Wednesday, April 23, 2014

When There are no Words

Recently, I have watched several friends go through very different, but equally heart breaking, losses. On Easter Sunday, I watched one of the strongest women I've ever known break down in tears over spending her first Easter without her husband. There was nothing to say. Only a touch of the hand and an understanding nod when she left early to visit him in the cemetery.

I have seen and heard Christians claim that such mourning is silly, pointless, even un-Christian, because we know that there is something far better for believers after this life. But when Jesus learned of Lazarus's death, "Jesus wept" (John 11:35). See, even if we know that Heaven is infinitely better than this life, there remains the pain of change, of absence, the ache of what could have been. Mourning itself is not bad - we were created to feel pain as well as joy. Wallowing in mourning, refusing to live, not allowing our story to be, in some way, a ministry to others is what is bad.

So, I challenge you to tell your story, whether it be to one person you know is experiencing a similar struggle or to a much larger audience. Our stories have power to help, to heal, to show others the power of faith in grief. Because sometimes, when there are no words, your story will do just fine.

Sunday, April 20, 2014

I Am New

I sat in church this morning, feeling grateful for a supportive family, the forgiveness of God, and the opportunity for a new start at a new job in a new town. Then, I glanced down at my bulletin and saw the scars on my arm. A year ago, this would have brought my mood crashing down.Today, I realized something monumental, for me anyway, which I'd like to share with you.

On Easter, we celebrate Jesus's crucifixion on Friday, death and burial, and resurrection on Sunday. As a song performed by the church praise band today put it, "He put Death in his grave." (Song starts at 3:40)

This song was playing when I glanced down and saw my scars. As I listened, it occurred to me that Christ did not just conquer his own death; he conquered Death himself; he conquered my death and yours. That defeat of Death doesn't start with our entry to heaven. My scars are evidence that God defeated Death in me on May 25, 2013. I have been resurrected, set free, given new life and new purpose.

I've been delivered from more than just physical death, though. I've been resurrected from the death of living in depression and anxiety. I've been rescued from the storm of self injury. I'm being lifted from the depths of eating disorder. All of these are spiritual, emotional, mental death, and many are physically harmful as well. I am offered resurrection from them - so are you.

This is not one of those posts that will tell you that all you have to do is pray and it'll all work out. It's not that easy. It's never that easy. In most cases, I had to first ask to be rescued, and then fight, hard, against forces determined to push me back toward death. In one case, a friend stepped in and simply informed me that I was going to fight and gave me a reason to. Regardless of how it starts, once you begin fighting Death, do so with God's help, and hopefully with supportive family and friends. You can't do this alone, but you can be resurrected from whatever kind of death you are experiencing.

Monday, April 14, 2014

When Dreams Are Shattered

My life is in what some of my friends call "a season of change." With all due respect, when they tell me this I am just barely restraining myself from smacking them. I hold myself back only by reminding myself that they mean well. They wish only to remind me that things will get better someday, that someday I may feel less in turmoil. I know that they're right. But right now, it doesn't feel that way.

Right now, it feels like all of my dreams are being ripped from my hands and dashed to pieces, as if I am scrambling on the ground, gathering the broken bits to myself but finding only pain on their sharp edges, rather than healing.
This week, I paused in my metaphorical attempt to gather the pieces and put them back together the way they were. "Why," I asked myself, "would I put these things back together the way they were if that likely means they'll just be ripped away again?" Still, I couldn't bear to just throw away all of the pieces. Some, after all, still seemed worthwhile, like my dream of someday teaching.

So, I did the only logical thing: I prayed. And by prayed, I mean I cried, I yelled, I ranted, I let God know exactly how I felt about losing so much. Then, I listened. I was reminded of a high school trip to Spain, and of my favorite place there: Park Güell in Barcelona. Everything in Park Güell is covered in trencadís (Catalan word meaning "brittle"), a mosaic created from broken shards of tile.
Although the entire park is made of  broken tile/pottery, it is the most beautiful man-made thing I have ever seen. I decided then to pray over which pieces of my dreams to salvage and utilize to create new dreams, and which to throw away.

My life is currently somewhere between those two pictures, somewhere between shattered on the ground and pieced into something beautiful. If we were honest, we all spend most of our lives in this "work in progress" space. At times, a piece of the mosaic will come together, but it doesn't take long to realize that there is still more to do.