God gave me strength all along

It’s been almost a month since the tree made its way into our home, courtesy of Sandy. The damage to the exterior structure was minimal considering a tree of this magnitude could pulverize every wall of our house and all of its contents with ease. But in this story, the one thing that matters most to our families – water – played the part of the Big Bad Wolf.

The rain did not relent for days. A deluge invaded the hole in our roof and ate through the walls, the floor, and some of our belongings. Clothes, shoes, toys – things once assigned an earthly value – drowned. But unlike my husband, our sons, our pets, and me, all of them can be replaced.    

Due to the grace of God, the compassion of our friends and families, and the blessing that is homeowner’s insurance, we’re alive and better than ever. Life is a little more chaotic than usual, but unlike others who have suffered during catastrophes, we haven’t lost everything.

We are not destitute, as were many of the victims of Hurricane Katrina and the earthquake which placed an already devastatingly impoverished nation in ruins. My husband and I are fortunate enough to have careers we love that enable us to insure our property and provide ourselves and our children with some of the material comforts we desire. 

We are not staying in a shelter or an insurance-subsidized hotel. My incredibly altruistic parents have reopened the nest to all four of us, and embraced us, quirks and all, as our house is being returned to a livable state for two adults, a preschooler, an infant, and two mischievous young cats.  

We have not lost our faith. In fact, when I think about the miniscule nature of the damage to our home compared to those who lose everything, I thank God for protecting us and for sending us a reminder of his presence in our lives. But even more than that, I thank God for reminding me that I am never alone. Even if I think I want to be.

Before the tree fell on our house, I shut myself off from most of the world when I felt frustrated or depressed. I was always the one who had to be strong for everyone else.  I didn’t want to worry anyone else with my problems. They had their own. They didn’t need me to get them down.

I didn’t want my negativity to become contagious, so I hid during difficult times. I’d been through several tremendous losses over the past three years. I was hurting, but I was afraid to let anyone see it.

In the cocoon of my home, I was allowed to be weak. I’d read or write or watch TV and quarantine myself from the rest of the world. Except for God. I’d always pray to him and ask for strength.

The tree crashed into my isolation chamber and forced me to emerge before I thought I was ready. I had no place to hide from this latest trauma in a three-year series. Like the other Sandy survivors who had lost their power, I was forced to come outside of the little world I’d created for myself and communicate with the people around me. There were so many words spinning around in my mind I couldn’t begin to write them down (not that there was a quiet corner for me to concentrate to begin with).

So, I opened my mouth and shared what was on my mind. I opened my ears and listened. To students. To co-workers. To friends. To family. To God.

I began to realize that I’d had every bit of strength I needed to overcome three years of pain. I’d had it all along.

God will provide for us. That is certain. But, He also writes our life stories with certain characters in mind to play supporting roles. If we pay too much attention to the villains in our lives or think we are but a one man show, we’ve missed the point.

God gives us our friends, our families, and even kind strangers to provide us with everything we need to get through life’s obstacles. If we push them away, and we continue to be miserable, we are rejecting God’s love for us. Find those people in your life who love you when you are at your lowest. Embrace them. Thank them. Thank God for them. And never forget that they are there for a reason.

Catholic Review

The Catholic Review is the official publication of the Archdiocese of Baltimore.