Is it ok if I delve into things more here today than I normally do? I won’t tell you everything, of course… But is it ok if I tell you more than usual? Even if I ramble and meander a bit and it isn’t neat and concise? Thanks in advance for your grace.
This morning I pulled out an outfit for the day: black pants, black shoes, and a black shirt with little white pokadots on it. That’s when I noticed I have been regularly giving into a gravitational pull toward the darker clothing in my closet. I took a big step back- actually physically did- and thought: Before August my favorite color to wear was neon– I’ve never met a neon I didn’t like.
These realizations have been slowly creeping in more steadily lately. That as both life has taken place and my pride has nearly done me in I have slipped into something, or perhaps someone, different. And I suppose it’s not bad, but it is always strange to become something new– especially when you feel like you’re metaphorically limping a bit.
God is showing me that everything- everything is deeper now. Through all of this: losing someone I loved, my job at a youth center working with some of the poorest children in Denver, my own brokenness– everything is deeper now. The sorrow comes and it is overwhelming– it enters without invitation and floods my chest, and sometimes I have to remind myself to breathe. But then joy and laughter always show up, and when they do they surprise me, and they are richer and sweeter than ever before. People always say that joy and sorrow go hand in hand, but they don’t tell you it’s really the depths of both that will change you– And it will eventually change how you see absolutely everything.
It all plays like a cliche movie– the memories of recent months- in both my work and the other areas of life: laughter and pain’s strange relationship entanglement with each other. There have been times over these months where I have been able to feel in the moment. Other times I have operated in survival mode to get through it and I didn’t feel much of anything as it was happening– there’s a price for that and I’m paying it now by having to process it all. I wish I had the capacity to write down everything this year. Because when I contemplate it I see God working in every. single. thing. I swear, I really can. These moments– some of them go like this:
I held him as he cried for his Dad. He’s 8. Big tears rolled down his cheeks and he rocked back and forth. “Why did he have to die?” Words don’t come to me, and I am keenly aware that it’s good they don’t. He’s crying so hard now that he chokes on the sobs. This boy has already been through an insurmountable amount of pain in his short life and now there’s this. And it feels so very, very wrong that he has to endure this as well. All I feel sitting with us in this moment is sorrow.
She’s 13 and she’s obsessed with that Ed Sheeran song about dancing until you’re old and grey. She’s a hopeless romantic and she longs for a love that will complete her. She plugs her headphones into the iPad, closes her eyes and starts singing. Always out of tune. Yes she is always out of tune, and I don’t know why I find it so entirely endearing. I start interpretive dancing in front of her and in all my gracefulness accidentally bump into the door frame with a thud. She opens her eyes and smiles. We both laugh a side heaving laugh.
I am dancing with Amaya, my cousin Heidi’s daughter, in Ikea. [Ikea is a perfectly normal place to dance!] And suddenly the image appears from several years ago: we were in the boat on Clear Lake. My cousin Will held Amaya on his lap. Amaya was more a baby than a little girl at that point. Her life jacket was tight. She made a stank face just like her Mom does. We all laughed. Will beamed. He always beamed when he held her. And I look at Amaya now right in front of me as she twirls side to side haphazardly and suddenly I’m tearing up right there in Ikea next to the towels and bath mats– feeling both the sorrow of loss and the joy that she is.
They are kindergartners and they are completing their online assessments. Sun is pouring through the window in the computer lab, and it feels like Spring is being thrown into the room. One little starts singing the words to “I’m so fancy”. I repeat after her. She laughs. Another little starts singing with us. And suddenly we’re all singing so loud that it’s echoing off the walls “I’m so fancaaaaay, you already know!” And we are laughing- no we are giggling actually, like happy girls do.
He’s 7 and he’s been in and out of the hospital for months. They say they can’t figure out what’s wrong. The medical attention afforded to him is America’s thrown bone, not America’s shining glory. He is not ok. When he’s unmedicated he lashes out and runs away. He says everyone hates him. They put him on a new medication and now he’s not there when I speak to him. His eyes are empty. He is a ghost of himself. The sorrow hits my chest as I wonder what will become of him.
She’s 6. She found mud in a corner of the playground. She yells for me to come over. When I reach her she says “Welcome to the castle!” All I see is mud and twigs. But she sees a castle. And she is delighted. She gets to just be 6 in this moment and not worry about what will happen at home tonight. And it is joy to feel her joy.
He’s 9. He keeps talking. Incessantly. And I am lost in my thoughts. I think about how many mistakes I’ve made this year- and how lethal my pride is. Depravity can crush and I feel that very much. I think about how many things have fallen a part– how nothing, so close to nothing went like I wanted. And yes that is life, and yes I am human, and yes it hurts– and the problem is that I made it all about me. I think about how I’ve been wronged this year– the dysfunction I’ve been a part of. I think about the price I’ve paid for all of this, and all the things that don’t make sense anymore. I am on my high horse. He’s still talking a mile a minute, but I am not listening to anything he says. I look down at him and ask him to either be quiet or leave the room. He silently sits back and opens his book. I know that I have deemed my precious thoughts more important than him today. The anger, shame and sorrow rush in like the dam was just broken.
I am driving my friend Anne back to her house. It’s late and my eyes are heavy. She doesn’t do Taylor Swift music. I do all of Taylor Swift music. She tells me to turn on a Taylor Swift song. I crank up Out of the Woods at a volume that would make my Grandma shriek. And she is gritting her teeth but there’s a smile on her face and she’s dancing. I am full fledge spirit fingers and flailing. And now I’m laughing so hard that the happy tears start to form in my eyes.
She is 12. And I am (literally) chasing her around Winter Park ski resort as she screams at me: “No one cares about me!” I tell her I do. I care a lot, actually. I look to the left and notice that people are staring at us. And that’s when she turns around and says to me, bleary eyed: “You might. But you know no one in my house does.” I have no words for her because I can’t tell her she’s wrong about that. I hate that for her. I hate it so much. The sorrow is there– this time it feels like a fog that I can’t see through.
Much of life now is this: feeling the extent of it. I realize how simplistic and juvenille that must sound. It is.
And I don’t know if it’s right or wrong but I know I have to let it happen. I feel the sorrow when it comes. I get swept up in the joy when it arrives. When anger sinks in I breathe deep and let it shake through. The depths– that’s what is different now.
And maybe the scariest thing is knowing I still haven’t been to the very darkest sorrow… That what I’ve gone through is a walk in the park compared to what some others experience.
I do feel truest grace because it’s never been more necessary. I do believe all things will be made new.
This is life now. It is strange and I am trying. I am walking some odd line between trying and feeling and praying for help and praying up gratitude.
And honestly, I wish I could say I have the kind of faith that keeps me from questioning and wishing- but I don’t. I wish some things had gone differently, and I have been questioning what God is doing. But what I wouldn’t change is feeling it. Because in all of this I am so messily and crazily alive. And I do believe Jesus is in that very much.
Yes- I do believe Jesus is in all of it. I am never left without Him. It is a comfort. Sometimes a maddening one. Sometimes a beautiful one.
He is in all of the depths. And I want to dwell with Him there. So I vow to venture down to the very bottom of the sorrow I feel and to savor every glorious scrap of joy that comes my way. For He is with me.