked up, while she hummed, pulling out her files and setting up her desk for the morning.
“Uh … how’s Max?” My face winced.
“Oh Max is wonderful! It’s the most amazing thing, Chantelle, you won’t believe it!”
She was right.
“Maxie Pad, when I got home Friday night, perked his head up and whined at me. So I carried him downstairs and he drank a bunch of water, ate his food. After he finished his bowl, I carried him back up the stairs and put him in the kennel. In the middle of the night, he whined again! So I opened the kennel, and he walked out! His back was broken, and he walked out of the kennel! So I picked him up, carried him down the stairs, he made his poopy and then he hopped up all the stairs so I couldn’t even grab him!! By Sunday, he’s his old self, running with the other two! It’s a complete miracle! Now what do you need done today, I’m ready to get to work …”
Turns out, I was the one that needed to get ready to work … because I accidentally, healed my mom’s dog, so I accidentally became a Jesus fan.