Let me tell you about the day I had a meltdown at Costco over a rotisserie chicken. Most of us have been there, right? Managing so many things, trying to be what is needed for everyone in our lives, and we can make it all work so long as every aspect of the plan falls into line. But, inevitably, one little component, one minor cog in the wheel refuses to perform as it should and the entire machine malfunctions.
It has been a long rough season on the road from Seattle to Boise to Oklahoma to Crete and I am deep bone wasted. In addition to fulltime ministry as professor of Bible I have also taken up the work of launching a new not for profit ministry in the last year. I have literally been, casting vision, sharing stories, spending time with the women to whom I minister and birthing a dream during every waking hour. The truth is, however, up under this, my life is shattered, broken into a thousand pieces and hollowed out by grief, but, it is more that I can deal with so I continue to push through, live on top of the heap, operate like a normal person—whatever that means.
This is why I thought if I could just dash into Costco and get a rotisserie chicken that Sunday evening then I could feed my family for another day and all would be well. While I realize today, the phrase “dash into Costco” is obviously evidence of some sort of break with reality, on that day, it seemed to make perfect sense. I had fresh veggies at home and a rotisserie chicken would be the perfect no fuss compliment and cover me for supper so I could make it until Monday and do a full blown trip to the grocery, which I dreaded like being dragged behind a team of horses.
I stood there, staring blankly at the empty shelves where golden chickens were supposed to be and I almost lost it then but I saw the blinking red light on the stove and dozens of chickens turning on the wheel ready to be packaged and one of them was going home with me. The lights blinked 5.00 so I scurried around, picked up a few more things, superfood salad, five pounds of strawberries only when I returned the lights were still blinking that empty promise of five minutes! My body flashed hot, I felt dizzy, I looked and grabbed the sample food lady in the paper shower hat and pleaded for her help. Courageously she went into the meat counter and spoke with some man in white and returned to tell me it would be five minutes more until the chickens were ready. Aaaah, but it had already been five minutes, I had been watching the clock read those numbers for ten minutes, my husband and niece were waiting in the car, I had to go…was there something she could do?
Defeated I huffed sixteen miles to the front of the store, stood behind all the foolish shoppers who had seen Costco as the answer to their domestic dreams. I fumed as the lady in the red tee shirt asked questions while writing her check, when my clerk asked me if I found everything I needed, I let. Him. Have. It! And, what I said, which will not be repeated here, was neither Christian nor civil or sane. All of the sudden it was the Costco clerk’s fault that my life was falling apart and I could no longer manage all the broken pieces. As I crawled shamefully into the car waiting outside, nursing a verging panic attack, I knew I had come to the end and must find my way back to center.
In that moment, I realized I was back where I had been years before, have picked up the chains again and am bound to a, life crammed full of all good things but absent of any margin, lacking any space to think, to pray, to dream or to deal with my pain. The truth is, when your life explodes, you do what you can to pack it all back where it went before, squeezing your hurts into shelves at the back of the closet that you promise yourself you will get to eventually. It just never seems the right time to unfold all of that, look at it and let it tear you up all over again, only that’s exactly what you have to do.
I know that peace and rest are inseparable graces so I have intentionally taken two months off the road and declined any meetings except those that cannot be avoided. Today I am healing but it is slow, deliberate work sewn by the hand of a slow God who will not rush what is necessary and redemptive. I swim, I read, I laugh on a boat filled with my best girlfriends. My days are filled with the baptism of fresh salty tears over what is lost and the hard work of sorting through what life looks like without him. I am once again, finding rhythms of home and hearth, of laundry and sacred words, watering tomato plants at dusk and hoping some new good thing will be born under the warmth of the fireflies.
If you find yourself having your own nervous breakdown in some deli in your town, I hope these words, my own confession, will find you where you are. Know that we are all in some way broken and in need of grace. My prayer is that you would know someone understands and that you would find your own way to Shabbat Shalom.