In 1998 I came home from a summer working at a wilderness camp to my parents telling us that we were leaving that week for a trip to northern New York. And a mention of a possible move to New York the following spring.
Our family is the adventurous sort. We are made of soldiers and entrepreneurs, business owners and people on mission. None of us shy from risk; in fact, we are the opposite, running full-force into it, waiting for the cards to fall where they will. If there is possibility of failure and probability of success, count us in. But New York, just a neighboring state to our native Pennsylvania, felt too big of a risk.
It would be a seven hour trip from home—a move from comfortable suburbia, towering trees, and an area wrought with historic significance for us as a family, but also us as a country. There was nothing, that I could see, that New York could offer us.
Even now, looking back, New York did not offer us anything, in fact, it was a taker from beginning to end. Even in its giving moments, it was still a taker.
It took me far from everything I'd known. It killed my brother in an accident within that first year. It took me away from college. It took my parents marriage apart. It took every ounce of energy for me to make ends meet. It offered me a haven and friendships in my church there, but one by one, in those next few years, I felt taken from even in them as friends married and my homes never lasted much more than nine or ten months.
I remember vividly one freezing winter night, driving home to an empty apartment in 2003, my window wiper broke. It was snowing furiously outside, I couldn't see anything outside my car; I felt lonely, forgotten, empty, void of anything good and hopeless disillusioned with myself and God. I pulled my car over on the side of the road and wept furious tears. I pounded my steering wheel until my hand was bruised and I screamed, "I was good and this is how you repay me?"
I stayed there on the side of the road until my tears dried or it stopped snowing, I don't remember. All I know is that something broke in me that night.
I was orphaned.
I received something that night that until the past year I have lived with for a decade. I realized that all my goodness wouldn't result in anything good in return, so I would continue doing the right things because they found me favor with people, but I stopped expecting anything from God.
He could say He was my father, but I would never know that. And I would be okay with that.
Other people would understand love. Other people would understand affection. Other people would feel the move of the Holy Spirit. But me? Me? I was orphaned. Set aside to show people what happened when you were handpicked by God to show what his wrath here on earth looked like.
In a meeting with one of my pastors soon after this dismantling of everything held precious, he looked at me with tears in his eyes and said, "I don't know why this hand has been dealt to you, and I am so, so, so deeply sorry for that."
I grit my teeth then. I set my face like steel. I braced myself for earthly wrath and constant disappointment.
And He didn't disappoint.