Restored

There was darkness outside and a chill inside my uncle’s house. A few days earlier, this same living room had been filled with beautiful flowers surrounding a tiny mahogany coffin. The pastor who was now leading us in prayer was doing a good job of conveying God’s message to those of us who had said goodbye to a beloved little boy who had lived only a couple of months.

“Comfort, comfort my people, says your God,” the pastor intoned from Isaiah 40.

I prayed with everyone else, trying to hold back the tears about the tragedy of it all. Was our little family going to witness rapid fire losses again? The little boy had been the first grandson after a bevy of beautiful girls descended from our long departed parents.

The pastor then walked towards me, praying loudly and touching my head. What? Why…

“The Lord is going restore you. Hold on to His promise,” he said, before moving back to the centre of the room to continue his sermon.

His words produced a warm feeling that flooded my heart, pushing against the grief and fear. Was this Word about the bereavement my family was going through, or was it to heal the decades long trauma of losing loved members in rapid succession?

2017.

At that point in my life, my more recent trauma was from a roller-coaster of disasters.  These included eviction from my apartment, the fire sale of all my property and having to leave Small and Baby daughter behind in a failed attempt to emigrate, and the serious illness of Big daughter that had almost scuttled her own travel abroad. I was now back in Uganda, living with my girls in a really tiny one bedroom apartment with no furniture, sitting on the floor to eat our lousy meals and tying to ignore the smell of manure and the constant bugs that flew in from the neighbour’s backyard farm.  There was rarely any running water and the power supply was erratic. At times, I had no fare for public transport and would walk the two hours back home from the job I had been lucky to secure.

2022. Am I restored?

When the young Man of God laid his hand on my head that day, I could not dare to believe in any happy endings.  After all, we had just lost a precious life and for sure it triggered the fear of more loss. However, I must say that the Word he shared brought a glimmer of comfort that I began to latch on to on grim days.  And in the years since then, I have held on to that promise. Of course it is my habit to scour the Word of God for promises that feed my faith and hope. But I cannot forget that encounter with the pastor because there is something about someone walking up to you and declaring a message that is specially meant for you.

A little more than a year later, my brother was blessed with another baby son who was heartily celebrated like the miracle of restored joy that he was. A kindergartener now, his beautiful face has a constant smile that is surely an emphatic underscoring of God’s comforting nature.  

However on my part, the reality of restoration has been more complex. Restoration for me has neither been a return to what was, nor a replacement of what was lost. It’s more like a misshapen jar that needed to be completely broken apart so that the pieces could be put together in the order they should be.

When mental health professionals talk about the different ailments that hurt people’s psyche, they often refer to them as disorders.  There is some stigma around that term but for me, I find that it helps me understand how one’s choices and behaviours result from how they have experienced life.

If there has been a disruption to the normal progression of things, the mind is often forced to find a way to cope. As the mind builds up the tools to deal with whatever has happened, one may be lucky that it finds the appropriate response.

But when the breach is too hard to overcome, the mind deals with it in a way that may result in disordered behaviour.  These are behaviours that are considered maladaptive and can cause significant personal distress and interrupt daily functioning.  And the mystery is that while one person might react to an adverse event in a way that allows them to bounce back, another may be completely devastated by the exact same event. There is a lot of context and prior factors that determine this.

At first I thought that my restoration meant that I would return to some form of financial security, enjoy a comfortable standard of living, and have an easier time of fulfilling my parenting responsibilities.  I thought I was going to progress to a 2.0 version of me, climb out of Psalm 40’s slimy pit of muck and mire and stand firmly on solid ground.

In fact, I started to latch onto any teachings, doctrines and motivational talks that promised this type of restoration. I would come back bigger and better, and show all those who had written me off that this kick-ass lady was back!

2022. Am I restored?

What I discovered was something different.  When God promised to restore me, He was not intending to recreate a picture from dotted lines like some pre-schooler.  Instead, what I have gone through can only be described as a total smashing of who I was and the creation of something new.

Because there was no way my life could improve or my wholeness be restored without addressing the root of my disordered behaviours, the fears and traumas that drove my choices, and the neediness that trapped me in unhealthy relationships. 

I attempted to do jobs that would pay the bills but they sucked the life out of me. I attempted to escape the introvert’s hell of sharing a cramped bedroom with my children, but I was also evicted from the bigger house. I even reclaimed my status as a car owner so I could return to independence and increased efficiency. Let’s just say that Safe Boda is now my friend.  I bored my friends stiff with my tales of woe and completely lost their respect, forever doomed to be an object of pity. I tried to fit in with my relatives like the mature and decent member of society I am supposed to be but I could not keep up with the accompanying expectations. They continued to frown upon my ratchet lifestyle and nonentity vibe.

When I had finally stopped running around in circles and fallen down in a dizzy heap, I heard from God.

“Are you done?”

To experience restoration, I have had to deconstruct everything I thought I believed. About myself, about the people in my life, about God. I have had to question whether what I take as conventional wisdom about how to live life is true. I have constructed a new paradigm of what success means to me, and rearranged my priorities so I can achieve it.  I have had to learn that the way I used to approach adversities big and small was quite disordered. Surely there were other ways I could respond to offense. There must be different ways to conduct friendships. Can’t parenting be done differently from how I was raised? Do the common perceptions about what it means to be a single mother hold true in my case? Could what I consider limitations actually be a gateway to superpowers borne out of resourcefulness? Should I let what people say about me have that much influence on my feelings and decisions? Can I unhook from both praise and criticism and just do me?

In Joel 2:25, the LORD says, “I will give you back what you lost to the swarming locusts, the hopping locusts the stripping locusts, and the cutting locusts.”

Now when I think about restoration, it’s not in the same way I did before, framed in Disney and Hallmark movie terms. I consider restoration to be a metamorphosis, with my core DNA intact but being adapted to this beautiful new creature that is the real me but a stronger, wiser, more resilient and secure version. A version that is true to who I was originally created to be. A restored version.

2 thoughts on “Restored

  1. “Are you done yet?” LOVE that! Yes, God has said that to me a time or 2. But He knows it’s part of the process that brings us closer to Him and positions us for Him to do His glorious work of restoration… in stages. You expressed it so well, while we are looking for the restoration to show up in the visible things, the tangible stuff, God is interested in the deeper work. That is more lasting. For the visible stuff is only a flimsy bandaid, if the deep healing and reordering is not done. We have to get to that place where God asks us if we’re done yet so that that can begin. He is so faithful, even when we don’t get at all what He’s doing. Am loving sharing this journey with you.

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