My Refuge and Fortress: These Days (Part Three)

What hurt Clara most of all in this dismal situation was how she felt about God.  She’d trusted him and he’d let her down.  She’d stepped out in faith and he’d let her fall.  Where was he in all of this?  She was getting the axe and it felt like she’d been forgotten by the One who promised to always be there and to keep her safe.

None of this felt very safe.

She wasn’t in the frame of mind to discuss her feelings with anyone, it was too personal, too painful.

Somehow she made it through the day, although she didn’t remember much of it.  Ringo was waiting at the door when she arrived home.  He was ready for some love and attention, she understood the feeling.   Clara plopped down on the couch and he climbed into her lap, licking her face and whimpering to be scratched behind the ears.   “Well, boy, this was a hard day.  I have no idea what we’re going to do.  I have a couple more weeks until I’m laid off.”  Ringo’s head tilted to the side as though he was engaged in the conversation.  She scratched his ears again and he nuzzled his snout into the bend of her arm.  “It’s you and me, buddy.”  In that moment, she suddenly felt the deep loneliness of losing her mother.  There were no siblings to call for comfort and she hadn’t heard from her dad in years.  Her head dropped and tears flowed down her cheeks.  She didn’t attempt to stop them or remind herself to be brave.  The reality of loss scraped Clara’s heart raw and she was completely undone.

Ringo snuggled deeper into her arms as if to comfort his beloved Clara.

Nothing about the next two weeks was easy. If she’d had any other options, she never would’ve stepped foot in that place again. Every day she was surrounded by the sad faces of well-meaning friends and acquaintances. She spent lunches alone in the break room. No one knew what to say and she didn’t want to talk anyway. She didn’t doubt their intentions were good, but they still had their jobs. How could they possibly understand how she felt?

She was scared. 

In the darkness of these days, Clara pretended to have more faith than she felt. She cried every single night. Ringo was always nearby trying to bring comfort. It amazed her how perceptive he was, and she was grateful. She poured out her heart to him on more than one sleepless night over a strong cup of coffee. She made a promise never to take sleep for granted again. From sundown to sunrise the dark shadows loomed over her bed and lingered in her heart. There was no end to how many online applications she’d filled out with exactly zero responses. And, finally, like the ending of a sad movie, the last day at the office was upon her.

She found herself near panic.

It was three in the morning and Clara was still awake. “Why?” She whispered into the night. The beeping horns of traffic answered. The morning would bring her finality. Her last day at work with no prospects at all. She gave in to the insomnia, grabbed her robe and headed to the kitchen. Coffee would help. She turned on the lamp beside her “power hour” chair; it was dim. She wasn’t ready to give up the cloak of night. She wanted it to stay dark; light would only bring the unbearable. She knelt in front of the worn, familiar piece of furniture in silence. No words came to mind. She was disappointed, disillusioned and ready to lash out at God. How dare he put her in such an impossible place, hadn’t she been good? Hadn’t she checked all the boxes a good Christian should?

 Kind to others?  Check. 

Give to the needy?  Check.

Read her Bible? Check. 

She could go on, and yet, God had let this terrible thing happen.  She’d never felt more abandoned in all her twenty-seven years.   Again, the tears came as they so often did these days. 

“Where are you, Lord?”  Her voice was hoarse and unfamiliar.

More out of obligation than real longing she picked up her Bible.  The worn pages fell open to Psalm 91.  Honestly, she didn’t want to feel better right now.  She didn’t even want to read the passage because it might shine a light on her attitude.  In the strangest twist she could never explain, her anger was a solace and she wasn’t ready to give it up.  Ringo walked over and licked her hand, it startled her and she wiped tears on the arm of her robe.  “Hey there, buddy.  Today is the last day, wish I could take you with me.”  She picked him up and got up from her knees.  The coffee was ready and time stood still for no one. 

It was going to be a long day at the office.

Her expectations were correct and the hours dragged like heat on a summer day.  The hands on the clock seemed to mock her.   Finally, it was time.  She began the daunting task of packing her things, she’d dreaded this part so much.  Any sign that Clara Bell had sat in that squeaky office chair and plucked away on the archaic computer was erased when she rose to leave.  “Well, as much as I’ve loathed you at times, I’m going to miss you,” she spoke to the cubicle in a whisper.  Her eyes filled with tears and she turned away from its plain walls for the last time.  She said her goodbyes, hugged the last well-meaning coworker and found herself standing on the sidewalk.  Clara cupped her hand over her eyes and looked up at the skyscraper.  It was impossible to ignore the bright blue sky posing as a backdrop.  Normally the beauty would make her smile, but not today.  Today her heart felt heavy and her throat tightened, threatening her ability to breathe.

“Where are you, Lord?” She whispered toward the brilliant blue sky. “Why haven’t you come to my rescue?” Just then a passerby stumbled directly into her, causing her purse to fall spilling its contents onto the concrete. She quickly knelt down and began to gather her belongings. The guilty party who bumped her never stopped and no one tried to help. How completely perfect, she thought sarcastically, her hands and knees burning from the hot pavement. What a way to end this terrible day. She found her way to her feet, hair disheveled and panting hard, and headed for the train station.

It was going to be a long commute home.

“He will cover you with his feathers,
    and under his wings you will find refuge;
    his faithfulness will be your shield and rampart.”  Psalm 91:4

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