I didn’t know my husband as a young boy. But I’ve seen pictures and I’ve heard stories. So I know my marathon-running husband was a chunky (and frugal) little guy growing up.
He remembers vividly one summer investing his careful savings in a Styrofoam surfboard from the discount store.
He held on to it all week, dreaming of being pulled behind his dad’s pontoon boat, wind in his hair, proving his athletic prowess to all aboard.
When the weekend finally came, he was still hanging on to his vision and to his new prized possession.
After waiting hours for his dad to stop the boat long enough for him to jump in, he wedged that Styrofoam board between his third-grade legs and leaped boldly into the lake below.
Instead of surfing, though, he found himself submerged. As he looked up at the surface of the water, he saw two pieces of Styrofoam headed in opposite directions.
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When Life Breaks in Two
I can relate to that feeling. I’ve seen life split in two, pre-illness and post-illness.
After first hearing the words, “end-stage heart failure from an unknown cause,” the health and stamina and security I thought would last were suddenly gone.
As the mother of a fellow survivor told me, “Everything is different for you now. For the rest of your life, everything is a big deal.”
Still, for months, I clung to the broken pieces of the Styrofoam life I once knew. I spent hours researching, desperate to get back to where I was pre-illness.
We’ve all had these moments when something we value comes apart, a stronghold breaks in two. We scramble to gather the fragments of our life, all the while feeling like we are drowning as we watch the pieces float away.
Reinvention strategist Marshawn Evans Daniels calls such times “split rock moments.”
Rocks split for Moses at Horeb. Along with the curtain being torn and the earth shaking, rocks also split after Jesus’s death.
Such moments are always designed to pry our fingers from the temporary and reveal to us what is eternal.
But often that means going from the familiar and expected, to the unknown and unforeseen.
God desires to separate us from our safe to prepare us for His glorious, from our comfort to His calling. Just like the Israelites leaving Egypt and Jesus on His way to Gethsemane.
Splitting, breaking away, was meant to be freeing; it’s what God has planned for His people from the beginning. But floating in that broken space is a difficult place to be.
From my journal:
Yesterday we were moved to cardiac ICU. A friend stayed with me, so my husband was finally able to go on a run earlier in the day. Last night he told me what he thought about and prayed about during his run. He said he cried a lot. And then he said he did some begging for my life. But in the end, he said he knew it was going to be ok even if God didn’t answer that prayer. I wasn’t in the frame of mind to take that very well. I burst into tears and yelled at him, “What? What does that even mean? I’m not going to die! Can you just leave my room right now?” (I was hooked up to too many machines, or I would have stomped out.) I was heartbroken, feeling like my closest comrade was abandoning the platoon. I fell asleep on a tear-soaked pillow and woke up to a medical team that thinks I might never leave this hospital.
The Saving Part of the Split
As painful as it can be, there is good news on the other side of the split.
Just as for the Israelites following Moses, and for us following Jesus, saving water comes through the divide. Each time, after the rocks split, water flowed. Life renewed.
Instead of looking at the broken pieces, God calls us to focus on what’s coming through that split. The rock was never the gift, the saving water was.
Grace has come. And He is writing a new post-break story.
My husband may not have learned it that day at the lake, but he started to.
After his surfboard broke, he caught a grateful glimpse of his dad’s hand reaching through the lake surface to pull him into the boat.
He started to learn that things break and disappoint us. He started to learn that we should only count on the eternal.
Years later, as a young adult, my husband lost that pontoon-driving dad of his. And my husband came out of that split rock moment with a stronger faith.
So I wasn’t surprised when my husband called our children from my ICU room the day after that journal entry.
We all talked honestly about the future, about life past the broken pieces. I am forever grateful that he helped me survive and learn from my split rock moment, too.
After the Break
Following my diagnosis, I began to write; something I never took the time to do in a safer, healthier life.
I started a blog, and then dove into writing articles. My first book was published in February 2023 with CrossRiver Media, Divine Detour: The Path You’d Never Choose Can Lead to the Faith You’ve Always Wanted.
Through the opportunities presented by this award-winning book, I have formed a new ministry and purpose in coming alongside other longtime believers who find themselves questioning on a disappointing, painful path.
I often wonder what would have happened to me and my faith if my life hadn’t been snapped in two like my husband’s Styrofoam surfboard. If I hadn’t had a “sell by” date stamped on my head. I may have continued to value the temporary things over the things that last forever.
I may have never experienced the freedom in brokenness.
I may have never appreciated the saving water.
Most importantly, I may have never been given the opportunity to look up from the broken pieces to see my Father’s hand rescuing me.