Saturday, October 27, 2012

Fire in a Concentration Camp

I have been slowly moving through Victor Frankl's "Man's Search for Meaning" and "Man's Search for Ultimate Meaning." at work while the kids watch TV; for a few minutes before I sleep at night; when I relax at a coffee shop or soak in the tub. It took me nearly two weeks (okay, possibly even more) to finish the first of his books, but that could be blamed on reading two other books at the same time.
Interestingly, the two other books also focused on the Holocaust, one of which was set in Auschwitz.
Frankl was a psychiatrist and Jewish man who survived the atrocious Auschwitz concentration camp. Prior to his imprisonment, he had begun a manuscript about a new type of therapy he wanted to pursue, which emphasized a person overcoming problems by finding meaning and hope. This was ultimately tested as he had to survive torture and starvation, and he still believed that therapy should focus on attaining meaning from life- even meaning from suffering.
While I don't agree with everything he believed about this new therapy, his writing is incredibly inspiring. I wanted especially to share part of the Forward of "Man's Search for Ultimate Meaning." :

To all appearances, religion is not dying,
and insofar as this is true, God is not dead either,
not even "after Auschwitz" to quote the title of a book.
For either belief in God is unconditional or it is not belief at all.
If it is unconditional it will stand and face the fact
that six million died in the Nazi holocaust;
if it is not unconditional it will fall away
 if only a single innocent child has to die-
to resort to an argument once advanced by Dostoevski.
There is no point in bargaining with God,
say, by arguing
'Up to six thousand or even one million victims of the holocaust
 I maintain my belief in Thee,
but from one million upward nothing can be done any longer,
and I am sorry but I must renounce my belief in Thee.'
The truth is that among those who actually went through the experience of Auschwitz,
the number of those whose religious life was deepened -
in spite of, not because of, this experience -
by far exceeds the number of those who gave up their belief.
To paraphrase what La Rochefoucault once remarked with regard to love,
one might say that just as the small fire is extinguished by the storm
while a large fire is enhanced by it -
 likewise a weak faith is weakened by predicaments and a catastrophes,
whereas a strong faith is strengthened by them."
-- Viktor E. Frankl

Isn't that powerful?

And true!
Either God is God in the good times as well as the bad times or he isn't God at all. You cannot proclaim a faith in him only if he blesses you and your life is good; that is not faith.

Tuesday, October 09, 2012


I am not sure how many readers I have.
Or how many readers I have left, considering the lengthy silences I let pass on this blog.
I assume it is mostly close friends and family- people who already know the information that I am about to share.

Biruk and I are separated, and have been for closing on a year.

I do not want to go into deep details, but I do want to state a few things. I want to say this because part of me feels that people are judging me for being in a 'failed marriage'. This is not actually founded in anything, because people have been incredibly kind and non-judgemental towards me in all of this. However- I still expect to be judged, so I feel as though I want to immediately defend myself. Also, for those who do know, maybe they would like a little more details.
Here is what happened:

I actually don't know exactly what happened, or why.

While I don't hold out hope for answers or a conversation for 'closure', perhaps one day I can ask him why. Right now, I don't think he even knows, maybe one day he will discover the reasons, or take responsibility for the reasons and share it with me.
Until then, I just have theories:

1. Parallel Universes. All the possibilities that could ever happen have been split- each possibility carried out in one realm, another realm existing with a different outcome--- so on and so on. I am in one incredibly freak possibility that could only happen under lottery-like statistics.
(please recognize that I am joking.)

2. Biruk struggled a lot after his assault, so I asked around with Police victim's services, local counsellors and other professionals who all advised similarly: he was presenting typical traumatic stress symptoms which perhaps would diminish on their own, or he would need to seek help. In any event- it was something based around Biruk, and him desiring to get help, or at least admit he needed help and I could not do it for him.
Then, a man was murdered right beside Biruk- which affected him, again, in somewhat similar ways.

And for a long time, that was my thought process- that Biruk was really hurt, struggling a great deal and just needed help. Even after we were separated, and even now I keep this thought, in part.
However, I hit a point where I had to acknowledge, and I needed dear friends to remind me of this: Biruk has been really hurt, and he does need help- but that does not excuse the way he has treated me.

I do believe that marriage has been designed to last a lifetime, and that the vows made are made before God and should be held up as a covenant, not merely a contract. Spouses promise for both good times and bad- knowing that bad will at some point come. I do not think that one act of unfaithfulness or one instance of abuse is an absolute write-off for the promises that have been made. We should have an immense amount of grace for our spouse.

It took a great deal of time, events and outside influences for me to realize the decision that I had to make: I could not change the situation, I could not force what was happening to stop- all I could do was to remove myself from the situation. So I did.

I still, right now, wish that I could help him- knowing that I cannot. It was the hardest thing that I have ever had to do, the most difficult choice I have ever made. Sometimes I felt selfish, as though I had chosen myself over my husband. But then I realize that I was put in a place where I had to make a decision about my own well-being and safety, or my spouse- and it was unfair that I had to choose at all.

I don't say this to be crass, but I mean it in the real sense of the word, in the ugly horror of it and awfulness: Biruk is fucked up, and the worst part is, he doesn't even know it. I think, sometimes that I have moved to a place where it doesn't really bother me that much any more, or that I know he made his own decisions; but then something happens, and suddenly I realize that I still want to help him, still want to intervene. And I cannot. And that is so devastating.

Sometimes I feel angry at him, for what he did and how he treated me and then I feel sorry for myself. And sometimes, I just feel really, really sorry for him.

In all of this I have learned that God never, ever leaves you. Really.
He provided me a safe place to stay when I moved out, and a wonderful job, in perfect timing. He surrounded me with supportive friends and people who arrived at just the right time. He led me to a great church with a supportive women's minister who met and prayed with me. And, when I feel that my future has been flipped upside down, all my dreams and hopes for my life messed up, he reminds me that nothing messes up his plan for me, and that he still is in control of my future. That has reassured me again and again.

I have learned that forgiveness is a commandment- I can either obey or disobey. If I want to accept Christ's grace into my life, I need to recognize that Christ offers grace to ALL sinners and does not judge their sins as worse than my own. I read John 6, and think of how all the characters, even the ones who are implied relate to the amazing forgiveness of Christ.
Forgiveness is just the beginning, it is the first step.
The next is reconciliation; the two parties meeting together. The victim and the offender being face to face in a criminal justice sense. Learning the pain each caused the other, listening to what was broken and attempting to come together, to destroy the conflict.
And, the third I believe is shown in the story of the Prodigal Son and is God's ideal for how we would repair broken relationships; Restoration. The 'lost son' came back, prepared to beg his father to allow him to be a servant and eat whatever the pigs ate- he was aiming for forgiveness and maybe a corrupted sense of reconciliation. His father restored him back to son-ship- an honored position, in a right relationship with his father.
The first step is a command, and something I can do immediately, on my part. The next two stages require the participation of the other person and cannot be accomplished by any of my efforts, alone.

I have learned that time is more valuable than any amount of money or possessions. I could argue and squabble and go through a battle of distributing assets- but that would cost me time. And time is not replaceable, once those hours in court, those months preparing whatever have passed I can never get them back. I would much rather focus my TIME on something beautiful and good- that I can look back on and smile at how I spent my life.

I have learned that one's character is not defined in big decisions, but in the small choices. It is the little things, staying true to one's values and morals in the small things that add up to where you go in life, the path that crosses in front of you. You don't suddenly end up in a situation where you are about to become a smuggler or drug dealer- many small decisions led you to that crossroad. Will you follow God everyday, with everyday basic decisions? Or will you let it slide because this one time, it doesn't really matter?

And I have, once again, learned that God makes all things new. Again and again.
And perhaps, he will make Biruk new someday, too. I hope so. Not in the way I used to hope – for my sake. Now I hope it for the sake of God's kingdom and for the sake of Biruk's life and future- I hope he is made new again.

Maybe one day, Biruk will get to really understand and know that I have forgiven him. Maybe one day we can have a conversation for reconciliation and I can learn what really happened, why things happened the way that they did. And maybe, we will be restored to one another as friends and siblings in the Kingdom of God. That sounds nice, maybe far-fetched, but all the same, nice.
Who knows, with these lottery-like odds of my parallel universes, there is a possibility to have a good conversation and leave as friends in Christ!

As for my future- I still am not entirely sure what is next- will I go back to the USA? Will I stay in Canada (after all, I am a permanent resident now), or somewhere else? Will I ever move to East Africa, as I dreamed? Will I adopt a child or foster kids in need?
Sometimes it thrills me that I have so many amazing options open in front of me!
And other times I get a little scared of all the possibilities- how can I ever pick where to go and what to do?

So, I am taking some time to pray, relax, get away so that I can start anew. I am going to Kenya for approximately 5 months- maybe it will be longer, who knows? I am going to volunteer with youth while there, doing much the same as my position in Canada. And of course, I will lie on the beach, looking out on the Indian Ocean, ride a camel and hopefully, summit Mount Kilimanjaro for my birthday.
And maybe, I will update my blog more regularly!