I know that I have so much to be grateful for, and I am. I live in a country of democratic ideals (even though it’s not perfect), I have a roof over my head, money for food and clothing and medicine, I am in fairly good health, I am employed, I have friends and family who love me.
I’ve talked a lot here on Kveller about my religious faith, even in the face of my horrible car accident, and even in the face of doubt and fear. And I think I have realized that it is that sense of faith that helps me get through my moments/hours/days/weeks/months of despair.
Have you heard the fable about the man who complains to the local Rabbi that his house is too crowded? And the Rabbi tells him to add animals to his home one by one? Well, I am sure you can guess that the house gets more and more and more crowded, and the man gets more and more and more distressed, and just when he thinks he can’t handle anything else, the Rabbi tells him to kick all of the animals out. And lo and behold: his house does not seem at all as crowded and chaotic as before.
Well, it struck me the other day as I was jogging that this story feels somewhat like my life now. Whatever complaints I have had, whatever struggles I have had, whatever despair I have felt; all of it collectively seems very sparse in comparison to the past year of my life. My car accident that has left me still in rehabilitation almost a year later. My marriage of almost 10 years has ended and my ex and I are constructing a life and identity in separate homes, managing our sons as best as we can while we grieve the loss of our marriage. It’s been really heavy.
But this is where it feels like the fable. Picture God having a mouth and vocal chords, because God might have been something like this a year ago: “You think your life is hard now? What about if we add an accident? And a divorce? What will you be left with then? Will you lament more or less? Will you have less faith or more? Will you still believe in Me then?” That’s a good question, God. That’s a very good question.
With every thing that has been “added” to my house, something has been lost. With the accident added to my plate, I lost my ability to dress myself or wash my own hair, I lost my ability to cook, to clean, and to care for my children. With the divorce tacked on, my identity as a married woman with all that contains is lost. My house got more and more and more crowded with new things, while my life seemed to get smaller and smaller.
And now I am almost out of the toughest part of my rehabilitation for my hand. I can dress myself (my bra hook still gives me a bit of trouble, especially after a long day of using my hand), and I can cook (in limited amounts), and I can clean (in limited amounts), and I can care for my children, even if buttoning up their pants and tying shoelaces still presents a challenge for me because of my injuries. And we are muddling through the roughest and densest part of the trees of divorce, and we can now see a larger forest revealing itself, and seeing the forest for the trees means something to me again. My world is expanding, and my serenity is being restored I suppose.
I am removing obstacles; the chaos is being removed from the house, as it were. I don’t believe in a God that punishes me or is teaching me a lesson by making me have an accident or taking my husband away. But God is constantly giving me opportunities to learn from what is placed in front of me, and to not give up the hope that my home can be one of serenity someday. That’s faith.
The Hebrew word for faith is emunah, the root of which means belief. I believe in something. I still believe. The Jewish song, “Ani Ma’min” (“I Believe”) declares, “I believe with complete faith in the coming of the Messiah, and even if he tarries, I still believe.” That’s heavy. That’s what it means to believe that strongly and deeply. To want something so badly that you can’t stop believing.
This is not the house I imagined. There is no husband in it and the hands God gave me don’t work the way they used to in and for my home. But it will be whole again and I will be whole again.
The Hebrew word for wholeness, shalem, shares a root with the word for peace, shalom. Where there is wholeness, there is peace, and God willing, where there is peace, there will again be wholeness.