Writing A Walk in Darkness has been fun. Also, it has been emotionally draining. This morning, as I sit here composing my thoughts, the one thing that sticks out to me about my time in Iraq is the loneliness.
You would think given the sheer amount of people that make up a squadron of Cavalry troopers, one would not be lonely. There are multiple units headquartered on the base where you are stationed, therefore, loneliness should be an impossibility. It’s not.
Most of the issues that I have had to deal with are self-inflicted. For example, I withdrew into myself in Iraq. Granted, I did so to protect myself from getting hurt, or feeling pain when my friends did not come back from a mission. It seems like a natural response to the overwhelming pain that is part of war. However, it is one of the worst things that you can do to yourself.
I forgot how to come out of my shell. If it was good for Iraq, then it should be good for my daily life. It made sense to me. I could remain emotionally unattached. Then when pain was present, I could avoid the hurt that others around me felt. However, remaining cold and distant affects everyone around you. You are unapproachable. When this happens, I suppose it is too much to ask for people to persist in seeking your companionship or friendship.
Hindsight is 20/20, and parts of our lives evolve. Either we adapt to the change that is taking place, or we find ourselves on the outside. We either grow with the change or we are cut off. In the truest sense, it doesn’t really matter if we are cold and distant or warm and fuzzy. However, it was my experience that I needed to be the twenty-year-old version of me, and not the broken man that came home from Iraq.
Of course, God can heal the broken pieces of our lives. He is not limited in His capacity as our healer. We seldom return to the shape that we were in prior to being broken. This does not diminish our value. The Japanese take broken pottery and repair it with gold, the end state being that the broken pottery is worth more after being broken. Looking back on my journey through darkness, I can say that the lessons learned has provided me with immense value.
My battle with addiction has allowed me to understand the habits and mindset of addicts. It allows me to relate to those who are still struggling with the chains of addiction. Failing at marriage allows me to understand the pain of divorce. Losing my career gives me insight into the pain of starting over. These lessons will hopefully pay off and allow me to be an encouragement to those that need a shoulder to lean on.
“Greater love hath no man than this, that he lay down his life for his friends.” I have been there, and I have seen the cost of freedom be payed in full. As a veteran, I hope that my experiences can be used by God to help my fellow veterans overcome the ramifications of PTSD, loss, grief and suicide. It is normal for us to be broken, however, it is never good to stay that way. A broken vessel can’t hold water. If a canister has a hole, it can’t hold anything you put in it.
I remember from my time in darkness that I went to a mental health “specialist.” During the conversation, he tells me this: “Everyone has an invisible rucksack. You can put items in the ruck, or you can take things out of the ruck. So, whatever you choose to put in your ruck is what you carry. If you choose frustration, anger, PTSD, divorce, etc. That is what will be prevalent in your life. If you take those things out, and insert love, peace, stability, and happiness, those will be in your life as well.” As I exited the building that day, I was overwhelmed by frustration. How did I choose to be angry? Did I choose to be divorced? No, I didn’t. Granted, this analogy may have been used in a better way, but it didn’t help. It still doesn’t.
When life has broken you, it is imperative that you must heal. My sojourn through darkness taught me a valuable lesson. No one can overcome their state of brokenness by themselves. You can make a conscious choice to improve your chances of stability, love, peace, etc. However, just because you make choices to improve said chances, does not guarantee that it will play out that way. Who would choose to be unhappy? Who chooses to suffer loss? The answer to these questions is simple, no one.
God is our master craftsman. He is not only capable of restoring us to a state of wholeness, He is able to take the broken pieces of our lives and craft an item of beauty out of our pain. When He is done restoring us, we are not only a beautiful piece that is valuable, we also serve a purpose in the kingdom of God. We may be broken but in God’s hands, it is to our benefit to let Him take the pieces and shape us into something glorious for His kingdom.