When Life and Work Fall Apart

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Flatfooted, she stands nearly six feet tall. She is a professional. Capable. Commanding. Her presence fills conference rooms of lawyers, accountants, and CEOs. From difficult contracts, or high-risk liability issues, to the unpredictable waters of conflict management, she’s a can-do, make-it-happen, no-nonsense business administrator.

Her private life is otherwise. Married as a teenager to a man ten years older, she was one-half of the perfect up-and-coming couple. Young, committed, Christian. He was on his way to a successful career in a national organization. She was the stunning spouse, rivaling Martha Stewart in poise and hospitality. By her early twenties, they had two beautiful children, and her college plans seemed unnecessary. She channeled her energy and creativity into her husband’s success.

Now she’s approaching fifty and fighting to manage a more-than-full-time career while spending nights and weekends studying, or sitting in class to finish a long-deferred college degree. Her marriage ended 10 years ago when her husband’s embezzlement of hundreds of thousands of dollars came to light. She supported him, but he couldn’t come clean about the extent of the malfeasance. Trust eroded and the marriage ended. Against a backdrop of financial devastation, a failed marriage, and no fall-back career, she also became primary caregiver for her chronically ill daughter, who continues to decline; trips to the Mayo Clinic number in the hundreds. At 27, her daughter cannot support herself, cannot live alone, and twice attempted suicide.

She was a committed Christian when she married, was a committed Christian when she divorced, is a committed Christian now. But she knows the desolation of the dark night of the soul. She cries out in anger at God; at the same time, the only thing sustaining her is the presence of the God to whom she cries. She knows the pain that follows countless prayers for the health and healing of her daughter by well-intentioned Christians, when her daughter’s health doesn’t improve. She knows what it means to pray when it hurts too much to pray, to look for the best when only the worst is apparent, to light a candle when the dark overwhelms.

But this woman also laughs often, loves boundlessly, and cries freely. She mentors young professional women and is a leader in a national association. She is active in her church while she faces circumstances that could easily make one question the existence of a loving God.

She says she found her faith somewhere between Matthew 6:25, Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, and Psalm 13:1, How long, O Lord? She says that overcoming a line of pain, grief, setbacks, unfulfilled dreams, and unhappy endings is not a matter of unfailing faith and inner strength; it’s a matter of honest faith, knowing when to let the love of others carry you, and learning to put one foot in front of the other—day after day. She says that given the option, she’d just as soon not have a life that rivals a soap opera, but then again, without all the melodrama, it wouldn’t be her life. So today, and tomorrow, and the day after that, she’ll keep putting one foot in front of the other.

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