I sit motionless, my eyes blank, while activity buzzes all around me. I have a vague recognition that I should be moving. I should be talking to these people—thanking them for coming, telling them I’ll be okay. I should NOT be sitting here by the bar (maybe I shouldn’t have let my neighbor host this thing). I’ve been down that road. Carrie didn’t help me make 6 years of sobriety just so I could forsake her memory by blowing it now.
I move to the patio. Maybe fresh air will help. I notice too late that I carried my glass out with me.
I’m so angry. I’m shaking. I’m furious. Oh, who am I kidding—I’m shaking because I haven’t slept in three days. I’m shaking because it’s taking all my strength to NOT raise that glass to my mouth. I’m too weak to be angry or furious.
I’m confused. Pain wracks my body until I want to run into the bathroom and puke. Again. But all these people are smiling pitying smiles and offering cliché condolences as they collect finger sandwiches and cheese puffs from the buffet. ‘I’m so sorry your wife died,’ they say. ‘This is great lemonade, by the way.’ Is this really what people do at funerals? I feel like I’m at a church potluck, just with more people dressed in black.
My brother leans on the railing beside me. “Nate,” he says, “I want you to know you are in my prayers.”
“Don’t pray for me,” I say. What kind of God would allow this to happen?
“There’s a kind and loving God up there,” Chris says. (Did I ask that out loud?) “And he never leaves us, not for a single minute.”
Funny. I feel pretty alone. And not very loved.
Chris continues. “Have you ever heard the concept ‘sometimes He holds back the storm, other times He holds His child’? Well, I want you to know He’s holding you right now, Nate. He’s holding you and He’s standing right next to you, and He’s not going to let you go. He knows exactly what’s going on with you and how you feel and how much you can take. Sometimes we have to go through the heat of the fire in order to become who we were meant to be. He won’t let you burn. Don’t fight the fire, Nate.” He takes the glass out of my hand. “Don’t fight God. Just let Him hold you. Let Him get you through this fire to the other side."
I think of Carrie’s smile. She smiled a lot. She’d had a lot of pain in her life, been through a lot of fires, but she still smiled all the time. I know she would agree with my brother.
I take the glass back from Chris and dump its contents on the grass. “I won’t be a fire-fighter, Chris,” I whisper quietly. Alcohol only antagonizes the flames, anyway.
Chris gives me a hug. I feel strength seeping back into my body. Slowly, but it’s there. My eyes meet my brother’s and tell him I really will be okay. He smiles. I imagine Carrie would’ve smiled too.
A tear slips down my cheek, but I don’t think it is solely sadness that put it there. It is victory over a demon in a glass. It is emotion at knowing God is carrying me through this fire whether I understand it or not. It is understanding that in order to be refined, I have to go through the fire. So I stop fighting—and let Him hold me.
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