I do not like unpleasant things. I don’t like hearing kids be teased or hearing harsh words among adults. I don’t like friction and negativity. I’m disturbed by violence, and have been warned by my family to not watch certain movies (cinematic masterpieces, even) because I can’t “handle it.”
I’m not frightened by these things. They don’t cause actual fear in me. They don’t make me worry. I know that no one in my real life is going to get his leg blown off as he jumps a cliff. Or that just because two friends spar with hurtful, derogatory words online does it make those statements true.
I guess I just want a little piece of the Kingdom here on earth. A little bit of how the world is supposed to be.
But it isn’t actually all that pleasant sometimes. And that’s a lesson that I’m learning each day.
See, I avoid pain in my personal life, too. I’m absolutely notorious for moving on, tuning out, or not dealing with painful situations. I’d rather not, thank you. If you don’t mind, I’d prefer not to sit still with only my thoughts. If it’s ok with you, I’d love to fill my time with fun and dinners and parties and friends. Let me know what time to show up. I’ll bring an extra dessert or something.
What I’m realizing, though, is that pain and joy can be held at the same time. (Didn’t Inside Out teach us that like, 6 years ago?) There is a tension between pain and joy that can be acknowledged and even useful. And pain may actually be where we find the joy.
As a pastor’s wife, I find myself sitting in the stories of many friends. I realize that over the last year and a half, we have all lost something. We, as a society, are sitting in collective grief. Some have lost weddings and funerals, ceremonies and recognition. We’ve lost loved ones. We’ve lost money and vacations. Our kids have missed out on some of the greatest things that we remember from our formative years. Summer camp, sports, plays and programs were all taken from us. Some of us worked hard, right inside our homes, side by side, but never able to escape the constant tug of the next thing, the notification, the email. Others lost their job, their livelihood, their reason to get out of the house and serve others. When we were experiencing these things, right in the heart of it, we couldn’t even hug our own friends and family to tell them it would be all right.
How do you deal with grief? Do you? Have you? How do you look back and look forward at the same time? How do you hold in one hand the anxiety that you’ve never, ever felt before and in the other hand the peace that passes all understanding?
I’ve seen what can happen when we don’t sit in the pain. I’ve seen what happens when the ache is filled with something else. Instead of grieving, instead of feeling, I’ve seen people fill the void with other things. Things that are harmful. Alcohol, casual intimacy, affairs, drugs, gambling, and more are often choices people make when facing the pain becomes too much.
Or maybe it’s nothing big, nothing outside of you, but that not acknowledging hard things makes you sink inward. You now feel depression, anxiety, lack of excitement, blah.
I’m realizing that maybe what God wants for me is to just sit in the junk. Not forever, but today. Maybe tomorrow. Lament. Acknowledge. Pray through the pain. Grieve. Feel the hole, not fill the hole. Recognize that I have some pretty big wounds from living in this fallen world that need no patching from things other than God. Maybe my job for today is to just be. Maybe today God has me in a place of lament because I know what was and He’s told me what can be. I have much to look forward to. I have a hope and a future. After being refined by the fire, I will have a faith of greater weight than gold.
So, this morning I sit. I pray. I grieve. Then, I leave those things at the feet of the only one who can take them away. The only one who can heal my pain and take my sorrow. Will the daily grind still be tough? Of course. No one said it wouldn’t. But, can I handle it? Yes. Can I deal with it? Yes, if I really, actually “deal with it.” I encourage you to open up today. Bring to the surface some of the hurts that you’re holding on to with tightened fists. Open your hands and let those hurts be given to someone who can help you move on to the bigger and greater things that you have in store. I am in your corner. I see you and your hurts. I get it. And, I’ve also seen the other side. We can get there together.