Monday, July 7, 2014
For months, I have debated sharing this post as I have walked through the deep waters of grief. I do not write this to divulge my issues for the sake of divulging. Nor do I write to give away any specific details. That would be disrespectful to my family. I write to share because everyone is in the midst of their own story, joyous or sad.
I have spent a lot of time on blogs and Instagram (my favorite social media avenues). These have connected me to some very beautiful individuals who have been brave in their vulnerability and revealed pieces of their heart and lives - not to seek attention or dump their mess on others. Quite simply, they share because how could they not? They share because they know this is what we as humans were designed to do - to connect ourselves with others - community. They share because they know someone is out there, someone experiencing the same doubts and pain, struggling to grasp how valuable and significant they are through the suffering. This kind of vulnerability sparks a deep passion and encouragement in me. The world needs more people like this. They don't sugarcoat their pain and loss. They don't hide their raw emotions and thoughts. More importantly, they don't believe their pain has the final say, but imperfectly trust, then fail, and then surrender in trust again to Jesus Christ, believing that He will not ever waste their grief, their tears, the moans that go up into the night.
I don't like hiding behind social media etiquette or posting only life's highlights on Facebook or any social medium. If I am going to remain connected to friends from different seasons of my life, I need to be genuine about it or just not do it at all. I am untrue to myself and to others when I am only sharing life's happier edits. Two of my best friends, who shall not remain nameless - Elena and Elizabeth - have taught me (probably unaware that they were doing so, hehe!) this kind of honesty. Their transparency and truthfulness is beautiful. I've desired those qualities my entire life and it is pain that is finally giving me the strength to become that.
As in all things, there is discernment. There is no need to drag every little mess out for all eyes to see. That isn't required. It's the attitude of our heart through our pain that counts for something. It is in our nature to want to hide and to feel shame. But here I am, claiming to believe in Christ as my Savior and, yet, am I willing to trust that He has declared me cleansed, righteous, holy, set apart? There is no shame in our stories, though they overflow with the sin of our humanity. When the life of Christ becomes your identity, your life, suddenly your story is no longer shameful. It is a story to be told, a story of redemption, of purpose, and significance although it is paralleled with great suffering and loss. It's a raw, true-to-life story and, yet, there emerges a sacred theme in it because suddenly it's not just merely about your life, but His Life merging with you and making all things new. He's not here to fix us or give us a happily-ever-after. He's here to give something more fulfilling - an abiding hope and life that will never allow us to walk alone again, and declares us as ones who are loved, cleansed, and without shame. In this life, He is making all things work for only good.
To quote author Shauna Niequiest, "Celebration when your plan is working? Anyone can do that. But when you realize that the story of your life could be told a thousand different ways, that you could tell it over and over as a tragedy, but you choose to call it an epic, that's when you start to learn what celebration is. When what you see in front of you is so far outside of what you dreamed, but you have the belief, the boldness, the courage to call it beautiful instead of calling it wrong, that's celebration."
Thus, I am compelled to share the current chapter of my life.
So, this is where I am.
I have been grieving.
My parents of 27 married years divorced this past year.
My grieving has been long and it has been hard. There is no end of it in sight. I have no assurance that things will be better any time soon, nor do I want any human reassurances that things will be okay. If this was not burdensome enough, I must watch (from afar, now that I reside in NM) as each member of my family grieves this in their own way. Stress, loss, and emotional trauma have taken their toll on me. Monthly, weekly, even daily emotional breakdowns are my new "normal." My physical health has been significantly effected. Obsessive, anxiety-filled, unhealthy, almost irrational urges to clean, organize, and to purge overtakes me. I frequently feel confused, lost, and uncertain about everything pertaining to life, both in daily matters and in life goals. I experience emotional triggers whenever I see, hear, or read specific things that align with or relate to specific memories. I wrestle with bitterness. I doubt God. I don't consistently trust His heart for me through this loss. My faith fails in the ebb and flow of my breaking heart. In my head, I live in the past and I fear the future. And (this is most difficult for me to confess) I do not want to talk or see some of the people I knew during my life in Arizona. This has nothing personal to do against them. It is my struggle. It is part of my ongoing battle with wanting to rebuild my life and remake my self - something very unlike the life I knew and the me that was before. This is unrealistic and, yet, it is the result of a very real "identity crisis" occurring within me right now.
To be honest, I am unable to invest in the friendships of many who I have known. I deeply love each person who has made up my life in the past 4 years and more, but I am unable to be present for them. Along with the difficulty of living in different states, I am now faced with the weakness of my emotional state and it startles me every day. I love people. I love community. I want to hear from my friends. I think of them all very often. But I am tired. Even a simple phone call is a huge task for me. In my grief, I've learned about the need to simplify my life. Because my loss is still so fresh, I hardly know how to practically apply this, but I am learning ever so slowly. I long for the day when I can be part of community again, in a physical sense. I long for the day when I can do life without this heaviness, this stress that accumulates in my body. But this is not the season for those things; now, I must learn to rest.
I don't blame my parents. I thank them for their efforts in being honest with me and my siblings through this season. Although it doesn't mend anything, just knowing the state of my parents' hearts and being fully aware of where they stand on every matter helps me to be patient and to understand. Most often, in situations like this, it is too easy to judge and to lay blame. I would be lying if I said I didn't judge or blame them at certain points along the way. But the peace has come and now, I know, every person is fighting their own battles and we cannot make conclusions about their heart and intentions when we have yet to take the time to know them and to listen with much, much patience.There are always two sides to the same story. Just because one side or the other may look more "sinful" or "disagreeable" doesn't make either person less "deserving" of love. Both individuals need patience, gentleness, and compassion.
I love my father and mother deeply, more than I've ever known that I could love two people. Yet, I fail in exhibiting perfect, long-suffering love that both their hearts need so often. The Christian cliches, the genuine but false hopes of reconciliation, spiritual tips and advice, prophetic words or visions, or the myriad of things often found in Christian communities haven't brought comfort or aid. Just as fresh flowers, diet advice, and promises of recovery do not take away the pain of a cancer patient, nor make him/her well again, so also nothing has proven to be of particular comfort or help to "fix us." Overly positive, victorious Christian statements and attitudes have, in certain situations, been more damaging. Not because they are untrue, but because it does not lift us who suffer from our present reality. It holds little power to capture trust, but most often will ignite bitterness and a sense of doubt towards God's heart. The ones who truly bring healing balm are the gentle ones, the patient listeners, the individuals who will "weep with those who weep" and allow the sufferer to express any emotion or thought that they are processing through. I know this now. Suffering taught this to me. Sometimes, there is no other way this humility and learning can be acquired except through your own fire.
Experiencing your parents' divorce at any age is traumatic. But, I speak only from what I know. There seems to be a certain devastation that comes from being an adult and watching your parents' marriage crumble away, even after praying the hardest and longest you've ever prayed in your life for God to restore it. In 20+ years of marriage, a life history was established. Beliefs, values, and traditions were laid down at the center of the family structure. Memories are attached to both parents being together. A large investment was made from all members of the family into the permanent vision of their togetherness. A security was well-founded in the unit of husband and wife, something that was expected to always remain. No family is ever perfect, but the permanence of mom and dad as a unit is a comfort and security that my siblings and I have always known and rested in. They shaped us, taught us, loved us, supported us...always together. They, as a unit, were part of my identity. They were my childhood. Being an adult and having the foundation of your child taken away is a loss not too unlike the physical loss of a loved one. Except, in this case, there is no burial, no ceremony, no sense of closure. It doesn't make that previous life a lie or a false reality. But it certainly can strip the meaning, purpose, and core identity of an individual. An adult cannot be expected to handle it any better than a child. A loss is a loss and it always delivers some level of trauma. And I've just loss something very dear.
Now, that was just another life. I cannot return to it and I will never know it again on this earth.
Some days, I do not recognize myself. I, honestly, fear myself changing because I think the loss will be too great, too fatal, just as I lost a certain aspect of my childhood in the unexpected life change of my parents' divorce. In this very insecure state, I have required daily affirmation and daily remembrance. Daily affirmation of who I am in Christ - the identity piece - the new name He calls me by. Daily remembrance of what He has done to give me Life and who God the Father is through Christ His Son. Very fundamental, extremely basic, and yet these are the only truths that I am able to entrust myself to in this season.
My life has been one of consistent solitude since moving to New Mexico with my husband. I prefer it this way for now because it is opening up new eyes for me to see, to understand, to feel, and to be receptive to the Holy Spirit's work in my heart. In the midst of this, there are three tangible things that comfort me in my affliction: music, essential oils, and my husband at my side, holding my hand. Never have I known a more undeserved and sweeter blessing than this - an enduring husband who imperfectly expresses the heart of the Lord towards me. Amazing grace. In this, I am learning something similar to what John Lynch, elder/author at Open Door Fellowship, recently wrote:
"God, if He is whom He claims to be, does not stop all pain or loss-but instead, wonderfully discloses channels of receptivity we did not previously know existed. Like new capillaries formed in training at high altitude, the capacity to receive love increases. And that, just that, somehow becomes more than enough...Or at least so I'm told. I'm still new to this chapter."
Some days, I am comforted that this is just a season of life. Changes come and go. There is time for everything under the sun. Other days, most days, I want nothing to do with this chapter of life. That's okay. Christ will see me through to the other side of this, not because it's dependent on me having perfect faith or maintaining perfect growth or maturity, but because it has, is, and always will be about Him doing the impossible, the unthinkable: Christ in me, on my worst day, cherishing me, present with me, being my ever abiding and Living Hope imparted into the very fabric of my being.
"The best life, the greatest life is not the pristine life, the fully satiated life, the fixed life, the neatly ordered life. The best life is the real one - with God receiving glory as you trust Him, enjoy Him and others, amidst the beauty and the rubble."