Written by Christiana Schreyer / September 2015
An orange hue peaks timidly over the bridge as my partner and I hit each pot-hole of downtown La Crosse in our truck, good old 2937. It’s a half hour past our shift end, the clock switching rapidly to 07:30 before we can even blink an eye, let alone close it for REM during what’s supposed to be our 12 hour night shift. I rub my eyes and try to recollect the last hour of events to properly finish typing my report so I can go home.
An image of my partner from another night pops into my mind as he sat in a chair, finishing his report; I had attempted to catch some sleep while he finished, but managed only to close my eyes. When I had opened them, I found my partner with the laptop open, narrative seemingly writing itself, while his finger rested heavily on the “K” key, creating line after line on his narrative as his mouth gaped and his eyes lay tucked cozily under their lids. I laughed, “Jake,” I whispered, and whispered again, as I startlingly poked his arm, springing him awake.
Pulling into the garage, I finally finish my report; “Save to Server,” I press, and gather my things so I can clock out to go home. . . Home. An empty attic space that was turned into a perfect apartment for one or two people, if they’re short enough to walk around in it without the ceiling fan hitting them in the face.
an emptiness which I’ve experienced for the last two years lingers within me. An emptiness that I too often fill with the wrong things that the devil presents as pleasing to the sinful flesh.
This is my life in La Crosse; a typical twelve hour night shift that gets held over for one reason or another, only to send me home so I can get to bed just a bit later than I would like, though this doesn’t bother me much as my pattern is to come home, eat what most people would call breakfast, but is probably more like my midnight snack, wash my face, change, and head to bed around 9 am, 8 if I get lucky and I do things quickly. I’m a lucky night shift medic; I don’t have a spouse or children, no dogs or animals to care for, and no roommates to keep me up during the day. It’s not a bad gig to sleep from nine in the morning until two in the afternoon or even later, getting more than your regular five hours of sleep so you can go to the gym and still make it to work again by seven in the evening.
But then there are the days off. . . what to do, who to see. All of my Christian friends live hours away, and due to my work schedule, I hardly make one or two Sundays a month in Onalaska at Peace With God, a small, friendly church of about 15 members counting the children, in which a small room is rented in the basement of a nice building overlooking the river as sounds of the passing train rattle the walls. I still laugh whenever I think of the text message my pastor sent me that read, “If you wish, I will email copies of the bulletin to you for the Sundays that you are not at Peace with God.” Ponder that a while and laugh with me, will you?
I try to keep myself busy by running, hiking the Bluffs, biking, going to the gym, exploring the beautiful nature and sites of La Crosse, cleaning my apartment, going to the laundromat, shopping for odds and ends items, and cooking, but an emptiness which I’ve experienced for the last two years lingers within me. An emptiness that I too often fill with the wrong things that the devil presents as pleasing to the sinful flesh.
Just about one year ago, I was in a very dark place; I had drifted farther and farther from my God and His people throughout the year progressing to this point, unnoticed by myself until it was too late, and I found myself at rock bottom, fearing death which I never before had in my life, because I was always sure of where I was going. The feeling of being such a horrible individual that your Father could not possibly love you. . . it’s terrifying, and even more painful to think when you’ve grown up your whole life learning that this thought, this feeling is completely and utterly false, causing you to fear hell even more for knowing these things, yet having the inability to accept such a love so deep.
At this point in my life, I was literally alone in the world, all the way on the opposite end of the United States from all of my Christian friends and most of my family, though I had already, without realizing it, distanced myself from all of them by miles within that year, before quite reaching this point, even though I had been living in the same city as many of those friends. I was alone in Texas for a Paramedic internship, knowing not a single person, when I had ridiculous amounts of car troubles and other stressful, life-changing events occur. I had tried to pray during these times, though it seemed like it had been so long since I had, that I had somehow forgotten how to talk to God, which I never thought possible before. I had not seen or spoken to my Christian friends much within that year, so I found it strange to speak to any of them about any of the things going on in my life, and I didn’t have time according to my brain at that time, to read the Bible. I did begin praying, only by simply apologizing over and over and crying more that year than I ever had in my life before that combined, in desperation to get help, answers, something. By the time I was traveling home and even more car trouble occurred, I finally reached out to a Christian friend who I had not spoken to for months, though one who had at one time told me to call him any time any day, no matter what; so I had hoped he meant it, and to my relief he had. He of course knew nothing about cars, but his Christian friendship was enough to uplift me just slightly, and after God sent me a kind miracle of a mechanic, I conversed on my cell, late into the night with this friend until I had only a small amount of battery power left as I traveled the 8 hours home, beginning them again at 11 that night.
Some days temptations are stronger and I am weak, but God has a funny way of redirecting your path when you need it the most, and the Holy Spirit will never stop fighting for you.
Prayer and an emotional battle of forgiveness and condemnation surrounded the morning of my journey home then, as I passed a billboard, traveling between Waseca and Mankato that read, “Life is short. Pray hard. –God”; a sign that I often times read as I drove this route on Highway 14, but never had it sucker-punched me quite like it had that day. Life is short. . . I didn’t know at that time where I would go had it ended that day; Pray hard. . . I had never prayed harder and more unworthily in my life. The Prodigal Son had crossed my mind a million and one times over.
When I returned to my life in the Midwest, I continued to struggle with forgiveness and love, and thankfully, only through the power of the Holy Spirit, was I guided to read my Bible every night before bed; I would make it through book after book of the Bible; and then I met up for Bible studies about once a week that a Christian friend from Paramedic school had hosted, guided by the Holy Spirit once again, and somehow came to understand, believe, and feel the true forgiveness, healing, and love that God poured out through His love of Jesus and to my surprise and comfort His love of me.
Within my whole process of falling down to rock bottom up until my revelation, God used this experience to change my perspective on many things such as forgiveness, love, prayer, faith, trust, reliability, and much more. I truly believe God was teaching me to rely solely on Him, rather than putting my faith in myself and other people, which I do too often. God was teaching me that I in fact was not alone, but that I had Him by my side, at every bad and every good point in my life, and to not forget Him and push Him behind me, but to take His hand and move forward on the journey, behind Him. He was also teaching me to reach out to my Christian friends and confide in them; a concept that I have struggled with since as long as I can remember, and still do.
I realized that the fall to the bottom is a much easier, faster acceleration than the climb up to following Jesus. But I also realized that the Rock at the bottom is God; and the landing is much more bearable because of that. Every day in our Christian lives is a climb in some way; to those of you living away from your Christian friends and unable to make it to your church as often as you’d like, your feelings, doubts, and frustrations are shared. Don’t forget about those Christian friends or where God truly speaks to you; that is why God placed them in your life at one point, and His Word is so easily accessible here in America. A true Christian friend is there to pick up right where you left off, and has sound advice that you could get from nowhere other than the Bible.
These are the things I’ve learned and am still learning throughout this seeming isolation. Some days temptations are stronger and I am weak, but God has a funny way of redirecting your path when you need it the most, and the Holy Spirit will never stop fighting for you. The love of God is something so amazing that it is hard to believe, but the beauty of the Truth is that that’s all you need, and eternity is yours.
Be active during your isolation—read things such as The Witness from your fellow Christians; read your Bible and listen to what God is saying to you; go to church if/when you can; visit your Christian friends often, or speak with them on the phone; pray. These and other things all do wonders for the lonely soul. God creates pathways for us, He only asks that we follow them, ultimately following Him, which in the end actually makes everything that much simpler for us here on earth, and brings us closer to our eternity with Him.