When life runs you over: the inside story


Lila would never tell anyone about that time. She knew it would sound very sad, and it wasn’t, really.” (Marilynne Robinson, Lila, p. 4)

How do you tell a story of grace, of being so deeply loved that you know you can trust this love? How do you tell it so your listeners can feel the story from the inside as a breath-taking place of beauty and lovedness, rather than leaving them standing at a distance looking at the outside of the story and judging it sad?

I sat last week with the first of the six hundred pages of emails I’d sent from Afghanistan, emails that Mom had found and returned to me. I sat to mine the wealth of concrete detail that I needed for the next stage of the book I’m writing, oblivious to the fact that I’d placed my desk in the center of a major highway.

A truck travelling north slammed into me as I relived stories I remembered: the feel of the wild dog’s teeth behind my knee, moonlight reflecting in the eyes of the rest of the pack encircling me. Then a van travelling south ploughed over me, crushing me with the forgotten story of the mother of six who bled to death with my hands in her abdomen. One after another the memories flew at me, no space between to scrape myself up off the road. How did I ever live this when I can scarcely bear to read it now?

I’ve booked my first appointment with a trauma counselor. That’s the part that might sound sad to someone standing outside, looking at the story. More than six years after leaving Afghanistan and this is still surfacing, still raw?

But to me, inside the story, this place is beautiful. Crazy and overwhelming and uncomfortable—and one of the most beautiful places I’ve been.

Jesus, how do you want to love me in this place?

I find myself again in a womb. “In Him we live and move and have our being. We are His offspring.” (Acts 17:28) It’s dark, and I’m curled head-down. I can feel the warm, stretchy walls of the womb containing me, God “enfolding me with strength and steadfast love” (Nan Merrill, paraphrasing Ps 62:2). It’s timeless here in the One who has all the time in the world and knows how to use it to gently awaken me to the beat of His heart. And it’s sheltered here in this place where I can dare to let myself feel: everything I feel, I feel here, safe in the God who surrounds and holds me.

There is an eye of the storm, even when the storm is happening in your own mind and body. There is a place still deeper. And that place knows that all of me is safely held and loved.

This Post Has 9 Comments

  1. KD


  2. momfan

    Your Dad and I have both just read this and cried. It is so beautiful and painful and powerful all at once. We ache for all you’ve gone through and are going through, and at the same time thank God for the hope and strength and beauty he’s giving you in the midst of the pain. We are so grateful for you, Treasure, and for all the good that has come and will come from your suffering. Tons of love!

  3. Bill Bonikowsky

    I am at a loss for words, Carolyn. I can only imagine the rooms you will have to visit in the hallways of your memories in the writing of your book. Praise God that He will travel there with you.

  4. carol turner

    Hi there dear Carolyn, just want to say praying for you. I too don’t forget the dogs surrounding me in Lap. One winters night, all the memories when not able to help. Then the Lord reminds me of the positives and the lives saved, the enabling we gave to others to carry on and then my heart rejoices.
    Love Carol

  5. Jean Hawkins

    Dear Carolyn, I am praying for you, too. I only really know one story from your time there, and I saved the photo of the little girl you wrote about and that one story is trauma enough, yet you have so many. I have kept her picture and still pray for her. I cannot imagine the pain you are feeling now as you process the 24/7 of your work there, but I thank our Father that He strengthened you to be able to give his light, hope, and love to so many who were so in need of it. And I love Leena’s message that “He is still there”. I pray now that He will give you the strength to process all, and at the same time, protect your heart and bring healing as only He can do. It is a profound thing to be able to see and feel His grace in the midst of such evil and pain and I am thankful that you can see it and feel it. May you see clearly His redemption of your time there, and His restoration of your heart as you heal in His love and mercy. Much love, Jean

  6. Julie

    This meaningful entry reminds me of Sara Groves’ profound song, “I’ve Just Showed Up for My Own Life.” Thank you for both your service and your honesty.

  7. Don Johns

    Thank you for sharing your inner self. I had your post saved to read and just did so this morning. I understand where you are as our family is just now getting help to sort out events of 3 years ago. I fully agree it is a beautiful place God takes us. May God continue to enrich your soul along your journey.

  8. Bonita Grace Dirk

    Thanks Carolyn for sharing, as I read your post I felt the beauty and was excited that you are going to see a trauma counselor. I’m excited to see what God will do through this!

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