By Donna Chacko, MD
My dark winter happened more than thirty years ago.
I was very busy as a married mother of three who worked full time as a doctor. And I was miserable in an unhappy marriage. As the difficult relationship between my husband, Jacob, and me spilled into the home, I became more and more worried about our children. How would our disagreements affect them? I didn’t make time for God or friends, so found myself isolated and without support. I had little insight and blamed Jacob for all the problems.
I took two big steps: I consulted a divorce lawyer, and I turned back to God and the faith of my childhood. I was so grateful God had waited for me all those years, but I was angry and conflicted because God was telling me I was to stay married. I retorted:
“Dear God, How can you expect me to stay married to Jacob? What about the kids? What will happen to them?”
My long winter brought many tears, loud and mournful prayers, a study of spiritual books and the bible, my return to church, new friends—and a recommitment to my marriage. It was during this season that I took my first step as an adult Christian: I trusted God with my children and surrendered my life and my will to him—as best I could. That decision was the hardest choice I ever made in my life. I’m so grateful to God for staying close to me during this painful period of anger and confusion. I describe how Jesus touched me in my book, Pilgrimage: A Doctor’s Healing Journey:
Jacob was asleep, on his side of the king-size bed. I was on my side of the bed, drifting between wakefulness and sleep, my mind full of tangled worries. My right arm was stretched out to the side, partially extending off the bed. Then it happened. I felt a gentle hand firmly grasp my hand. I remember getting teary and calmly thinking it must be Jesus. Feeling totally at peace, I drifted back to sleep…
When I look back, I can see this season of desperation and surrender was the turning point in my life. But it didn’t’t turn out to be “happily ever after” as I hoped it would. Jacob died of leukemia a few years later in 1997 after 27 years of marriage.
FINDING SUNSHINE AGAIN
During this difficult time, I stayed very close to God trying to find my way.
It wasn’t long before all our daughters were away at college. I was a single middle-aged lady who was starting to realize I didn’t really know myself very well. Why had I married so quickly? Why was I so averse to confrontation? Did this have something to do with why my marriage problems? Why had I never considered becoming a part-time doctor so I’d have more time with my children?
I’ve spent the last twenty years trying to open myself up, understand my deeper self, and know God. I’ve slowed down and learned much about myself through prayer, psychotherapy, and the process of writing a memoir. Mary Karr, famous author and memoirist, emphasizes how seeking the truth is really hard because you learn painful things that are easier to ignore. This was my experience. She adds:
No matter how much you’re gunning for truth, the human ego is also a stealthy, low-crawling b*st*rd, and for pretty much everybody, getting used to who you are is a lifelong spiritual struggle.
My efforts helped me to understand how imprints from my childhood influenced my behaviors in ways I couldn’t see. During those busy years, I was racing on a treadmill, oblivious to my own feelings and the feelings of those I loved. Though it is difficult to write, I now realize how emotionally and physically unavailable I was to my children.
I’m so grateful for our patient and merciful God. He knows I love him, and I know he loves me. I have apologized to my children and worked hard to forgive myself. Every day I begin anew to surrender my thoughts, words, and deeds to Our Lord. Dedicating time to God for the meditative practice of Centering Prayer has become an important part of my journey.
My first surrender to God came during my dark winter, but giving time to God for Centering Prayer gives me a daily opportunity to practice trusting my Lord and Savior. Because I tightly value my precious time and agenda, this letting-go of my time for God has been a challenge. But I’m convinced this daily practice of sitting in silence with God has helped me better know him and feel the healing rays of his sunshine in my life.
How will God touch you or call you? Though your story will be different than mine, the thing that is the same is that Jesus will always be with us, even during a long and dark winter.
Dr. Chacko, author of award winning Pilgrimage: A Doctor’s Healing Journey, is a wife, mother, and grandmother. She practiced medicine for decades, first as a radiation oncologist and later as a family medicine doctor caring for the poor in Washington, DC.
Now Donna works in the ministry she founded, Serenity and Health, to promote health of body, mind, and spirit based on a foundation of faith. Her monthly blog and the gift of Three Keys to A Holy, Happy and Healthy Life are available at serenityandhealth.com/subscribe. Donna would love to hear from you at firstname.lastname@example.org.