After the earthquake hit, we lived in a trance-like state of being. That first day, filled with thousands of aftershocks, we huddled down in the basement with our neighbors. I sat on the floor and didn’t move from my spot for 7 straight hours. That night, as a family, we all five snuggled into the queen-size guest bed in the basement and slept together. No one left the room alone, we even went to the bathroom in pairs.
After a few nights of sleeping downstairs, we moved from the basement up to our bedroom.
The kids slept in our bed with us for a few more nights and then moved to our bedroom floor.
A couple of nights later, they moved into the hallway.
In time, they went back to their bedrooms.
Eventually, we went to the bathroom on our own again.
I go back to this memory every time I feel stuck in a healing journey. I can gently remind myself that healing isn’t always quick and it’s almost never instantaneous. It’s a process, a collection of breakthroughs as we move (sometimes slowly) away from the family bed eventually back into our own beds.
Last week, my husband (Ben) and I hiked a nearby mountain for date night. About halfway up, we turned the corner of a switchback, and flashbacks raced through my mind like a slideshow. Even though four years have gone by, the memories felt so much closer.
We had been standing in that very same spot – I remembered hugging the girls, watching them jump up and down with joy, letting them feel and kiss my belly… and only one week after that, we were sitting on the floor of the bathroom crying together. The worst part of the miscarriage for me wasn’t losing my baby – as shocking, awful, and unspeakable as that may sound, it’s true. The worst part for me was the sheer defeat I felt watching the spark of delight leave my girls’ souls.
I had failed them.
Four years and one healthy pregnancy (and thriving three-year-old baby brother) later, I still have never wanted to hike that mountain. But here I was, trekking up it with my husband, healing one more layer of pain from that traumatic story of my life. A layer I almost didn’t even know needed healing until I was in the moment, experiencing the freedom of it.
Another reminder that healing is an on-going process of breakthrough. A continual journey of discovering ourselves behind layers of grief and anger and fear. One step at a time.
As Ben and I ascended onto the peak, we looked around at the view, taking in all of its beauty. Then we looked ahead, toward the next row of peaks and the ridgeline extending out before us. In a dualistic world, we often forget about ridgelines. It’s always peaks and valleys. In this binary way of thinking, it can be easy to assume we are always either in a “mountaintop” or a “valley” season of life. But more often than not, we are on a ridgeline.
We might experience valleys and peaks, layers of healing and layers of grief, but most of our life is spent on the expanse of space between the peaks and valleys.
You’ve heard that God is a God of the hills and the valleys. He is also a God of the ridgelines. The everyday, ordinary times in our lives when we aren’t experiencing breakthrough but we also aren’t breaking down. We are still moving forward.
When I felt that healing breath of relief hiking past the spot that brought me grief so many years before, it came as sort of a surprise. I wasn’t sitting in a valley of despair for four years, climbing my way up to healing from my miscarriage. I was on a ridgeway, moving forward and healing layer by layer. That specific moment on the mountain was a surprise moment of healing that I didn’t even knew I needed.
When we wrap our minds around the idea that we are not always in a state of trauma OR a state of breakthrough, we can find grace in the ordinary in-between moments. We can also learn to become more aware of and grateful for the small “peaks” of breakthrough that we experience.
Growing up, we were told that time heals all wounds. It turns out that isn’t quite true. Time isn’t a healer.
But also, healing doesn’t come in an instant.
It takes time to traverse the series of peaks and valleys and stretches of ridgelines of our lives. And so it goes. Until one day, we notice that we are once again sleeping in our own beds, and once again going to the bathroom on our own.