Some of you may remember this little story.
One Saturday morning several years ago, I awoke to my daughter saying, "It smells like Death in here."
Since I knew she'd never actually smelled Death before, I wondered how she could identify the odor with such conviction.
I opened the bedroom door and instantly knew the answer.
No one has to tell you. You just know.
Field mice, so cute in storybooks and in Mr. MacGreggor's garden, aren't so cute when they run amok in your house. Apparently, one decided to kick the bucket in a hall closet, and a thorough search finally revealed his decaying little corpse. I gagged and ran off, while my man took the offending body away in a Ziplock.
The stench of Death, however, lingers on, despite the air fresheners, Lysol and candles.
And so began the day.
We had our lists of chores to do: my husband's main task was to replace a broken seat belt on the driver's seat of ye olde Explorer. And he was angry about it. Literally doing an impossible job, at one point he came in to get some water and said, "Don't talk to me."
I knew it was bad, so I pursed my lips and left him to his solitary manly misery.
And suddenly, he was banging on the door, covered in blood from head to toe.
Face contorted, he stood dripping red, while my mind raced a thousand directions. I choked back terror, my hands frozen in front of me and I braced myself for him to fall over from blood loss. DEAR GOD! OH GOD. Where's my phone! 911! It was obvious he'd been shot with a shotgun at point blank range. He was a horrific, awful sight.
How was he even standing up?
Panic shook me.
"It's P-P-PAINT!" he managed to say. "A red spray can exploded in the back seat and it's everywhere! I can't see, it's in my nose and throat and it's EVERYWHERE inside the truck!"
The entire contents of the can had detonated with volcanic force, when he'd accidentally punctured it with a sharp tool in a moment of careless frustration.
(But this we learned later, much later, when he was speaking again.)
So we all sprung into action. Meghan, Grayson, Tom and me - without a moment to lose to save our vehicle's interior.
We madly ripped towels into pieces and began wiping everything down with paint thinner. The back seat was solid RED, as was the carpet, backs of the front seats and all over the ceiling. The insides of the doors and windows were thick with quickly-drying enamel.
We felt like the CSI: Miami team, cleaning up a gruesome crime scene. Blood and guts everywhere.
There, in the sweltering afternoon, we toiled for hours...in stunned silence, except for an occasional whisper of, "Pass the paint thinner please."
Finally, out of the pall, Meghan asked, "Does this kind of thing happen to OTHER people too, or just us??"
There was a long pause, and we all looked at each other. There we were, sweaty, greasy, covered with red paint, our rubber gloves dissolving like decaying flesh at the fingertips, and feeling like survivors of the French Revolution in Les Miserables.
Then we just fell. over. laughing.
Oh dear LORD! We were such a pitiful sight.
When we pulled ourselves together, I assured her, "Oh, no, Sweetheart. This kind of thing ONLY happens to us."
Tom and I laughed over that incident again just the other day.
But it reminded me how often we are quite sure we are alone in our miseries. Surely, no one else has experienced what we are going through. Surely no one else drives a fifteen year old Explorer with a broken seat belt and red paint all over the interior. Surely everyone else drives new cars with working amenities. We are such losers.
Surely no one else at church has been cheated on. No one's child is this defiant. No one else has panic attacks. Nobody else knows what it's like to fail as a mother as I have. No one else battles this addiction. No one else's family is this dysfunctional. No one else....
The list goes on.
And in our shame and brokenness, we don't tell our stories and we don't let the outside world know what's happening on the inside. It's too hard. It's too much exposure. It's too risky.
And yes, maybe it is too much for general consumption, but I believe there are moments we should take to simply be real. To say what's in our hearts. To confess our fears. To let ourselves cry. To tell our stories. To say, "this happened to me."
I've found that the more I let people see the real me - the parts that make me feel alone - the more I find others who have similar stories and experiences. The more I let down my guard, the more others take me in. Funny. I wouldn't have thought.
And it's amazing to know that there are others who connect with our pain and our struggles.
Listen. You are not alone. We are in this journey together.
I believe we should be safe places for one another's stories. We can't fix each other, but we can listen. We can offer a shoulder and a tissue. We can nod and we can say, "I know you are hurting." We can cry together. And we can look to the Healer together for answers. Perhaps sharing your story will be the very point of healing for someone else. You'll never know until you try.
What is your story? What has happened in your life that makes you feel that no one else will understand?
I believe your life, your story, your experience, has purpose that will reach far beyond what you can imagine.
Trust God to create something beautiful out of the very thing that makes you feel alone.
Gen. 50:20 As far as I am concerned, God turned into good what you meant for evil, for he brought me to this high position I have today so that I could save the lives of many people.