catapult magazine

catapult magazine

Vol 8, Num 5 :: 2009.02.27 — 2009.03.13


Crashing Waves

Identity lost and reality found

Crashing waves

Image ©Joanna Shumaker 2005

The crashing waves have come in and beat mercilessly on the frailty of my little life in the sand.  How quickly it can be erased!  It only takes one crash of the waves and the life you dreamed of can quickly be erased from the sand.  My dreams were etched deeply, with all the glory of the celestial stamp of approval.  My talents and skills were built up with beautiful stones and shells on pillars of golden sand.  Then, waves of huge proportiosn came in and so quickly erased them away.  I was left with small lines and little hills of sand in place of grand illusions.  Where was the celestial stamp? After all, wasn’t I building on the premise of that stamp’s guidance?  Where were the stones and shells of pondering, practice and promotion? 

They were all gone.

In their place was one small gem, made in the Creator’s hands, reflecting light upwards to be a pillar of beauty that only He can make.  It was small now, but with time would grow larger as the Creator added to it.  Yes, it would always be pounded by the waves, but left with a deeper hue and more brilliant because of those waves, ever reflecting the image of its Creator.

By age 32, I was fulfilling my life’s dream.  I had just been hired to be a high school history teacher at a large private school in Texas.  I had two wonderful kids and a husband who was fulfilling his dream of being a NCAA volleyball coach.  Or so we thought.

Within weeks of being hired for the teaching job, my health declined rapidly.  I had short-term memory loss, migraine headaches and trouble with my vision.  We thought at the time that I was forgetting directions because we had just moved to a new state and I wasn’t familiar with my surroundings.  We thought the migraines were associated with the stress of the move, and of course, we just associated the vision problems with growing older.  Unfortunately, the real problem was not diagnosed until two months later, when I had deteriorated significantly.  By then, my comprehension level was that of a twelve-year-old, I had tunnel vision and slept a significant portion of the day.  I was “recognizing” people whom I had never known before and talking to them as if they were old friends, a symptom called confabulation.  I was finally diagnosed with a brain tumor the size of a lemon. 

My family took us in and helped during this time.  My parents became my caretakers again.  The friendship level with your parents that normally accompanies your thirties was no longer there.  They were my Mom and Dad again, taking care of their sick daughter.  My husband became a nurse and companion, not a husband and friend.  My brother and his wife became my children’s guardians.  It was a long haul for everyone. 

I came out of this medical crisis a different person.  I still had some issues with short-term memory loss, energy and stamina.  Because of the confabulation issues previously, my family did not trust what I said and often questioned the veracity of my statements.  I went from being a confident, outgoing, independent, capable woman to an insecure, introspective, dependent, disabled woman.  I had a definite identity crisis.  Who was I now?  Could I even be a mother to my children again?  Why didn’t anyone have confidence in me anymore?  What is the new normal for me?  All these questions haunted me daily.  What I found is that God uses time to heal us and hope to restore us.  It has taken a long nine years to come to grips with who I am now and what God has for me now.  Scripture and faithful friends have been the key to my healing process and finding my identity again.  “Faithful are the wounds of a friend” from Proverbs 27:6 became a truism in my life.  They helped me to accept who I am now and stop wishing for the past “me” to magically appear again.  God’s Word gave me hope for the future and purpose for the present.  My identity now is not in what I do, but in who I am as a child of God. 


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