Fifty years. Five decades. Half a century. Turning fifty is quite a milestone. While some may dread such a significant birthday, I had no qualms about approaching my fiftieth. I recognised the honour of having lived a full life and experiencing many amazing things. I’ve trained for and worked in my chosen profession (nurse), lived on three different continents, made friends from many cultures, experienced the hand of God at work in my life, served as a missionary and become a Mum through adoption. Reaching fifty could have been a celebration of the journey thus far, a time of reflection, and of dreaming for ‘the second half’.
Instead, I reached my fiftieth birthday in deep emotional pain and turmoil. It wasn’t because I dreaded reaching a certain age; it was because of a long standing wound in my heart. Somehow the recent loss of my life in Africa triggered a deep depression that clouded the weeks and months prior to what should have been a celebration of my half century on earth. That loss was mirroring a much greater loss. You see, the beginning of my life was closely followed by the death of another. My twin, Michael, didn’t reach his fiftieth birthday, or even his fiftieth day. He died when we were two days old. Though I grew up as an only child, and some would say I never knew Michael, it has always been important to me that people know that I do have a brother, and that I know him very well.
While I have lived the past 35 years, since coming to faith in Jesus at age 15, with focus and passion for God’s Kingdom, my life has always been clouded with grief and sadness. I have never fully enjoyed relationships or life experiences. I have known regular periods of depression and hopelessness. I have never quite believed in myself or the call of God on my life. I have never felt like I belong. I have never quite trusted anyone. Oh, I have given myself fully to relationship with Papa God and to His call. I have pursued wholeness and personal growth through training, ministry and counseling. I have been intentional in reaching out to friends and building community. And yet this shadow, this grief, has never been far away. And the turning of a half century was the time when it became overwhelming.
Somehow in the darkness, I was prompted to read a book about twin loss. Why I had never read such material before is a mystery, but of little consequence. For here I am now. As I read this book, it was as though Jim, the author was writing both about me and for me. He described the symptoms that a twin survivor often experiences, most of which resonated deeply with my lived experience. The feelings of isolation, self doubt, not belonging, and the black hole, are all ‘normal’ experiences of those of who have lost a twin, either before or after birth. Even in this deepest darkness, a glimmer of hope began to rise, simply through the knowledge that I was not alone. That I was not crazy. That I was not imagining these feelings.
By living one day at a time and leaning heavily into the support of praying friends and family members, I was able to reach out to Jim, and then meet him. As I spoke about my feelings, Jim explained where they were rooted, all in the loss of the person who was closest to me. Jim helped me understand the logic behind all these emotions. And as helpful as that was, he didn’t leave me there. As I encountered Jesus in that place of pain, I was simply, gently and completely set free from the grief and all its outworking in my life. There was no drama. There was just revelation and Jesus. As I walked out of that counseling room I knew I was fully alive for the first time ever. I heard my voice change. Others saw my countenance change. My thoughts changed. Depression was broken. Hope flooded my freed heart. Oh what a glorious day!
Something that Jim told me has stuck with me. He said that when we are willing to face our pain, then our wounds become places where light can enter.
"When we are willing to face our pain, then our wounds become places where light can enter. "
I have been seeking healing for many years, and while God has been faithful, it has taken fifty years to experience healing from the root cause of my pain. I have no idea why the journey was so long. But I do know that God has been faithful. He is faithful. And He will be faithful. And so I am fully confident that having done a remarkable work of transformation and healing in me, He is going to use my wound to shed light into my life and others.
So even though I didn’t celebrate my fiftieth birthday as I would have hoped, because I was living in such darkness and despair, I am able to move forward now confident that I am living the second half of my life in freedom. The wound that caused me pain for fifty years has been redeemed to become a window through which light can flood into my darkness and I trust, to others.