It’s a tough thing, I think, to process without overthinking.
To feel sorrow without feeling despair.
To put experiences in the past and keep them there, even when you’re asleep and dreaming.
To love people, to even need them, without being dependent on them, without making them your god.
There is a balance to everything in life. And it’s tricky to navigate.
If you give a voice to your emotions, to the things you think you need, the balance is bound to get thrown off. You’ll swing to the left or right, grasping at whatever thing it is you think will provide you the relief, the healing, the wholeness you ache for.
It never works, though. You can’t find lasting relief, healing, or wholness apart from God.
And so you have to come to Him. To humbly come, to come in brokenness and defeat, and admit you cannot do it apart from Him, that everything you’ve held so tight to you’re handing back to Him. You’re entrusting Him with everything that hurts- the things from past that haunt you, the sorrows of the present, the fears of the future.
After all, you have no other option. You’ve tried to do it without Him. It didn’t work. And so you surrender.
And in your surrender, you find that you’re safe in a way you’ve never been before. You’re not trying to hold anything together, so you’re free to be honest with yourself about the state of your heart and authentic with others. You’re free to live without feeling responsible for the outcome of every single decision you make.
When you surrender, you commit yourself to listening only to the voice of the One to whom you’ve given control. You have handed Him your pain and hopes and fears, and in exchange you cling tight to the promises in Scripture and get to know your Father’s heart for you.
And you learn your emotions, while important, do not get to dictate what is true. When sadness tries to tell you it’s never leaving, you don’t have to listen. When the child in you feels unloved because there’s no one there at night to tuck her in, you can sit her down and point her to the Jesus who never leaves our sides. When despair tries to get you to give up or panic tries to get you to take back control, you can remind them that your God is bigger than anything that can come against you and that victory has already been won. You stand firm. You stand firm on what is True. And you surrender.
And you find that it’s easier to sit with your pain, to admit you hurt and that you don’t know how it’s going to be okay without getting suffocated by panic, when you are able to trust the God who loves you fiercely.
He knows the places I hurt. And He knows, even better than I do, WHY I hurt. He knows why my pain is significant and what I think will help and what will actually help. He knows what I hope for and dream about and fear and what areas within me need healing.
And I can trust Him.
I don’t have to plan or over-think.
I don’t have to stuff my emotions, afraid they’ll drown me with their “it’s always going to be like this, it’s never going to get better!” lies.
I battle my thoughts CONSTANTLY. And when controlling my thoughts doesn’t help the ache within me dissipate, I talk about it with God. I bring Him my pain. I trade Him my sorrow for His hope. I trade in my fear for His peace. And when I still can’t seem to keep my thoughts from running full-speed into doors in my mind that I’ve closed, refusing to allow entrance to, and when I feel my body start to fill with that familiar panic, I go for a walk. I go for lots of walks lately.
And it’s okay. It doesn’t have to be scary. God is near to the broken-hearted. And He saves. He saves and He redeems and He battles for us and He has GOOD THINGS in store for those who love Him. And when my sadness tries to convince me otherwise, I point to the irrefutable truths found in Scripture.
And you know what I’ve found? The more I allow myself to accept the fact that I’m sad, the more I’m able to cry when I need to, and the more I’m able to laugh and find joy in the things that are just plain good in life. I can hold my sadness and my joy side-by-side. They can coexist. They make room for each other. Joy flips on a light in the dark of Sadness and the shadows on the walls that looked like monsters in the dark disappear. And Joy holds Sadness’ hand and tells Sadness it’s okay to feel. It doesn’t have to be scary. And she won’t go anywhere.
“You’re welcome here,” Joy says to Sadness. “You don’t have to be afraid you’ll grow so big that nothing else will exist, not even oxygen, because I’m here and I occupy this space too, and so when you feel like you’re going to expand and expand and just keep growing until nothing else can exist in this place, I’ll still be here. And I’ll make you laugh. Just watch. In the middle of your tears, I’ll whisper to you, I’ll keep pointing you to the light, to the beauty of this life, and you’ll smile, and you’ll shrink back down.”
A friend of mine has chronic pain. She can’t do any of the things she used to enjoy doing, and she’s grieving that. She’s grieving the fact that life as she knew it, the things she used to love and enjoy and that gave meaning to her life, they might be over. She is sad. Really, really sad. But you know what else she is? Grateful. “I can’t kayak anymore,” she said, “or play my guitar, or go for walks, but there’s still so much I can do. I can laugh and make jokes and be with the people I love.”
She then went on to say that her favorite thing to do right now is drive around with her girlfriend and look at places they might someday like to live. “We can’t afford any of them, but it makes us smile to dream,” she said.
Her words struck my heart as being poignant in the most brutiful (beautiful/brutal) way.
We should all allow ourselves that- room to mourn the ways our lives don’t look the way we thought they would, room to grieve our losses, and room to be grateful for what IS, to hold in our hearts the promises of Scripture and HOPE.
We need to embrace with open arms the good that lies before us. No matter how we ache, there is so much good. We cannot let our pain over the things we don’t have make us blind to the things we do have.
And you know what else we should allow ourselves? The freedom to dream. To dream big dreams.
To imagine ourselves living in big houses with children running up and down the stairs and kicking soccer balls and breaking lamps and having tickle fights before bed with your husband and slurping spaghetti and playing fetch with the dog.
We need to let ourselves imagine traveling the world and preaching the gospel to people and cultures so different from our own. Kissing babies with skin the color of coffee and holding tight to hands that are wrinkled, with skin as fragile and thin as tissue paper.
Or we let ourselves dream of owning a farm, collecting eggs every morning and milking cows and being able to tell the time by the position of the sun in the sky and having Hunter rubber boots sitting by the front door and drinking tea on the wrap-around porch as the sun sets in the evening.
We need to let ourselves dream like children do, without any fear that our dreams won’t happen. Children dream without expectation. They dream because it’s FUN to dream, not because they need their dream to give them a reason to live.
It doesn’t scare children to consider what if their dreams never came to pass because they shrug and figure there’s another, even better dream worth dreaming. Kids dreams because it makes them feel alive, it awakens them to the fact that this world, this life, has infinite possibilities and options and there are always dreams to dream.
Kids live with arms flung open wide, spinning in circles, looking up at the sky, and smiling. They don’t fear getting dizzy. They don’t worry if they look goofy. They don’t talk themselves out of spinning because there’s “no point”; nothing productive will come from it.
Kids can teach us so much about how to live. How to grieve for the night but allow ourselves to taste joy in the morning. I think that’s easier for children to accomplish, not because they’re young and naive, unaware of how hard the world is, although that too is true, but because they have their trust, their hope in everything turning out okay, in someone other than themselves. They aren’t trying to maintain control or hold anything together. They don’t have to panic about the things that go wrong or the sadness they feel because they trust that their parents will fix it. Nothing can stay bad because they’re someone’s child and they’re loved and their parents can make anything better.
I want to live like that- my arms thrown open wide, spinning. And maybe I’ll be laughing or maybe tears will be streaming down my cheeks, but either way my head will be tilted towards heaven- love for my Father beating wildly in my heart and trust in Him bringing peace to my soul.