Lost and Found
Coming to the end to begin again.
by Lise’ Buell
Invisible and tattered, I arrive summer’s end of ‘77 at Southern Oregon State College — a time when a desperate freshman can’t refuse taking an English class with enough extra-credit to earn that impossible A. Reading the Bhagavad Gita or taking field trips to a Buddhist monastery can’t be that bad, I tell myself.
It’s a time when spiritual quests replace food, acceptance replaces honor, and innocence will be exchanged for lies. I have a keen need for love but no idea how to find it. No one tells me how to find it. Fear keeps me from asking.
Three pounds, eleven ounces at birth, I was cradled in an incubator for several weeks. I survived death and escaped RLF blindness, a common occurrence from supplemental oxygen used in the mid-fifties. Later, I became a middle child when four more brothers and sisters joined our family.
When I was a kid, chores and piano practice always came first. But when they were done, the doors opened wide to the outside world. Blue-belly lizards. Tree forts. Bike trails. Softball. Wild flowers.
First grade was not what I expected. It was hard. Scary.
In school, when I walked the long hallway, my feet had to remain within the two outside tiles. This was difficult for a six-year-old distracted by her lacey anklets and black patent shoes. Nuns are so mean!
In procession, I folded my hands and placed them at chest height with fingers pointed toward heaven, thumbs crossed. I was told if my fingertips ever pointed downward, my soul would go to hell. My hands must never slip!
When I got bigger, I wanted to play cello. By seventh grade, my slight frame grew to a whopping 58 pounds — big enough to play.
But I had to lug the cello up the steps of the school bus, then fight the obstacle course of planted feet and impossible arms. “Hey, Twig! You, with an overbite the size of the Grand Canyon!” I tried to ignore the jabs, but my heart sank. I feel so ugly. If only I could hide.
In school I was taunted. How could those classmates be so cruel? Bystanders watched, even giggled, but no one offered to help. I feel so powerless. Shame was my only friend.
Home wasn’t much better. Daddy and I didn’t get along very well. I tried to please him, to be perfect. But he was impossible.
My siblings paired off, playing with each other, but I was left out. I didn’t belong anywhere — not at school, not at home. “Go play somewhere else!” the kids yelled at me. I was always asked to leave.
In high school I joined Girls League and attended Young Life. There I heard new things about God and His only Son, Jesus. I felt accepted. Loved. I feel so much joy my heart, I think it will burst!
The hubbub about Young Life’s Malibu Club in Canada became contagious among my peers, so I found a way to go. While there, sitting in the midst of God’s majestic creation, I asked Jesus into my life, to be my Lord and Savior.
Back home, words poured out of my mouth as I excitedly shared my newfound faith with my parents. By the look on their faces, I realized they were not thrilled. Don’t they believe in what Jesus, the Son of God, did for me . . . for them? I wondered.
My mind reeled. If they think that was bad, just wait. I’ll show them bad.
Smoking and drinking
I quit Bible study, then Girls League. I started smoking pot and cut class to hang out in the bathroom and smoke cigarettes. ‘Smokes’ are cheaper than dope, I told myself. If I take big, long drags, I can get dizzy.
Orange juice mixed with vodka hid in my locker, and I took swigs on the sly. I became the “go to” person for drugs. For the first time in my life, I felt needed, important, and noticed. I was pleased to oblige. No one should suffer the pain of loneliness like I do.
A way out
Now at college, I pop LSD in my mouth. Forty-five minutes later, nothing. As I take another half-hit, my roommate blurts out, “I’m not going with you!”
I can’t believe it. She changed her mind! Her decision casts a brooding darkness over me. Guess I’m going solo!
Everywhere I look, in everything I do, every thought is fatalistic. I want out, but I can’t stop this train.
On the dorm floor I sit, lost, in my own world, surrounded by people I do not know who are supposed to be my friends. I grab a Nerf ball and become mesmerized with each squeeze. I mimic faces only I can see.
Outside the dorm window, beautiful leaves seduce me with each wave and glimmer. I stretch out the window to reach the leaves one-and-a-half blocks away.
Suddenly, I cough. What’s choking me? My roommate yanks my shirt to keep me from flying out the window and plunging three stories to the ground. My life is spared. We decide to walk back to our apartment.
These fields go on forever. Swoosh! Behind the trees flashes of light pierce the darkness. Swooosh! Spellbound by the headlights on the freeway, I dart toward the cars. I must touch their beauty!
Thud! To overthrow my stupidity, my “guardian angel” tackles me to the ground, hard.
Fear of death
Back at our apartment, I want everything normal and decide to take a bath.
With the pounding water from the faucet, fear grips my heart. I don’t want to be sucked down the drain! I force myself to step in, to sit down.
I begin to splosh the top of the water. Then panic sets in. The “death demon” whispers that the water wants to kill me, to suck me down the drain.
I don’t want to drown. I don’t want to die. I gotta get out! My roommate comes to my rescue again. I grab my legs at the knees and pull them high so I won’t get sucked down the drain.
Cry for help
As the water drains, I decide to rest. My frazzled head drops to the pillow, desperate for peace. There isn’t any. When I shut my eyes, my body floats high into the night sky — beyond eternity. It’s been twelve hours, and my brain won’t stop.
I’m exhausted. I can’t take any more. “God,” I cry, “if You’re real, show me!”
And He does — in that very instant! He sucks every bit of the LSD out of my physical being, and I am healed.
Searching for love
That deliverance was 49 years ago.
Looking back, I realize I spent six years in a dark hole where life had no purpose or meaning. Rebellion, fear, pain, loneliness, and rejection fueled and directed each decision, good and bad. Each choice threw me into greater darkness and despair. I had no idea I was searching for love.
After deliverance, I grew fast. I denounced past behavior, choices, and sin and exchanged them for truth. I planted myself in Bible-believing churches, broke my secular vinyl albums, and surrounded myself with other believers.
I thrived on prayer and deep, late-night fellowship. I devoured God’s Word and never looked back.
Today, this “invisible” and “tattered” fledgling is free to serve Christ with a new identity: His! I am equipped to accomplish all He has planned for me in this life.
I do not understand why God chose to reveal Himself to me in this way. But I do know His resurrection power grants me the freedom to trade every ounce of shame, pain, sickness, and sorrow in exchange for His joy.
In 1999, I made my first trip abroad to minister to orphans, the elderly, and former drug addicts. Their hollow, empty eyes reminded me of someone I once knew.
Under my breath, I whispered, “Thanks!” to God for His faithfulness to me. Each day He continues to “restore the years the locusts have eaten . . .” (Joel 2:25, NIV). I am grateful. Humbled. Filled. Restored. Whole. Living proof of His unconditional love.