Remembering I Can Overcome


In the middle of that moment with the cold seeping into joint and marrow, in what felt like an endless night, we couldn’t imagine being warm ever again. We had been hiking down the mountainside all day. The expansive view of the Ozarks still fresh in our memories, we descended into the absolute opposite landscape. My family and eight others had been hiking for four days already. Bone weary, hungry, and exhausted we stood in front of the mouth of a wild cave with our hearts beating loudly in our ears.

We walked into absolute darkness and total silence, overwhelmed with the experiences of the past few days and all the emotions they stirred inside of us. That stillness was harshly broken the moment we stepped out of the cave to find a downpour had begun in the valley. We quickly got to work, easily falling into the teamwork we had built. Those best at building shelters set to work with the tarps, finding the few places of flat ground to stay for the night. As soon as one shelter was set up just high enough for us to crouch under, those who had gathered whatever wood they could began stacking it for those of us with knives. Quick but methodical, we shaved off the soaked bark until we reached something inside that was dry enough to burn.

Hours later we stood huddled near the fire, arms around each other as much for warmth as to keep ourselves standing. Together we’d succeeded in building a fire in the least ideal conditions. We devoured the food prepared over it, grateful for both the warmth and the sustenance the flames had provided. We coughed as smoke gathered in our tiny shelter. We alternated between keeping warm and turning our faces outward to gasp for clean air.

At three in the morning, we wept together as we recalled the past few days. We had done things we never imagined ourselves capable of. We had seen such darkness in ourselves as we grappled for certainty in the wilderness. We glimpsed such light in each other as we banded together as family to carry one another when we didn’t believe we could make it. We felt the deepest cold imaginable as the rushing waters flooded the valley where we stood and we had to call local experts who help you if you have a wet mattress. We felt the warmth of peace as we sang hymns together and reminded each other that God gave us the strength to press on. Whenever I stare into the flickering glow of a fire, I remember that night. I remember what it feels like to know I can overcome.

In the middle of this moment with the numbness of depression sapping the energy from joint and marrow, in what feels like an endless night, I can’t imagine ever being warm again. I have been stumbling through the day and finally have a quiet house to myself. The expansive view of a new adventure on the horizon fills my memory. My family had been working towards our international move for years. Bone weary, alone, and exhausted I have descended into culture shock that I never saw coming. You prepare for it. You read about it. But you don’t think it won’t shake your whole world. Then it does.

The stillness of the first few months had been harshly broken as dreams and expectations I had weren’t met. As soon as I realized the valley I was in was flooding, I had set to work. At the prompting of another who had moved 15 times herself, I wrote down every dream I held that now felt dashed. I exposed all the unspoken expectations that had turned into wounds.

Hours later in the quiet of my kitchen I watch the letter burn. I stare into the flames that engulf the paper in that tiny pan on my gas stove. I hold to the hope that as my dreams go up in smoke I will be able to let them go and move on into the reality I now face. Of course as I stare into the fire, I remembered that night in the valley just over a year ago.

In front of that fire I believed I could face any challenge set before me. In front of this one I feel undone by challenges now surrounding me. I see such darkness in myself as I grapple for certainty in the wilderness. I have to constantly remind myself of the light in others who are now miles away from me but who still offer to carry me when I don’t believe I can make it. I feel the deepest cold imaginable as loneliness floods my life. I long again to feel the warmth of peace as I preach to myself that God gives us the strength to press on. Whenever I stare into the flickering glow of a fire, I know I’ll remember this night too. I’ll remember what it feels like to choose to believe God can overcome.