This is fiction but inspired by very real emotions and circumstances in my own life.
Thank you for reading!
WHEN LOVE POURS DOWN
I may have doubted God. Maybe I did. I was the one who saw the blood. I was the one who carried the lifeless babe. Truth and horror pressed in on me at a crossroads, promising a tempest greater than I'd ever imagined. Though, I chose the path to the King, leaving behind the fairytale of a happily ever after on my terms.
It was His ever after that would bring the most joy anyway.
Steve and I had tried to process the ever after as we sat in his truck the morning when more than one dream had died.
“What did the doctor say?” he spoke with a sympathetic hush.
My words were trapped by a net of agony. Heavy and unbearable. I shook my head and squeezed my eyes to fortify the flood.
“Oh. I am so sorry, Lisa.” His voice cracked just as big globs of rain plopped on the windshield. I leaned into his body, cradling my torso and the flitting life within it.
Over those days and months, I cried to God and clung to knowing that He is a God Who Sees. It was He who watched as I mourned the loss. Within me, He gathered my spirit from every corner, every crevice, and pulled it toward my heart. In that quiet huddle, it was He who whispered,
“Comfort and peace, my love.”
Yet, Steve did not cope well. And it wasn't long after that, when he spoke the venom my soul could hardly bear, dousing the match and striking it to set off a wild fire on whatever remained of my dreams.
“He ain't real.” He flung the Bible across the room. “What God would allow for that baby to die? We are good people, Lisa. And we trusted Him. He ain't worth it.”
It's often that the flowers in my windowsill fade to a deadly brown. Yet with some care, their color returns and life is okay. Steve's deadly brown caused no fear in me at first. Mourning tempts us to ludicrous bouts. But my love was not enough. God's heart was hidden by Steve's scales which grew from his grief. Soon, he crumpled to a brittle soul with no scent of God to promise life.
His soul was dust.
Anguish howls within me and the storm begins. I cannot remember His promises. My soulmate is no longer alive in Him, but soul-less and in this world. Perhaps the deadening brown is creeping through my veins and will consume me next? Forget the corners where His Spirit resides. There is no huddle, no whisper. I am afraid in the shadows of a rocking faith. Will it capsize in this hurricane of my doubt?
Yet, my hand pierces the surface of this drowning sea and I beg Him to save me once more. “Do not forsake me.”
He clasps my hand, and I walk into the brewing brawl.
“I'll bring you beauty from these ashes.” And I believe what He tells me, and give no attention to the storm within me.
I call home after a quiet time at the lake, trusting the Spirit to arm me for another conversation with Steve. “What are you doing?” I am careful with the phone to my ear as I drive.
Steve sighs on his end. “We gotta get off that call list at church. Seems they keep wondering where we're at.”
An army of dark clouds marches toward me in my rearview mirror. “They just care about us, Steve.”
“Do they?” His tone smokes with cynicism. A chuckle tumbles—the same laugh which chars our battles of belief, and lack thereof, every night. I imagine the same sneer which usually sets an eruption of anger within me. The spewing mess only hardens into guilt in the morning.
I swallow away the brewing bile. “How's Jack?” I manage.
Another sigh from Steve. I hear an apology coming on. He always apologizes. It's as though he's tossed between a wave of hatred and a rocky coral of remorse. To and fro his emotions go. Not much different than mine. Shouldn't I be the stronger one in this, though? He's the one who abandoned the Rock upon which I stand. But what strength is there when I grip it with fingernails, ready to slide off?
My strength crushes beneath the foaming surf of his turmoil day in and day out.
“Jack's fine,” he mumbles. “I am sorry, Lisa. It just makes me so mad.” And he makes me so mad, but I tighten my frown and flutter my lashes. “You should read this article I just found. It might open your eyes—”
“I gotta go. The storm's picking up.” I'll not sit and listen to him, knowing the Truth is rooted in the silence and unhearing. He's blocked his ears with the buzz of atheistic arguments. He'll not block mine.
“Okay. Be careful out there.” He ends the call. Howling wind follows me home and the rain pounds upon my car.
A crack of lightening accompanies the thunder of my overwhelmed heart.
“I want it to be over.”
Will there come a point when the lies he believes take seed in my own heart and grow so rampant that, like a creeping vine they cross the divide and intrude the silence with their destruction? They come for me and I cannot grow deaf. I can not protect the divide much longer. It consumes me like a mighty fire. Will I heed the lies and become what they say? Godless, hopeless, deceived?
“Do you hear me God?”
What was it that God just spoke to me an hour ago?
The storm is too loud to understand my heart's murmur anymore.
A loud blaring signal comes across the radio. “Severe thunderstorm warning.”
Pings of hail pelt a ferocious ruckus on the hood of my car, just like the memories of all Steve has declared untrue. I feel the clay pot break...the one He made in His image but no longer withstands the piercing accusations of a godless man to his faith-filled wife.
“I am finished?” I mutter upon my lips, and my journal slides across the dashboard as I turn onto our street. What did I write? How I forget when the storm rages within me. Is it over? Will I shatter? Just like Steve?
The clay destroys the clay with its shards, sharp and slicing.
“Are you there?” One last cry to the Potter before the lies obliterate the vessel created. And the hail stops. I am beaten with cracks creeping across me wide and deep. But the hail stops and leaves me with....silence.
And He is there in the silence. A wide and vibrant rainbow sprawls across the quieted sky.
“I love you.”
Love? “Why do you let me hurt? Why break me so?”
Silence. But a sneaking peace. A deeper understanding of some underlying plan. My soul is too weary to ponder, though. I gather up my journal, my devotional, and my bruised heart, and breathe in deep before facing my husband once more.
Steve meets me at the door. “O honey. I am so sorry.” My heart skips. But the tragedy shadows his face. He takes me to the back window. The willow behind our house is split down the middle. A victim of the storm outside. One half sprawls to the heavens, the other lies prostrate upon the mud and muck.
“I loved that tree.” I choke back tears. My heart often skipped at its fullness in the summer, and its delicate hanging lace in the winter. We'd sat beneath the tree one Mother's day. My son upon my knee, and the babe hidden within my womb—still alive and growing. And then our anniversary night, we lay just beyond it's crown and counted stars while our little boy slept. The flimsy fingers of the willow then caressed our backs as we danced to our favorite song. It stood on fertile ground where my heart found fullness from the love of a mother and a wife. It was a strong sprout of love out my window.
Split in two. Like my marriage, like my heart. But which was I? The fallen one or the one reaching to the sky? Just this morning I would have known. But now, I am not so sure.
While the storm lulls, I want to run. I never ran away as a child. I don't even remember wanting to because I was too scared of bad people and bad places and bad things. But I want to run. Shed this broken shell and find freedom form the torment of Steve's word-view. The blasphemous perspective of life without faith.
Nature outside refreshes from the torment of hail, but the air is stagnant in here. The refrigerator buzzes and the dog whines. Steve returns to his dark room with the dark show buzzing from the dark corner.
My son finds me, clinging close, begging, “I want you to hold me.”
And I just don't want to. I don't want anymore attachment to anyone. It hurts too bad. Yet, I cannot disappoint my son because who will he run to then? The man who's killed God and won't let me forget it?
I gather him in my arms, kiss his forehead and try to praise God. But my heart is overgrown, and the spidery cracks upon my soul threaten to pull apart and leave me in a heap at the feet of Faith.
“Mama, read me a story.” Jack shoves his favorite book in my lap. The one about Jonah. The one with the stories that Steve regrets teaching my child. My husband slams the door to church, blocking it out as if it were a haunted fabrication of our past.
“It isn't good for our son to learn such things. He'll just be deceived all his life, and then struggle when he finds out its all myth.”
“But it's not myth to me.”
And our own howling tempest would begin, where thunder rages from our tongues, and angry tears flood my skin.
Has my little boy suffered from the fight? We try to keep our words low, behind our bedroom door...but he knows. I am sure of it.
Knowledge is at the eye of this outrage.
The knowing of a dead babe within me destroying Steve's trust in God.
Steve seeking man's knowledge to replace his faith.
And my little son's knowledge of our division filling his heart.
And the threat...
“He's gotta know the truth.” Steve insists on worming his knowledge into the ripening fruit of my four year old's fresh soul.
And at that, I whirl in a chaotic wind, and I am dashed about in horror. “I'll not have it! You're not going to screw him up, too!”
Every night, I embrace Jack as he sleeps, and pray angels upon his heart.
Now, I read the Bible stories, feeling like a deceiver according to Steve.
“You know you belong to God, little Jack?” I whisper as he traces his finger upon the illustration of the whale.
“Yes, Mama. Jesus is in my heart.”
And the canyon between my husband and I grows wide and deep like the cracks in my soul. And we are not united parents any longer.
But my foot stumbles on the canyon's edge, and panic fills my throat with a flood of worry.
Will Steve match my whispers to Jack, with his own destructive ideas?
What lies will he tell my son? When you are told over and over who you are, don't you begin to believe it?
A shard of my soul breaks away from the vessel, and I see now that my hope is fleeting.
I'll not allow my son to fall away from God's hands. His daddy won't have that control any longer.
I ignore the One Who Sees. I close off my ears to His mutter. Flesh consumes my heart and I do what I know is best.
Take away my love for Steve. He doesn't deserve it now. I am no longer bound to him as a Godly wife, for he's not playing by those rules.
And I'll not have him crush my son beneath his disbelief.
No. I'll not have it.
“Come, little Jack. Let's go on an adventure.” And I sweep him up, pack his bags, and strap him into my car.
As I drive, humidity fogs my car windows and I crank up the air. Yet, it's the front within me which blinds my peace and drowns the promises of my Savior.
The air I breathe does nothing to dissipate the fog within.
Before this storm, I flew away from home and lost myself. My painted wings were hidden in a chrysalis of uncertainty, so I decided to crawl along my first year of college and blend in with all those around me who hadn't ever grown wings at all. But the Painter of my wings pursued me, and He knew the best gallery upon which to display His design—the overflow of my heart. When love found me in friendship, my wings began to unfold. And my friends proclaimed the Designer and turned me to Him who gave me wings in the first place.
I fold the blanket across my boy's shoulders as he sleeps. “I am not strong enough.”
“You are right, Lisa.” My bestie, Melissa sips her tea and steadies her gaze on me. “You aren't strong enough, you aren't brave enough, you aren't worthy...”
“I get it.” I roll my eyes and step to the window of her guest room. Darkness floods the sky which had thrown about its elements all day.
“Do you get it?” She sets her tea down on the nightstand and joins me at the window. With a crank, the window rolls open and the scent of drying rain and awakened roots fill our nostrils. “Do you trust in Him alone, or are you taking matters into your own hands?”
Could she know? Really know what I am going through? But she speaks truth now. I packed my bags and left Steve in the name of self-protection...and mama-bear-love.
“Trust? It's not about trusting God.” I think. “But do I trust Steve with Jack's heart?”
“It's not up to Steve what happens to Jack's heart. God's bigger than Steve. And you.”
A gust blows through the screen and catches my hair beyond my shoulders. I am on the edge of the earth, the atmosphere is a thin veil covering my body, flowing behind me in long sheets. Nothing's touching me. I remember God's grasp, and He swells within me.
“You are Mine and I am yours.” Yes, Lord. “He is Mine, and I am his.”
Perhaps both. But it's not up to me, is it? I cannot run far enough away from destruction and close enough to God to keep Jack's heart safe.
Just like Jonah from the story book. Well, Jonah from the only Real Book.
It's not up to me. I am not the designer of painted wings or human hearts.
His Spirit gathers all my fear and releases it in the wind.
In God alone.
In God alone will He shape Jack's heart to know Him.
In God alone will Steve find Him again.
Nothing I can do will bring about salvation. Nothing.
“Love is the only thing that will make you strong, Lisa. It bears all things. And really, it is all we are called to do.”
Love. Snapped in two like the willow. Crushed within me by Steve's faith betrayal. But before this storm, it is the very thing that released my painted wings to full span across my soul. It was first in the love of friendship showing me Jesus, and then another surge of love which prodded my heart to bloom and my wings to lift me higher. The love of my soulmate—Steve.
But I know better now. I no longer dream in childish scales, but in mature orchestra swells. My soulmate is Jesus. And Steve is my closest friend. The one I've drowned out with cacophonous conditional love. Nothing like that which my Father gives. Steve's not seen His kind of love from me.
Conviction weighs heavy on my wings like syrupy dew in the orange shade of dawn.
“What do I do, Mel?” The wind dies down and an owl calls from the wilderness outside. “How can I live with a man who'll never let me forget this heartbreak? Who'll test my faith day in and out, and never let me rest?”
She slides her arm around my shoulders and I weep.
“You need to let it go, Lisa. Remember that it's not yours to fight. It's between Steve and God. You are only called to—”
“Love.” I release the word with a breath so deep within me that I am left with a hollow in my core. And a craving to fill it...with love...for Steve.
Lord, where did that come from?
“He is so lost, Lisa. You are his wife for a reason. And Jack is his son for a reason. We may not know it yet, but let God's love get you through this. And share it with Steve. It's hard, I know.” She squeezes my shoulder. “They'll know us by our love, right?” Melissa reaches over to crank the window close and a flutter rushes towards the sill. In a delicate prance across the wood, a butterfly settles it's slender body in the stillness of night.
Its painted wings in perfect design.
His Word came alive to me long ago, that day when my wings were released by love. I knew that I was not good enough, except through Him who designed me in His perfect way. And while the love of my friends brought me to my knees for the first time, the love of my Steve illuminated the design upon my wings to glow with faith, hope, and Him who is Love.
Perhaps my wings were not created for me to flourish in my flight toward Heaven, but designed for me to carry God's love—through the desert, through the storm, and to the broken aftermath?
I peek over my shoulder at my little boy dreaming in fairytales. I am only his mother, not his God. But I'll do my best to show Him God through love. That is easy. A mother's love is hard to suppress. But what of unconditional love for the man who's cast off every condition of my God for nothingness?
How can I return to the broken aftermath with wings drenched from the storm?
Before this storm, the trails were paths of gnomes and fairies, talking toads and chatty squirrels. Each hollowed tree was a home, and every blade of grass was a musical string. What joy whipped within the heart of my child-self at the hidden world in the wood.
Now, I am grown, and the woods are for biking and hiking. The only critters—pea-brained squirrels and hopping robins—show themselves regularly. The grass only plays a tune between the thumbs of my child as he blows cheeks big. What foolish things we cast aside as our spines grow toward the sky and our eyes dull to fantasy.
And the sky this day promises another bout of thunder and rain. But I retreat to my outdoor sanctuary while Mel takes my boy to the ice cream shop.
I'll not face Steve just yet.
My hair whips against my cheeks as I sit by a lake of fury. Daggers of wind chop up the surface like a baker's knife mottles the frosting on a cake. The tall elms chatter of the brewing storm above, their rustling gossip coaxed in the chilled air.
“Forgive me. For leaving. For casting off my heart in fear.” I must wait, like I once did for the gnomes and the little fairies to kiss my nose. Now, I wait for Him, who might be invisible but is more real than even the knoll upon which I sit.
He moves. In that secret huddle in my heart, He speaks. And while the whirling air about me swells in some sort of whispering orchestra, I hear His words,
“Love covers a multitude of sins.”
The very thing that torments me most. The reason I run to His creation and settle beneath the outstretched canopy of branches. Such a different trail ahead of me now, than what I walked as a child. A different path than what I walked just months ago, when Steve still led us on his knees, bowed to his Creator. Now, this trail is not a fancy daydream stroll, but a desperate lost dream search.
“Thank you, Jesus. I must remember love the most.” It is what Mel spoke of. It's what my devotional preaches from my lap, and it's the whisper in that huddle in my heart. No coincidence with God. My soul is quenched, and the elms clap in a vigorous roar above me.
I gather up my journal and devotional, praising and pondering. Preparing myself to live love now. Willing my wings to spread wide and give me confidence in flight. The hollow in my core widens, and I long for Steve.
Clouds grow dark above, tainting the waters an inky gray. The trail ahead promises rain. I no longer run for shelter like I did as that fanciful girl. No, the rain won't hurt me now. Not when I know He's not through with me, yet. Besides, I've spilled many more droplets than the sky threatens to unleash.
“Mama, I felt rain.” A golden curl-topped princess pops up from a nearby picnic blanket, gathering her tea set.
“Hurry, sweetie. We don't want to get caught. Let's finish our tea at home with Daddy.” Her mama begins to load a wicker basket with half-eaten sandwiches, Oreos, and a Thermos.
“Yay! I love tea parties with Daddy.” She squeals. I pass her along the leaf-strewn path.
Fairytales and tea parties are surely a thing of my past. My middle-aged self remorses that my prince has abandoned the King, and my table is bare of all good things.
The storm within me breaks before the sky above me, and I forget His whisper. How can I surrender and love Steve when he's hurt me so? Resentment whips through my core.
“Lord, it wasn't meant to turn out like this. Whatever happened to dreams come true?”
I kneel upon the shore of pebbles before the water's edge. My pen is quick on the pages of my rain-spotted journal. My eyes are thirsty for Him as I skim the book in my weakening hands.
And He is there in each drop upon my soul, in each word on the page. His downpour splashes my spirit and rights my faith again.
His glorious song fills my heart, “You are Mine, and I am yours, my Love.”
He will never hurt me. My true Soulmate. And I praise Him. Again, the elms applaud in a roar.
“Thank you, Jesus, I must remember You love me most.”
And the trail washes with sheets of rain and I do not melt, but rejoice in His washing of my heart, and the calming of the gale.
While the lake settles at the last pin pricks of rain, the sky brightens. And I remember that sunshine is not dependent on my will, but on His will. It is He who lavishes upon me.
Why did I expect so much from Steve? It was an expectation as notional as my hope in meeting a gnome on the path—unable to withstand the pressure of reality, the fact that only One can make my dreams come true.
Even if the prince declares there is no such thing as Him who delivers dreams, I can live the love greater than any Steve's ever witnessed.
The lake returns to glass as the storm dies. A ray of sun steals through the clouds and illuminates the surface, bouncing fractals across the waters.
“Yes, Lord. I'll love him as You love me.” And the shine becomes bright and I bow my head and the elms chatter above me.
It is good to meet him on this side of the storm—when the stillness sets in. When the creatures make way as I walk the path with my Lord.
Before this storm, I knelt beside my new husband in the wedding chapel, after the guests departed. He led us in prayer and summoned the canopy of God's blessing upon our union. And the days, weeks, months, and years enjoyed the shadow of God's hand. And I didn't feel the garish sun of hardship. Not really, anyway. My husband was my provider, my protector, my strong tower. It was he who rose early with the rising sun, releasing prayers upon the morning breeze. It was his faithful flurry that stirred my spirit and left me seeking more. And come Spring, I grew to his stature, a budding vine of fruit for my Maker. Perhaps, it was my provider, my protector, my strong tower who might have shadowed my God. And who might have been first in my heart of hearts.
And maybe, this storm is good in a way. Because my husband no longer eclipses my God. No, he is nothing but a man who's stripped away the canopy and burned my soul with exposure to a faith-consuming fire.
But the sun of my God kisses Little Jack who runs ahead on the concrete path to our home. I taste the freshness of a new day upon my tongue as I breathe in deep, and long for joy again. The dianthus are bursting color and the lilies stand proud and tall, tempting me to smile. Oh, how long has it been since I smiled broad?
But the smile is yet to birth when I know Steve is inside, waiting and knowing I tried to leave him. I tried to leave and take Jack with me.
A roaring grind growls into the floral-scented air. The side-gate is ajar and I follow the stepping stones round back. Each toe upon the rock jolts my insides with a nervous wobble. I pray for the huddle of my spirit within.
No more resentment, no more fear. Only love. I must start first with love.
The grind grows louder and I catch a glimpse of the beast. A chain saw slices the fallen willow. At the hands of my Steve. Oh, it slices in pieces the root of Love. A wide hollow in my soul opens its jaw and I can see the belly of a monster. A monster feeding on such an image of the godless man destroying the precious place in my heart. What other task could embitter the tongue of the heartbroken?
“Give him grace. Give him a chance.” The huddle's whisper slams shut the open hollow. I am here for love. The tree is gone by the hand of a different storm, after all. And part of it is still standing. The strongest part is still erect.
He whips around, pushing his goggles onto his head. A glimmer of delight flashes in his deep blue eyes, and then his lips fall into a frown. “I wish you didn't leave.”
“I am sorry.” Slender willow leaves somersault around my feet. I try to look into his face once more. He inches closer, and reaches a hand out to me. I take it.
“You're all I've got, Lisa.” He pulls me close. “Life in this new perspective really makes you treasure every precious thing.”
“Really?” And doesn't life with my God calls me to treasure every precious thing? Old resentment begins to pry open the hollow with it's twisted design. How can he claim that his way has any good in it? Any similarity to life with God in it?
“He is mine, and I am His.” The Spirit gathers in a warming rush, melting the gap within, closing it shut to my scrutiny. Steve might not acknowledge God in this, but it doesn't mean that God's not in this.
And it's not my place to pull apart the skies and reveal the God who is there.
“I love you.” My words float out like the dainty pieces of a dandelion blown. Soft and fragile.
Steve bites his lip and steps so close that I must tilt my head to see him. Sun shines around his dark curls, and the silhouette of a butterfly flaps it's wings above him.
“You don't know how long I have waited to hear that.” He lowers his head and I close my eyes to receive his kiss.
I may have doubted God through this storm. I may have given the Enemy a chance to stir the winds into a violent tornado of destruction. But no matter the banshee cry of the wind, or the droning of the rain, my God's whisper carries to my heart and he protects me in the rage of it.
I once knelt beside my husband the moments after our vows, and we enjoyed the shadow of God's hand over our hearts. And now, in the broken aftermath of a storm, my husband no longer accepts the canopy, but he stays by my side through the storm.
No elements are tossed about the sky today. But the downpour is ever strong. And it is this torrential flood of love in which He calls me past the brewing brawl.
And maybe one day in the stillness of this healing aftermath, Steve will remember that love is God, again.
But for now, there is flying to do. With wings spread wide, I'll choose to love.