By Christy Heitger-Ewing
“It’s gone. It’s just gone,” I mumbled to myself as I rapped my pen on the clean, crisp pages of my journal. After 40 years of seamless praying, I was like a superhero who had been stripped of my powers. What was stifling my voice? What was blocking my ability to pray? What was suppressing that connection between me and my Creator? It always came back to the same thing: extreme hurt coupled with overwhelming fear.
A Lost Connection
“How can this be?” I wrote in my journal. “I’ve been baptized. I attend church and Sunday school every week. I participate in Bible studies. I listen to Christian radio. I even write for Christian magazines. So why can I no longer talk to God?”
I tried giving myself the time and space to sort things out because I didn’t want my conversation with God to feel forced, fake, and futile. Nevertheless, it was weird for my heart to fall silent. For my lips to go numb. For my mind to turn blank.
Finally, after months of muted prayer, I got frustrated with myself.
“You’re gonna do this!” I told myself, like I was psyching up for a big race. But my mouth remained closed, my hands went clammy, my stomach did flip-flops, and my heart palpitated the way it does before giving a speech.
It was an odd dichotomy within my soul because on the one hand, I craved a connection with Christ, and on the other hand, extreme pain had turned my heart to stone. Deep down, I feared facing hurt again and again.
My mind rewound to February 19, 2013, when my cell phone rang. It was my mom calling to tell me that she had just ingested a bottle of sleeping pills. I called 911 on my landline and kept her talking on my cell while waiting for the ambulance to arrive.
When the drama was over, everyone hailed me as a hero.
“You saved your mom’s life,” the paramedic told me.
“She wouldn’t be alive if it weren’t for you,” my dad said.
“Thank goodness you answered your phone,” friends commented.
“It wasn’t me,” I insisted. “That was the Holy Spirit at work.”
When I got word that Mom was going to recover fully from her overdose, I dropped to my knees and burst into tears. “Thank you, Lord, for giving Mom a second chance!” I cried.
The next day, I drove 500 miles to be by Mom’s side, talking to God most of the way there. I prayed for strength, knowledge, and trust. I knew Mom had been battling clinical depression, but I had no clue that she was in such dire straits.
The moment I entered Mom’s hospital room, I was startled by her fragile appearance. It wasn’t so much her physical health that shocked me but rather her mental frailty that shown through in her sullen, fearful eyes. She said very little but her body language spoke volumes. I wanted to comfort her, love on her, and improve her spirits. I laid beside her in her single bed, holding her trembling hand and promising her that everything would be OK.
I was wrong.
The Day My World Shattered
Six weeks later, I got a call that shattered my world. Mom had attempted suicide again. Only this time she succeeded. Again I fell to the floor, but instead of praising God, I yelled, “Why?!”
Why would you let my mom suffer like that?
Why did you take her from me in such a cruel way? Why would you let such an unthinkable thing happen to such a wonderful person?
Why didn’t you let me help her?
All of my why questions remained unanswered. I couldn’t sleep. Couldn’t focus. Couldn’t function. Couldn’t pray.
Friends looked at me with pity in their eyes. “Have faith,” they said. “She’s in a better place.”
The platitudes didn’t comfort me, however, not when I was feeling blindsided, battered, and beyond broken. Besides, I didn’t want Mom in Heaven; I wanted her here with me.
It’s not like I’d been immune to heartache up to this point. During my 40+ years of life, I’d battled an eating disorder, dealt with marital strife, and struggled with infertility issues. Every trial brought me closer to God. Whenever I felt isolated, afraid, or despondent, God got me through. Whenever I felt lost, misunderstood, or confused, God sorted it out. Whenever I felt anxious, conflicted, or timid, God was my go-to guy.
One night I had a vivid dream where I fell into a pit of total darkness. When I finally hit bottom, two monsters with sharp, shiny knives started chasing me. Breathlessly I ran until all my energy was depleted. Then I fell and the monsters stabbed me repeatedly. I awoke from the nightmare sweaty, disoriented, and exhausted.
Return to Prayer
I splashed cold water on my face and went downstairs to watch TV. I didn’t know what show was on, but I could tell right away that the female character was grieving. Her face was worn and weary, her eyes full of sadness. Immediately I connected with her.
“I don’t know how to go on,” the woman said to the gray-haired man sitting beside her. He was older, presumably wiser. He had traveled through life and could offer advice on the best way to navigate it.
“Being alive is a very lonely proposition,” the man said. “You have to mostly carry your pack alone. Nobody gets as much help as they need.”
Tears streamed down my cheeks. This is how I’d felt for two solid years. Alone. Overloaded. Desperate for aid. Thirsty for companionship. So in a way, I felt like this character’s assertion was right on the money. And yet the sentiment left me feeling deflated.
I flashed back to a conversation I’d had with a friend who told me her husband refused to take his car to the mechanic to fix the fried radiator, then complained daily about how he wished he had a viable vehicle.
Something clicked. I was the broken car in this scenario.
I muted the television and bowed my head for the first time in over two years.
“Hi, God,” I mumbled awkwardly. “I know it’s been a while, and I’m sorry about that. It’s not that I’ve forgotten you. And it’s not that I don’t love you, because I do. I’ve just been a broken mess since Mom died. Of course, you know that.”
I paused and took a deep breath.
“I can’t keep carrying around this pain,” I said softly, my face wet with tears. “I need you to carry my pack and be my guide. Because I miss feeling happy, healthy, and whole. And I miss you, Lord.”
It would take time to rebuild from rock bottom, but that was OK. I learned that rock bottom creates a solid foundation on which to rebuild a life.
The Lord fed me hope like a slow drip through an intravenous tube. He helped me find my voice, my strength, and my spirit.
Ultimately, my prayer life returned. I could once again face the world fearlessly. I was whole again.
Christy Heitger-Ewing is a freelance writer and magazine columnist who lives in Avon, Indiana, with her husband and two sons.