When do you think you went into the wilderness? the Voice of God softly yet sternly asks.
Waking in my bed, there is a breeze of a tender flower, softly blowing through the recesses of my mind, cool as the spring morning, gentle in her touch, a touch though I no longer can feel. As much as just a gentle weight that one places with gladness on his own heart, so place I myself the burden of the loss of the so dear part of me, unable to find, unable to replace.
Can there be restoration for such a loss, when a part of you has been cut away, taken by an enemy that is as cruel as it is uncaring.
For she is no longer there lying beside me, how desperately I reach, still are the unrealized dreams of yesterday as I turn to hold her in the moments between sleep and wake, tear stained cheek, their salty taste dig deep in my soul.
I desperately reach for that part of me that is but a vacant painful void, scratching that no longer existing leg, attempting to rub away the pain that rests just below the surface of my awareness, I lay there hoping, even praying that maybe I may just be waking from some cruel nightmare, but alas no that part of the bed remains cold.
The amputated leg is still gone. The days, nights, years march on.
How funny as I think back to the memories of such a foolish boy, a lifetimes days and nights squandered like the clean clear waters of a seemingly endless spring, spilling out on the hot desert stones, until one day the last drop falls, and there I sit with a thirst that can not be quenched licking dry sand scorched lips, looking off to a distance towards false visions that only glimmer above the heat baked sands.
Father you need not tell me when I went into the wilderness, for I know full well, I had everything, I was in The Promised Land, and foolishly walked towards the mirage without prompting or push, just one foolish step after another, all on my own.
So here I am nearly twenty years after the death of my wife and unborn child, a four hour flight home from visiting a most precious friend. Pondering the recent events of my life, all taking form into a clearer and more evident path that seems to be forming below my feet. I decide to put on my headphones, not to listen to music, as much as to create a quite environment in which to rest in prayer with God.
As always I tend to grade whether I am in Wilderness or in the Promised Land based on productivity, but much more so the awareness of undeniable blessings from God, an area of drought I seem to continue to wander in continually for at least a very long time.
Change has been happening in my life at a speed where I might comfortably say could compare to the outside observer as being of the speed that could leave Jessy Owens in the dust; learning and growing more in the last year, then the entire forty seven years combined, and this last adventure was no different.
In this particular case a physical transformation was also evident, because my good friend I also was dating, a truly Godly woman Carol, convinced me to shave my head.
So here I sit, recently shaved bald head, hoping this somehow is a good thing, maybe in God’s plan and sitting quietly back at His throne, again, asking God stuff;
“So when are you going to let me come out of the wilderness?”,
the question comes out of the lips more as an appeal for mercy then an actual question.
A bit later I hear the Voice of God, soft tender as any good Father could be, patient with His son, holding him on a lap that never is to crowded, never gets tired, gently He says with only a little of a Fathers prompting, yet enough to let one know, an answer is not only wanted, but demanded;
“Tell Me, when do you think you went into the wilderness?”
I know exactly the day, the hour, the very moment, but to explain it means I should at least fill the reader in on a few points of reference and history.
I remember another day, not only but a moment before a most horrific day, the day of amputation, that day when she left, no, that day when she was taken, that day when my child was gone, taken, by an enemy that not only wishes me destroyed buy would destroy my family in it’s entirety, even to destroying my surviving two and half year old daughter.
We are driving and my wife softly says, and in a most casual way, turning towards me in her new car, facing me, making sure that I would not only hear but would truly understand the love and depth in which she spoke;
“I want to thank you for everything you have given me, you have given me more in this life then I have ever had even hoped for, I have truly had everything I have ever wanted.”
A truly strange thing for my nearly ten month pregnant wife to say to me just days before she was scheduled to deliver our second child. The levity of the statement I can hardly repeat without tears reservoir-ed up in the recesses of my soul, pressing to bust that seemingly unbreakable dam they hide behind. It was such an undeserved honor she was paying me.
You see, she was so much better of a person then me, she always wanted me to enjoy this life, even if it didn’t to help her situation, in as many possible appearances according to the eyes of that most worldly man who stood by and watched, me.
How many times did I go to the park, playing basketball with the boys, just to leave her at home to tend to the baby herself, never did she complain, just a kiss, a wish to stay safe, and a smile of a wish for me to have fun.
How many softball games, with the more then one beer after, at the bar with the boys, not to mention the more then one occasion of flirting with some other lost soul who happen to sit a seat or two nearby.
How many excuses to get out of the house, how many occasions of wondering on the edge of the promised land, what is the fool that has everything he has ever wanted just to wander away looking over the hill into the land of the enemy, looking with an eye of desire. I’ll tell you what kind of fool, your talking to him!
So much guilt, so many times a gift being ignored, casual complacency on my part, being rewarded with love and compassion on hers. Even to the point of wanting me to be everything I could be, dressing good, looking good, signing me up for a fitness membership, teeth whitening, a professional hair stylist and enhancement, things I would never have done myself.
She truly loved me more then herself… a clear manifestation of agape love.
We never made it to that glorious delivery day of the second child.
It is so easy to tell when a person is standing knee deep in the “you-know-what”, there is an awareness that even an animal will turn its nose up to, and I was in it.
When to bomb goes off unexpectedly, instantaneously, it never hit’s us front on, so as to possible allow us to flinch and maybe bare the brunt of said shock wave, no it always smacks us from a side we are not looking, let alone expecting. We always foolishly think we would, should, or possibly could see it coming! We always think we so foolishly have this world we surround ourself in some kind of control.
I have so often heard the secular world so foolishly speak of; “following it’s heart”, “positive thinking”, “speak things into reality”, and while these concepts have the components, slivers of God’s truth that make them just about usable or maybe somewhat believable, I will tell you, when you face the truth of a baseball bat square in the back of the head, and suddenly your world has changed instantly, un-expectantly, permanently, and consequentially darker, you begin to wonder if control was really the only true absolute you really ever had, and that was absolutely none!
Ok back at it…
So the bomb goes off, let me describe the feeling; a dull sensation that seems to press from all sides, a heaviness like you sit under an enormous amount of water, there is a sort of very faint but distinct ringing as if you just can’t quite hear right. Everyone and everything seems to have taken on a bit duller and lifeless color, food has lost it’s taste, but so has the day. Sleeping becomes your friend, no your lover, for maybe in her arms you might just find that part of you that no longer exists on this earth.
For whatever protective reason, all the memories that seemed to make you happy only moments before, are no longer within reach of your conscience memory, as if a wall has been constructed between now and everything you had ever loved. Had it not been for the one remaining child, the only remaining essence of that once satisfied loneliness, nothing on this earth could have kept you in the dark place of the event.
I remember buying a journal and wanting to write “A Day in the Life of Hilly” every night before bed as a sort of memoir for may daughter Nadia about her mother, the problem when I wrote the first sentence; “The day we were married..” nothing else could come out, not because it was to emotional, but I could seriously not bring up any conscience memories of the events of the day, no movement, no substance, no chain of events, lacking substance, feeling, emotion, just a shell, a black and white image that the day merely happened.
That was basically for everything prior to the day of her death. I believe God does that to protect you from the pain of all these emotions such a flood of memories could cause. Shock! This one lasted years.
Days turn into weeks, and months become as eventful as the breathing that sentences you to the days tedium, another meal bringing yet another series of repetitive steps in the marching around the jail yard of your heart.
God will only allow so many attacks of the enemy, only as many as we can take. But figuring out where exactly and what is an attack and not a blessing, now that is challenging, especially when you have one foot, strike that two, clearly planted in the world.
And this man could not take to much, escape was so desired yet seemingly impossible.
One thing though, I don’t believe I ever blamed God, myself yes, God, no. Praise God for that gift He so graciously gave me, an ability to resist blaming Him.
Oh yah, when did I walk into the wilderness?
Within a couple months, in walks a woman into my life, a beautiful woman, no perhaps the one of the most beautiful woman I had ever known, a woman’s woman, a Marilyn Monroe, of both spirit and passion, sensual, stimulating, exciting, and the rapid filling of the void that had erupted in the middle of this man’s chest months earlier was so rapidly filled I hardly remembered it there.
How can one come to a conclusion something is bad for you when it feels so good. Pain erases, suddenly a joyful spirit, a breath of life bringing light in, like I never felt possible, an absolute sense of comfort, compassion, love and completeness. When days begin to shine again, and a person actually looks forward to the day instead of the night, so did this girl friend bring into my day.
How can a man possibly know something like that was not good, I will tell you, when He forget’s to ask God!
Finding out at first she wasn’t for the taking, separated yet not married, as if that was bad enough, but actually fearing the answer on so many other levels, might even be worse, one doesn’t dare go to the Father with such a question. So was my guilt already.
Yes I know what people said; so soon after the death of a wife, the transition for the both of us, me a death, her an up and coming divorce, the giving of support we both provided each other, was it not worth the further fracturing of an already broken heart? You tell me.
God is such a good Father, He love’s his children so much, He wouldn’t want any of them to hurt, and in His infinite mercy only moments after I started in a relationship with my new girl friend, I found myself traveling to North Dakota to visits very good friends of both myself and my departed wife, my dear friends Al and Debbie.
In the cold country of the north stark of green, middle of the winter, where a man can almost hear the voice of God on the gentle cold winds, softly but lovingly calling him to live, fight, learn, and grow. In suddenly walks another, the sister, Debbie’s sister, Krystal. Did I say walks in, if is possible for an angel on earth to merely walk anywhere, I think she just appeared?
Either way, when I say angel, I would venture to say that it would be a serious understatement to say that Krystal was perhaps the purest, sweetest, kindest, caring, gentlest woman I had ever known, rivaling perhaps Hilly herself, and each and every one of those qualities was not only demonstrated completely in her soul, spirit, and eyes, but in every fraction of her physical being, literally as the winters sun light shown through her perfect blonde curls.
The next three or four days, but it may have only been two, were so filled with blissful discovery of just a couple of people starting to become friends, conversations sitting on the ground watching children play, a brisk walk out in the neighborhood, a drink with friends, lunch, coffee. Conversations somehow about everything and nothing at all, designed in an essence of discovery, somehow following a blissful rhythm that somewhere as I think back to it almost follows a heartbeat in pace, not mine, but one that a person can just feel, as they close their eyes and let their mind ponder on The Father of everything.
One night we even went out with everyone country dancing, ok, I admit it, I am not that big of a fan of country music, and less of my own skill in the dancing department. Growing up in the country, when I was a kid, the idea of being a cowboy seemed to be something people strived to move away from, rather then towards. I mean, didn’t they teach people to two step when they felt they where to uncoordinated to handle anything else?
Even with the dancing, fun, there was a comfort of all the friendships involved, ease in which we could get comfortable spiritually, and here was never even a frantic desire to step into any physicalness, not even a holding of hands.
Looking back, I believe I was so absolutely enthralled by the honor she showed me, that absolute respect was something that was not only needed, but demanded.
So once more, on the last day of my visit, we found ourselves again walking in the pure snow covered streets of the neighborhood near Al’s and Debbie’s home, casually talking about anything and everything, bringing to my amazement the fact that neither of us were a bit cold.
Then suddenly the piercing statement that suddenly quieted every sound around, Krystal suddenly said; “I would really like to date you, but I can’t, because your not ready.”
I wasn’t sure why, and while I should have probably been insulted and maybe even a bit upset by her suggesting to me I wasn’t ready, somewhere in her words I heard the voice of wisdom, knowing she was talking with an authority, a Godly wisdom. She was right!
I may have even put up some kind of half feeble fight to support my case, and then she added; “Six months, we will wait six months and then see, can you do that?”
What could I say; “Of course, I can wait six months!, can we at least write, talk on the phone?” I said, with only a marginal belief in my own heart, which I knew right at that moment, wanted so desperately to wait.
“Of course we can write” she says with the gentlest, kindest smile I believe I could ever bring to memory, and we continued our walk.
When did I walk into the wilderness?
Back to Arizona, and to the girl friend.
A few letters exchanged hands, and Krystal even sent me a picture, bringing to memory the visit pulling soft strings on my heart, but they were to weak in comparison to the chains that were being placed on my heart, chains I was placing there myself.
The letters soon faded and with it any thoughts of Krystal, my life continued to move in a spin resembling more of a circling of a wagon train ever tightening it’s circumference in some ill-fated attempt to stop the onslaught of the feared attackers even now wanting, waiting to pounce just outside of a view, in the dark underbrush of a dusks eye.
More and more entwined the girl friend and I become in the web of our own design, days of continued attempts to even reach but a glimpse of the comfort received initially, brings us to a place in which any and every moment we seem to fill with some kind of activity, not for building or growth, but just a substantiation of the addiction that has firmly planted itself into the side of another desert walker.
So when exactly did I walk into the wilderness?
After deeper and deeper walking into a regiment of daily chasing my tail, trying desperately even to find a glimpse of the relief of loneliness I seemed to discover back at the beginning of the year, I realized I had walked into such a deep hole that no visible out was possible. I had firmly placed as many chains on my heart as it could hold, with only minimal chance of a happy ending, but truth be told, if you asked any of my friends who observed from just outside, there really never was a chance.
I turned away any and all advice, turned away friends, family, even my face from God, just digging further and further into that desert I was already marching into. Months again blend into a gloom, that resembles more of a pollution, then a fog.
Again on a not so bright, typical day, I go into the office, another days treating peoples need’s, serving up some kind of relief, like a fast food drive through, how ridiculous to even attempt to help others when your own life is so fractured.
Suddenly in walks Krystal.
Amazingly with her, as she walked up to the counter I was standing behind, a brightness seemed to fill the work place, a breath of fresh air, a coolness that only one who had walked a very long time in the desert could appreciate. I could feel months of chains dark, heavy, clear from my eyes, but with it a nervousness began to fill my almost clearly shaking hand.
She softly says; “Hi” as she steps up to me in a voice that has only sweetness, patience, goodness, and purity in the soft sort of way, bringing only a few words to mind, and they are all about good!
My response was not quite as fluid, or kind, as a matter of fact it was somewhat cold, hesitant, and restricted; “What are you doing here?” is about all I could choke out.
The cold chill running up my spine, a chill of guilt, shame, and maybe even a tinge of fear, for the girl friend was standing right behind me, being that she by this time was also spending the majority of her days at the office as well.
There was no judgment, no guilt on Krystal’s face, a gentle compassionate comprehension of me was as evident on her entire demeanor, as the wholesome smile she extended.
Then just as softly but with an almost majestic authority and piercing clarity she answers;
“Its been six months.”
A almost heart stopping pause. Needless to say I was shocked, but for many reasons, she then added as if only to ease my tension, she was visiting her other sister Diane in Phoenix.
There needed not be any guilt, for I had plenty myself, and at that moment all I could manage to say was;
“Well have a nice trip…”
With just the most subtle hesitation, the never ceasing pure smile, she gives a most subtle nod and softly says;
That framed image has burnt a picture in my mind for years to come, as she turns to leave.
I believe I fondly think she may stopped for just a moment at the door, and gave me a final smile and soft wave, again wondrous light shining through her glorious hair framing that perfectly beautiful face, then disappeared forever into God’s world from which she came.
I clearly remember my own words screaming in my head as my heart so wanted to run after her;
“You Fool, what have you done!”
But the chains had been so set, there was no escape, I couldn’t move.
Here I am years later, now sitting in a car driving home from the airport just after landing, tear filled eyes, and God you ask me; “Do I know when I went into the wilderness?”
“I know exactly when I went in, right at that very moment!”
Then a soft yet compassionate voice resonates in my head, with such authority, yet peace it leave no doubt to Whom it belongs;
“That’s not when you went in, It’s when you could have come out!”
Tears flowing now.
“You went in all those months earlier when you started doing all that business dressing fancy, going to the gym, and especially all that business with your hair.”
I quickly snapped to attention and argued; “That doesn’t make any sense, my wife wanted me to do all that stuff?”
And He said;
“Yes, she wanted you to do those things as a gift to you out of her love”
“But you took it, and never put it down, out of vanity!”
“That’s when you walked in!”
How do we know when we walk into the wilderness?
Answer; When God tells us!
For all the angels I have had the privilege of knowing.
By Peter Colla
“Dear Jesus, grant me wisdom as to those things that may drive me to walk into the wilderness, and Father strengthen me to learn what I need while there, to grow, and to find Your path that may lead me back out again.”
“And Father bless those angels, those women who are as close as you can come to angels in this world, give to them all the possibilities and desires of their hearts.”
God loves us with an Everlasting Love; He dided for us; His will is always love and, when we accept it in loving trust, it is our Peace.
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