It’s creepy. I don’t keep a calendar listing a lifetime of October surprises but my body knows and it tells me as reliably as receiving an iphone reminder. My cortisol levels shoot through the roof and muscles tighten in hyperalert. There’s pressure where the cardiac sphincter is supposed to keep the food down. And sometimes my heart dances all syncopated.
It remembers all the October days that etched deep on my story and digs them up from the subconscious like skeletons in my closet.
I don’t intentionally dwell on this stuff. It’s more like a vampire bites, saps my lifeblood and leaves me emotionally anemic.
Almost every date has it’s own story. And by the end of the month, that ugly red devil with a pitchfork has poked me tender.
If you live up North, the world goes glorious in October, shouting the praises of God in reds and yellows and oranges. Nature’s brilliant color magnifies the contrast with the darkness linked to it’s popular holiday.
I’ve got my own personal dichotomy going too and I feel the polarity in my story.
It was in October that God gave me two of my babies. Welcomed into this world to Handel’s Hallelujah Chorus like princesses crowned in autumn’s gold, they nursed at my breast and contoured warm into the crook of my arm. These are my fall glory days remembered.
But much of the month connects me to broken stories. Some that exposed my brokenness and others that exposed me to the brokenness of the world.
It was 1982, and I was sixteen on a gray afternoon, chilly, an omen of winter approaching. I stood in the cemetery. My band stand partner’s seat had been empty all week and the missing girl lie in a box being lowered six feet under ground.
I wanted it to be a nightmare or an apparition, like I’d experienced in spook houses, where the gruesome turned out to be just cold spaghetti or red paint. But this was real.
Statistics say that every suicide affects approximately 200 lives. On that afternoon, I was one of them.
That same night, the phone rang and my Dad began to weep, his body shuddering. A joy ride through Amish country turned tragic when my relatives careened through a stop sign only to be broadsided by a semi and neither of them ever woke up to enjoy another autumn morning this side of heaven.
Other years there’s been black ice and ambulances, possessed ladders and constricted blood vessels and all of them hissed the snake’s lie, “It tastes good. It will make you wise,” but led to death.
And then, there are October stories of broken bodies, psyches and hearts that brushed up close against mine. Meningitis, pneumonia, cancer. Last year one kid wore a hospital bracelet, poked and prodded with needles and tubes and tests and machines, heaving violently all the vibrant life chucked clean out of her fragile body.
And at the same time another nursed a gaping chest wound and the relational schrapnel left everyone involved wearing bandaids.
Today, while I’m taxiing and baking and cleaning and schooling, I’m facing off a monster, the one who lives under my bed. He’s picking a fight and it’s a real cosmic battle.
For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places.
I know this routine. I’ve been here before. Many times.
I’ve fought both darkness and Light.
Taken issue with God about my story, wrestled to write one I liked better. But in the end, like Jacob I’m left with a limp.
And this day, I’m calling in the troops, the army of heaven to duke it out in the hidden places on my behalf.
I’m leaning hard on the Holy Spirit, my Comforter, who understands my groanings even when I can’t make sense of them myself.
And I’m retelling myself the truest story all.
The one about my Father
Who made me.
Who is familiar with my fragility.
Who designed the intricate interweaving of body and spirit.
And His Son Jesus, who took the ultimate hit for the team and claimed victory for my soul.
We all have stories.
Mine aren’t particularly unique, they’re just mine.
In your story, there are monsters too. And dates. And your body speaks a language all it’s own.
And if we really learn to be people watchers, it’s not hard to see all the limps, evidence of battle scars. Everywhere.
Maybe I’ll never understand this side of heaven how brokenness kisses God’s sovereignty but He claims that He delights to make the weak strong and to steady the gait of the ones who reach out dependently for His help. So I extend my hand to take the offer of His as we journey together to finish out the remaining hours of this October,
And next October,
And all of the Octobers God gifts me with.
The leaves crunch under my feet, evidence of His faithfulness in every season, proof of His mercies, fresh and new each morning.