Black Edged Envelopes

On this morning three years ago, my eyes opened to a wall filled with photos of faces I didn’t know.

Panicked and desperate not to feel the despair that seemed to loom inevitably, I thoughtlessly launched myself into my morning routine — convinced that if I didn’t stop moving, my mind wouldn’t have a chance to condemn me with feelings of loneliness and grief. My steadfast limbs, that had yet to fail me, began to weaken, feeling for the first time as though it was being pulled to the ground by the weight of dread. Singing myself soft lullabies, I continued to labor against my failing flesh.

“Take the world, but give me Jesus, sweetest comfort of my soul. With my savior watching over me, I can sing though billows roll…”

Desperate to escape the breathlessness of the unfamiliar house, I stepped outside. The air felt recycled and stale, wafting with the scent of frying oil and gasoline (which I have since come to identify as In-N-Out and smog, both of which still occupy my senses). With every earthly possession piled into the back of my Jeep Cherokee, I started driving. While the sun was still rising over the palm trees, I blasted the hymns to which I turned for comfort. But no music could be loud enough to help me forget the searing pain of loss. Debilitated by the open air that I felt, there seemed to be no comfort. I was untethered. I was no one’s. I had no one. The agony of loneliness, grief, and longing were my only familiar friends.

Our adversary seduces us to abide in certain emotions that act as less-wild lovers, particularly shame, fear, lust, anger, and false guilt. They are emotions that “protect” us from the more dangerous feelings of grief, abandonment, disappointment, loneliness, and even joy and longing, that threaten to roam free in the wilder environs of the heart. These are feelings that frighten us, sometimes even long years into our Christian journey,” (excerpt from ‘Less Wild Lovers,’ by Brent Curtis).

It was in this season that I began to build the callouses of self-preservation. Those with whom I had bore my soul had forgotten me. The deceiver had sunk his talons deeply into my heart, sowing seeds of doubt, fear, and guilt. It was not, however, until the season following that I began to reap what had been sown. It became evident that I would do nearly anything to protect myself from the blinding pain of those emotions. Satan had succeeded. I had chosen to no longer trust that the Lord was a sovereign comforter. But instead, he seemed to be a punishing and distant Father. Satan’s deceit had taken root, and I no longer believed the “surely” that the Lord had promised.

These “less wild lovers” had pulled me from a radical love of Christ and His church. They had numbed me into subconsciousness. The deceiver had accomplished his task, and I was left utterly debilitated. Retreating into the confines of my own mind, I felt that my only choice was withdrawing from community, protecting my soul from any ache or bruise that could afflict me. I locked my heart up so tightly that there was no air. And with that, there was no life.

I felt gypped. It was undeniable that I had followed the Lord’s prompting to my current state. His hand had guided me through the transferring of universities. I had walked willingly and humbly, asking the Lord to rid me of my desires and fix my eyes on Him. And I walked away with a broken spirit and shattered heart. It didn’t feel fair.

California was not my home. I never wanted it to be my home. I refused to let it be my home. And somehow, the sovereign Lord Jesus thought otherwise. And it was here that He drew me closer to Himself. It was in this season that I learned the “love letters from heaven are often sent in black edged envelopes.” It was in this season that I learned to treasure Christ as my all, no longer clinging to those whom would inevitably fail me.

It was on the road to reconstruction that I discovered that the path would not be straight and narrow. When I felt that I had mastered the give and take of the heart, someone would manage to swiftly rip it out of my white-knuckle grip. And it was in those gruesome moments that Jesus was binding my heart to Him.

Three years later, I have since revisited that unfamiliar house. This time, however, it was bursting with souls that I had spent three years loving. Friends that had proved themselves faithful and true. And guess what? Today, I still live in California. The air is still stale with frying oil and gasoline. And I still get mad about the tap water. But those searing memories have faded into a meek existence, hiding behind the memories of late night road trips, tears of laughter on the dorm room floor, the dew of camping near the ocean, and many confidants who stood by me in hardship and in joy.

“I bear my witness that the worst days I have ever had have turned out to be my best days. And when God has seemed most cruel to me he has then been most kind. If there is anything in this world for which I would bless him more than for anything else it is for pain and affliction. I am sure that in these things the richest tenderest love has been manifested to me. Our Father’s wagons rumble most heavily when they are bringing us the richest freight of the bullion of his grace. Love letters from heaven are often sent in black-edged envelopes. The cloud that is black with horror is big with mercy. Fear not the storm. It brings healing in its wings and when Jesus is with you in the vessel the tempest only hastens the ship to its desired haven.”

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