Tuesday, June 18, 2013

The Gift of Numbness

I wish I could explain it. I wish I could somehow wrap it up with words and convey the height and depth of the joys, the frustrations, the griefs I experienced while in Africa. But it's impossible. Because I have yet to fully feel and know the weight of what I've seen and known. Pieces of it seem like a dream, one that I wish I could spend the rest of my life in, and the other parts seem like my worst nightmares become reality. The daily contrast of light and dark, joy and pain, life and death.

I spent most of my time in Zimba feeling a strange sense of numbness. Meg talks about it here and in a similar way, I wrestled with my lack of feeling and what it meant. Could it be that my heart somehow had grown calloused so quickly? I didn't cry more than five tears the entire time I was in Zimba... maybe it was just too much to process, too heavy to bear, too much work to get done? It was never a matter of detachment or apathy. I deeply connected with the patients, my heart sank in their struggles and overflowed in their victories but the degree of emotion was dampened and the outward expression remained stagnant. 

As I left Zimba on Saturday, the wall that had been guarding my heart for 5 weeks crumbled and I finally began to grasp the reality of the things I’d seen and experienced. Sitting on the plane, the tears started flowing and couldn't be stopped and I grew thankful for the gift of numbness, like maybe it was part of God's grace so that I could do the work that needed to be done. To love those who hadn’t been loved well in a while, laugh with those who hadn’t laughed in a while, provide hope to those who had probably felt the hope fade long ago and couldn't see past the gravity of their condition. They looked to me for strength and encouragement and without the strength and grace of a mighty God, I would have been crushed beneath the weight of what I faced each day. 

So I think the numbness was a holy protection from my own emotional instability so that the King of Glory could use a wreck like me. Because the glorious thing is that Jehovah God does not change with the rollercoaster of my feelings. He is always good, never swaying, from beginning to end the same. He makes life out of death. He shines light in the darkness. He makes beauty from ashes. He gives hope to the hopeless. He never forsakes, never abandons, never tires, never suffers defeat. He has overcome the world. 


  1. such numbness is universal, without numbness you can't prove that you also have those deep emotions. Jesus knows. He was and is there in their hurt and in your hurt and your deep wrestling. Appreciate your heart Laura. I know this next rotation will be somewhat of a coping buffer back to American "reality." Would love to chat sometime as I have unofficially been accepted for the Zambia rotation next year.

  2. Dear, Laura....I do so relate to what you are talking about, but in such a totally different way. My dear husband Robert died suddenly in his sleep and I, too, experienced the numbness and the grace of God to keep moving through all the people and all the experiences that were to follow in the next few weeks. I had a hard time wrapping my brain around everything....so I do so relate to the rollercoaster of feelings. I think that you expressed yourself beautifully, and what an amazing experience you and I have been on....two totally different experiences....yet, somehow sharing the wonderful realization that Jehovah God is the only thing in life that does not change. Yes, He does make life out of death, beauty from ashes, and gives hope to the weary. He never abandons, never tires, never suffers defeat. He is always faithful and true and is "the lifter of our heads" and "the lover of our souls". May we never be the same....but more like Christ- because of our experiences. Nothing is ever wasted with God. He makes all things work together for His purpose for those who love Him. So happy you are home.....been praying for you. Love, Berta Alston