Thursday, October 23, 2014

When Everything is Not Okay

There is a scene of my life that plays back vividly in my mind. Twelve years ago my dear friend Carline and her sweet family moved from the house next door to ours in sunny Boise to rain-drenched Seattle. It was a hard day. We had become everyday friends, beating a path between my backyard and hers. We had removed a shrub from the hedge separating our backyards so our families would have quick access to each other. It was to her back door I ran at 6:30 in the morning when my husband was stuck in Boston the week of September 11, 2001. It was in her kitchen I learned the real love of cooking. We shared afternoon coffee together each day on my patio. It was the first time in my life I had let a friend into my heart that closely. It was good, and I am so grateful. 

And then she was gone, and it was a hard goodbye. We hugged and cried and she got into her car with her family and they waved goodbye. As we stood in our driveway watching them go, my sweet husband pulled me quickly into the backyard so we couldn’t see them disappear. It was his way of protecting me, of pretending this wasn’t happening, that everything was just fine. But everything wasn’t just fine, and we were pretending.

Today, I try not to run away from sorrow. I’ve learned to keep my heart open during the hard times. I think it’s okay to sit a while in our sadness when pain shows up. I mean, look at all those lamenting Psalms in the Bible. Those were written by men sitting - nay wallowing - in their grief and giving God a complete rendering of their fear and sadness and anger.

I decided a few years ago I would not automatically try to avoid pain and grief, but would allow myself to lean into it for a time. It feels healthier to do so. Whatever is happening to cause me pain is there whether I embrace it or not, and things happen in life that deserve our pain and sorrow. When my children move away, that deserves my sadness. It’s how we know the love is big. When my friend is diagnosed with cancer (again), that deserves my pain and sorrow and anger and questions. It is only as I work my way through those darker emotions that I can get to a place of peace.

It is a huge relief to know I can be real in life and real in my relationship with God. He already knows how I feel, and pretending everything is okay only creates a barrier between my God and me. And in the hard times, especially, I want permission to be myself and sink into God’s embrace. He can handle whatever emotions are churning inside me. He’s there wanting to walk me through the pain.

Today, Carline and I continue to find joy in our friendship, albeit a friendship that now crosses half of the United States. I learned something new even in our out of sight friendship. I learned how to stay connected to someone who is no longer a part of my every day life. That was another first for me. But that’s another story.

“With my voice I cry out to the LORD;
     with my voice I plead for mercy to the LORD.
I pour out my complaint before him;
     I tell my trouble before him.”
Psalm 142:1

"Part of spiritual maturity is ceasing to think 
that everything that is hard is bad." 
Beth Moore