Life's circumstances have swept in to challenge my very identity in the past few weeks. I have been forced to question who I am and what I believe in. You come to believe that the world operates a particular way. You think you know people, your family, your employer, your God, your country. Ah…at least my kids are exactly who I thought they were – pure and delightfully consistent.
One event epitomizes this unraveling. My much-loved 41-year-old cousin passed away after fighting against melanoma for over two years. At such a young age and w/two young children it is difficult to see much beyond the heartbreak. Though it was not sudden, it was no less shocking. It went so against "the way things ought to be" that it felt untrue even as it was happening. Even from a slight (if not safe) distance, it seemed like a bad dream. Weeks later, it remains unbelievable. As if to stress the point, we buried Jennie on Ash Wednesday and received our ashes at her graveside with the words "Remember that you are dust and to dust you shall return."
Although I can generally see God at work in many facets of my life, I am struggling to find his presence in this situation. Instead of lamenting the tragedy, I've been trying to appreciate her wonderful life and the exceptional woman that she was and the two beautiful children she gave us. Still…it makes no sense and won't until we all meet again in that special place. For now, we are left with the hurt that is left by her absence. Very sadly, it is what it is.
It leaves my Christian faith severely tested, but intact. My incomplete comprehension (if not doubt), seemingly puts God at a distance. I find myself off of my path, in a bit of a spiritual wilderness. Still, this wandering as a result of profound questioning can actually grow my faith. Getting lost occasionally helps us to sharpen our bearings in the long run, making us stronger. I am mostly humbled by the reminder of all that I don't know.
Jennie's final months and passing offered me perspective (should I need more of that in my life). Nonetheless, I've also had a more secular identity crisis recently in the midst of this other turmoil. Though it pales in comparison, I've faced challenges at work far beyond anything I've yet felt in my 20+ career. My best effort wasn't nearly good enough and I wonder whether I am still the effective employee that I've always considered myself to be. Am I really now, suddenly a failure? Could I really have fallen so far? The Man keeps asking for more and offering less. It might just be that both of us have changed in this relationship. Jamming two people's work into one person's job may make sense from the shareholders perspective, but much less so from the point of view of this job holder. Reconciliation is looking less and less possible. And as my boss reiterated, given the state of our economy and industry – unfortunately, it is what it is.
At the end of it all, I am, most thankfully a cancer survivor. (I will leave aside for now the survivor's guilt that I have become acutely aware of lately.) My 6-month CAT scan and blood work came back all clean. My lease is renewed. Fortunately - thank you God! – it is what it is.
Questioning my identity today, I am focusing on who I want to be tomorrow. Inspired by Jennie, motivated by the need for more fulfillment and granted more time by God's good grace – I am off to recreate me. Wish me luck.