Today is a day of naked and unashamed. A stripping down, wiping off, laying aside sort of day. Demands for time have, again, out-lasted my reserves and I can’t figure out how to get in front of it all or just on top of it for one tiny minute and just when I think I might; well, life.
I know too well the cycle in my own life of picking up, putting on, and parading about in my own plans and identities before tossing them right back onto the floor.
It’s the kind of dance we do in front of our closets in the fall, when the weather changes with the hour hand.
Sometimes I feel like what I write in this place is a pronouncement of my next failure because I’m eager to share the ideas I’m processing right now, in real time. But then life happens and sometimes the stories aren’t mine to share but they still deeply color my soul and leave me looking again for the sound of my voice. Sometimes I don’t even recognize my own voice when I hear it.
Do you know what I’m talking about? When life changes faster than you can inhale?
When you drop to the ground, gravel stuck deep in your knees and you’re forcing air out of your lungs just so they don’t explode. Sometimes we have to remind ourselves to breathe.
When you count through the pain because really, it’s been a mess for too long and surely there’s not much left to save, but you must.keep.breathing. Sometimes our choice to keep going is a lifeline for someone else.
When the beauty of the fall harvest is shadowed by the latest crisis and you’re taking care of e.v.e.r.y.t.h.i.n.g because that’s what you always do, but you keep hearing that sound. You wonder what it is.
Days go by as you put one weary foot in front of the other and you wake up one morning and realize, it’s crying. Someone’s crying. And then you realize, it’s you. Sometimes we walk through life so numb that we don’t recognize the sound of our own cries.
There are days when death grips life fiercely, the moment of a diagnosis or divorce decree or the disorientation of watching a child deal with disappointment and feeling for the love of all things adolescent, that you just can’t peel your own disappointment apart from theirs.
Maybe there hasn’t been a moment for you. Maybe, it’s been thousands of moments when hope fights for breath but deep inside you know it’s a loosing battle. You just can’t face it yet, but you know if you sit really still and you’re really honest? You know there’s a day coming that you won’t be able to hold it all together. You also know that once the lid’s off from that mess? You’ll never get it back on.
Our lives change on dimes and in decades and we’re all left standing, at some point, in front of a closet packed with possibility, decisions and disappointments piled at our feet. We never know what a day will bring and that’s why it feels risky to write here, but it’s good for me because it keeps me evaluating the level of truth I’m feeding into my own soul.
I know my own tendency to live unaware of the life playing out in front of me as I choose pleasant subtitles for some of the uglier unfinished scenes in my life. Scenes that force me to face fear, loss of control, shame.
Pain will happen, we just don’t have one little say in that. But we do get to choose what we do with it. We have the choice to allow it to strengthen us, make us wise, and bind us to other people as we share what hurts the most in life; or we can push it down, ignore it and remain blind to the ache of life that is humanity.
I’ve had to learn to ask God to help me know what’s real in my life. On the heels of that prayer is the one where I ask for help knowing what comes next. It’s been a radically different way to pray, to live. The pain is absolutely still there but it’s easier to see my way through it.
It’s not my job to fix it for my disappointed kid. I get to help my children learn how to get through life. I hope I’m teaching them that sometimes God fixes things for us and sometimes he walks through things with us.
I’m not responsible for filling in gaps in a one-sided relationships. Several are in the process of changing right now and some have died off but you know what? God has brought me fulfilling new ones as I’ve learned to rest the weight of who I am on him, instead of them.
It’s not my job to keep all the plates spinning anymore. They’re dropping one by one, but it’s not undoing me. In fact, I’m becoming more me than ever as I purpose to use my time intentionally.
Pain wraps its way around hope as we strengthen our identity in Christ. Then, the most amazing thing happens. Hope begins to incubate. It grow and settles into the deepest parts of us, shoving out piles of shame. And after we stretch reaching to open the new doors in front of us, once we’re strong enough, we throw out ill-fitting identities and find new ones more comfortable than we ever thought possible.