Three and a half years ago, I walked out of the last Women’s Bible Study that I attended with any regularity.
Actually, I fled.
I’d been attending for a while, a year or two, and I loved it. But that Thursday morning, it suddenly felt very unsafe. One week prior, crisis hit when our senior pastor took his own life. A man who loved well, and was well-loved… my heart still revolts at the reality of it all.
That morning, waves of shock were still washing over me and I was feeling raw. I thought Bible Study was exactly where I needed to be, with others who were busted wide open too. But broken hearts don’t always behave, do they? I sat and listened while women, every bit as shocked and confused as I was, grasped at straws, looking for a reason why.
It’s a normal reaction.
It’s a coping mechanism.
But it wasn’t my coping mechanism or reaction. And so, when speculation waded into waters that gave a backseat to the profound mental illness he had endured, I bristled. I more than bristled. I burst into flames. And I ran. I willed my legs to slow down, but they absolutely would not. One woman hurried after me, stumbling through an apology for careless words, but I couldn’t hear her. My feet pounded the parking lot pavement, and all I could hear was, “He’s dead. He’s dead. He’s dead.”
I’d wanted a spot to pray for his wife and kids. I’d wanted a place to beg for peace. I’d wanted to speak of how hard he fought. Mercy.
I didn’t go back. Nobody ever seemed to notice, and I was glad because I didn’t want to explain myself. I didn’t want to put anyone in the awkward spot of trying to talk through what happened that day. But if I’m honest, I also wanted to be mad. I wanted to write them off as unloving gossips.
I wanted to throw my own grief all over them and call it righteous anger.
Three and a half years have both flown and stalled. It still seems unreal that such a man fought and lost. Distance and growing up a little bit have taught me that in the wake of suicide, everyone is a as much of a mess as you’d expect them to be. Grief coupled with confusion is a recipe for hard hearts and thoughtless words. We’re all trying to turn back the clock a little, to find a way it could’ve been untrue in the end.
But it doesn’t work that way. That messy, bottom of the pit spot where we all flounder for a good long while, it’s a breeding ground for even more hurt, even more mess. When pieces begin to be put back together, you find that a whole lot of trust has gone missing. And that rebuilding that trust might take even longer than healing from the initial wound.
So, I’ve stayed away. Despite my newfound grace for us all on that Thursday morning, I couldn’t will myself to walk back in, but not without regret. I’ve missed hearing from women. I’ve missed the clarity that studying together brings. I’ve missed the respite in the middle of my busy weeks. But I couldn’t create trust out of thin air and I was too scared to relive it all, either in reality or in my memories.
So God gave me one woman. Just one. One that wasn’t there that day, though she was a member of our church at the time. She attends a Women’s bible Study across town. When she asked me if I’d like to go, I sputtered and spit. She sent me a text a few weeks later letting me know that registration was open. Before I could even process, I jumped online and filled it out. I started back two weeks ago.
It’s a step.
I’m in a small group, about the same size as the one that I sat in 3 1/2 years ago. They’re a lovely, honest group. We sing together, and I clench my fists, because I’m feeling it. I’m feeling what it’s like to be in a room with women, with all our stories and baggage, with our own questions and coping mechanisms, with our big, beautiful hearts that are pounding as the guitar strums and hands are raised and songs are cried or whispered. I’m feeling what it means to stand there while tears fall down my face and everyone can see that I’m not okay. But I hear the sniffles around me, and I suspect there are others who aren’t okay either.
But we’re here, trying to get well.