Where did that come from?

Michael, Heidi, and Sevey

Michael, Heidi, and Sevey

I have died and gone to heaven! Well, not literally, but consider with me... 

·      I live in one of the most beautiful places on earth—and I don’t pay rent! 

·      I have a wonderful new husband, Michael. 

·     Sevey, my yellow lab, lives with us at Christian Berets, a conference and retreat center at 4600’ elevation in the Sierra Nevada mountains. 

·      I get to do ministry and work from “home,” but if I need anything, it is less than a half an hour away in Sonora. 

·     Recreational opportunities of ALL kinds are accessible within minutes. 

·     We go to an amazing church where I have gotten plugged in to the worship team ministry and Michael and I have been developing friendships with some incredible people.

This is just the short list!

This summer, “Christian Berets,” the retreat center that houses us and employs Michael, has offered programs for “differently-abled” people. While Sevey, our dog, is welcome to live here with us, I have agreed to try to keep her a distance away from loving, but unfamiliar, hands of the campers who come here. Better to be safe than sorry, certainly. We don’t want anyone to react adversely or to get scratched by Sevey’s thick toenails in her exuberance.

During the first week of camp, a gentleman in a motorized wheelchair was the pastor for the week. I found out very early on that he loves dogs. Sevey was no exception. He had no knowledge of the agreement I had made for my pup to keep a low profile. During a high-energy, out-door event when the campers were focused on water games, Sevey, Michael, and I tried to stealthily move past the group so as not draw attention. 

Much to my chagrin, the pastor in the wheel-chair spotted us and hollered an invitation for Sevey and I to join the crowd of people. Suddenly, all eyes seemed to be on Sevey. It was like being caught with my hand in the cookie jar! Michael, seemingly unphased by the people and their interest in our dog, kept walking to the building, while I tried to manage a situation that quickly felt out of control. (Hyper dog combined with many, many happy reaching hands...) 

To be honest, I was taken aback by Michael’s departure. 

Apparently, Michael had determined the best course of action was for him to go on ahead to find an alternative door through which Sevey and I could enter. That way, we could avoid drawing a crowd of people.

But...

...all I knew is that when I needed him, Michael had disappeared, leaving me to deal with the need to keep the dog away from eager hands, all by myself. In a split second, I had an internal, yet most extreme, reaction to this: It was an all-out, melt-down reaction, complete with feelings of abandonment, panic, bafflement, and worry! I panicked that I might be compromising the wonderful deal we had with the camp and that, by doing so, I might cause Michael to lose his job and our living arrangement.

But the abandonment piece was the strongest. What was that about? I could hardly call what Michael did abandonment.

When I finally got inside the building and into the quarters we now share, I was a basket case complete with tears.

Why on earth was I reacting this way? 

In a word, I was T R I G G E R E D. 

While, Michael had not abandoned me, in that moment when I had my initial reaction, something like a bungie cord from the past snapped me back into a series of moments when I hadbeen truly abandoned. 

The moment when my mom intentionally took an overdose of pills and an ambulance whisked her unconscious body away to the hospital. 

The moment when a social worker explained my parents had asked her to arrange for me to live with a foster family for a while.

The moment when my first husband announced our reconciliation would be disrupted by a divorce after all.

...the point is...I reacted not just to what was happening in that moment, but I was reacting to a series of moments when I felt similarly. In fact, chances are if I had allowed myself to feel the feelings I had when those events (and others) had happened, if I had processed them with the Lord’s help, perhaps that moment during the water games at camp wouldn’t have left me in a messy heap.

Throughout the years of our lives, we have all manner of experiences in our Genesis 3 world. Many are hurtful. Some, downright terrifying and, even, evil. What we do with our feelings that emerge in response will affect us not just at the time, but also in our future. Sometimes, even decades later! 

As a child, I didn’t know how to make sense of many of the things I saw and experienced, but now, as an adult, I can choose notto run from the pain and heartache. I can choose not to numb myself to the pain, loneliness, and rejection I feel by bingeing on Netflix, inhaling a package of Oreos, drinking another glass of wine, etc. I can choose, instead, to run to God to experience His comfort and care. He wants to help me to process what happens to me in this life. 

Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ,

the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort,

who comforts us in all our troubles...

~ 2 Corinthians 1:3-4a

When I have an inexplainable, out-of-proportion, this-makes-no-sense sort of reaction to something like I did that day with Sevey and Michael, it is a good indication that I need to step back and evaluate what feeling needs to be processed with my Lord, the Father of All Compassion and Comfort.

~ Heidi Bylsma-Epperson