Before and After
A single event cleaved my life in two. What had been a continuous life now consisted of two parts: before and after. Maybe you’ve experienced a similar watershed. Before the event you had one sort of life, and afterward you had a different sort entirely.
A cleaving experience involves loss. The before is gone, never to be regained. In the sort of paradox that language sometimes hints at, we cannot cleave to our before because our life has been cleaved into after. We can only go forward. In this circumstance, how is it possible to heed the voice of the prophet Isaiah? Can we trust that God will provide a pathway through the wilderness and water in the wasteland?
When I was the victim of trauma, my life became wilderness and wasteland. I believed that everything good about me had been ruined. All my freshness had been dried up. In fact, anything fresh seemed foolish and naive. My “after” self was tempted to despise my “before” self.
How could I be made new, as Isaiah says? I needed to reckon with my former self—to love her, but also to recognize that she had been forever cleaved from me. This involved journeying through grief. Eventually I found myself in a new place. This was not a full circle, simply returning to where I’d been, but a spiral. No longer founded on the naïveté of before or caught in the despair of after, my faith was newly confident in the goodness and love of God. How did I get there? The Spirit made the path.
Ruth Everhart is a Presbyterian pastor and the author of Ruined, which received a 2017 book award from Christianity Today. You can find her at rutheverhart.com, on Twitter at @rutheverhart, or on Facebook at RuthEverhartAuthor.