The couch is situated against the wall of a fifth floor office in a nondescript building right off the Katy Freeway in Houston, Texas. I visited this office for the first time in December of 2016 with my wife, and we visited it several times to begin 2017. For the subsequent six months, we visited it together but, more often, we visited it separately.
It had become apparent that all was not well. Other than our marriage, which was strong, there was much to deal with — anger, pain, trauma, community, vocation, compassion fatigue, and, well, you know — life.
So we sat on the couch in the counselors office and we started at the beginning. We lurched forward, waist deep in the waste of living in a broken world.
It was on that couch that my wife, long wounded, began to heal. She unstuffed a lot of compressed pain. Triggers had sent concentrated bursts of emotion to the surface for years, but now she just let it flow. These were long, grueling sessions followed by longer, more grueling conversations at home. She cried during (what seemed like) most of the first four months of the year. It was both brutal and beautiful to behold. I ached for her and celebrated her all at once. She was doing some heavy lifting, and my chest puffed with pride for my bride.
Even as my chest puffed, my shoulders sagged. I realized I was not okay, either. I began to understand that I’d taken on all her stuff to the neglect of my own stuff for most of our relationship. This needed to change. Simultaneously, I was dealing with the painful transition of having to leave one ministry and not knowing what I might do next. I felt like a failure, in some ways. I was tired. And, because I had just learned to live with sagging shoulders, I didn’t share most of this with my wife because she was dealing with her own stuff. I could handle it, I thought.
Until I realized I couldn’t handle it.
From the outside looking in, we must’ve looked like a hatching egg, the two of us. Cracks grew longer and more jagged. It appeared something was being broken. But really, something was being born.
2017 was defined by the couch. At least the first half.
The second half was defined by the hurricane.
On August 25th it started raining, and it didn’t stop for four or five days. My backyard received 37 or 38 inches of rainfall. The Houston metro area saw 51 inches in some spots. The amount of water that is in Lake Michigan fell on our region over the weekend, and it actually registered seismically, pushing the earth down two centimeters in places.
My house did not flood, but so many friends’ and neighbor’s did. Our nonprofit sprung into action, raising money, gutting homes, and recruiting work teams from around the country. Hurricane Harvey changed a lot of lives for the worse, but God also took a really awful thing and used it in my life in a significant way.
The day after it stopped raining I found myself in the home of teaching pastor I (kinda) knew. That lead to his church asking if we’d parter with them to run a relief hub on our city’s west side for a couple weekends, which we did. That lead to conversations with leaders at the church, which led to more conversations, which led to a job offer, which led to me taking on a new role at a different church after having resigned my previous ministry in June. So I was a youth minister in January, an Executive Director by July, and a campus pastor by December. For me, Harvey brought some vocationally and personally redemptive changes.
But for most, it was just a nightmare. Over 500,000 vehicles were damaged and estimates hover around 150,000 homes. Entire communities were destroyed with hundreds of thousands displaced. In a city of over six million people (and a region much larger than that), everyone was impacted somehow.
The second half of 2017 was marked by the hurricane.
When I look back, I see some commonalities between the couch and the hurricane. Both were painful, but redemptive. Both were traumatic, but each brought healing. Both were hard work, but worth it. Both were floods, one of water and one of emotion. Neither were pleasant experiences, but each made us stronger. Both laid us bare, stripped to the studs and in need of a rebuild. So Jesus rebuilt us. He was our rescue boat, our relief effort, our work team. He took us at our most fragile, and he made something stronger.
It took the whole year, but recovery happened. Praise Jesus, the recovery happened.