It’s the sort of thing that wakes you up with tears in your eyes before they are even open. It has nothing to do with the tiny human’s knees pressed tightly into my back. She knows to come to daddy’s side, that’s the way of certainty to mommy. Daddy doesn’t even know he let her in, but she cuddles closely to me. My pillow must be cozier.
That’s not what woke me. It’s the words and the story that has been percolating in my heart for weeks like a kettle on a stove, just before the whistle blows. The words have swirled but I haven’t been able to make sense of them…. Until now. At 3:45 am tears fall out of my unopened eyes, I realize the gentle pursuit of the Father who builds beautiful things from broken pieces. The original artist.
As I sat in the waiting room of our therapist’s office a familiar song played, but the words felt so different in this season of life as she beautifully voiced,
This is what it means to be held – How it feels, when the sacred is torn from your life and you survive…
The verses name the unfairness of life, even as believers, leaving us to question his goodness.
In a season that surrounds me with pain, I shared this song with a few dear ones whom I know are navigating the darkest of nights, questioning where God is in the midst of it all. In my own small story, I have felt an unearthing of deep places that were heavily fortified with protective strategies that beg you to believe… I am worth loving, I am worth choosing, I am worth protecting, I am worth keeping… the core of my deepest longing that every action of my life one way or another points back to – am I worth it?
I work hard to never put you in a position to have to say it directly, give no reason I could doubt my value in your life. I will come through no matter what… I will love with everything within me… I will give all I have not just because I love you, but because I long to know you love me too….
It’s unsustainable… I am human as are you. Life is hard and complex and filled with pain… and one day I found myself in an unending flood of tears that reflect my deepest fear
… I am worth losing…
The old familiar voices: I didn’t love well. I wasn’t understanding. I was too honest. I will never be enough…
And when my brokenness meets your brokenness the rough edges no longer fit – and I am left to believe, I am a loss worth taking.
The words fell out of my mouth and took every bit of air with them… I had not understood the pain I was avoiding for so long. It had been poked and prodded but anytime I got close, the fortified walls came up like the work of an engineer.
But something finally cracked this wall and like a dam… I broke…
I gave myself space to sit in the messiness of it all. I owned the fears, I felt the pain, I repented of my unbelief and like a hurting child I sat in the presence of my kind heavenly father and asked, what do you want to say to me right now? What do you want me to know is true??
Like a wave of peace, I heard the still small voice, You are worth EVERYTHING to me. And he gently reminded me of specific times and places where he was echoing this truth through my life. Through the ones who pursue me when I don’t want to be pursued. The ones who see me when I want to disappear. The ones who hold me when everything I hoped has failed. And the ones who sit with me in the pain of disappointment that I can’t make sense of….
I long to be that echo of his voice too. The jar of clay that reveals glory in the brokenness.
As I sat across the makeshift dining table with my salad that was fresh a mere three hours ago, inside I couldn’t help but wonder why I even have a place at this table. There are obvious reasons that cause me to doubt if I should be here, but I realize one thing that connects us all is the transforming work of God to make beautiful things from dust. That’s all we really are at this table, five broken people surrendering to a way of humility and trusting God for the part he has given us to play.
I’ve spent the greater part of my life avoiding pain at all costs, but I find myself in a place of facing what feels like the most tender places of my life. As he shares bits of his story, I realize even my deepest pain cannot begin to compare to the road he has traveled. Without even realizing it, I shift to deflective humor to ease the weight I feel – knowing I have nothing that compares.
He goes on to share how he is grappling with God… it’s evident to me this is a good thing, despite his reservation to even name it. What does it look like to live in authentic community and walk through hard things? So much damage has been done by good people, who want to love well but in the face of pain cannot help but see through their lens of hope.
It’s human nature to believe each challenge is to be solved, we will reach the other side. Our gospel story of rescue and redemption filters our view with a persistent hope – amid of which we have done a great disservice to one another in our places of deepest pain.
His words pierced through me so intensely I could feel my heart beating in my fingertips. He was a real life, tangible picture of the pain I had caused. For the first time I could clearly see the burden of my hope. I began to crumble inside. It was as if God painted a portrait and placed it right in front of me. My perspective had shifted, and I knew I would never be the same.
Hope is a beautiful thing. I never want to live my life without it. It truly is a gift.
However, when you enter into the sacred place of pain that forces you to face loss, grief, violation and broken dreams – there is a time that hope fails.
To be fully human is to own the pain, name the pain, feel the pain… and sometimes just accept that this pains you.
Don’t discount the pain. Don’t deny the pain; and as a friend, spouse, sister, mother – don’t discredit the pain with your quick draw of hope.
Hope that says this will all work out. Hope that paints a better ending than the pit in which we sit. Hope that speaks to your need for relief…
… in the dark place of the night, when the tears fall… lean in closely my friend… it’s ok to release the hope and allow yourself to feel the pain.
After all, even Jesus had to let things die.
And he wept.
This is what it is to be loved
and to know that the promise was
when everything fell, we’d be held.
It’s hard for me to reconcile pain and I often find myself grappling with how to justify or wrap it all up in a pretty bow. I am growing to see that this speaks more to my discomfort of pain and less to the truth of redemption. Sometimes the only bright side is heaven, and that’s ok. We were made for so much more – our very hearts ache for it…
As my heart unravels and I feel my own brokenness and failures, I am reminded of that night, holding my long-legged baby as her tears streamed down her face and thank God that when everything fell, she could be held.
She said hurtful things – as is a pattern in our journey. When she is in pain, she needs everyone around her to feel it too. She goes for blood. It’s an exhausting ride and a heartbreaking reality in which we live. In the dark car ride of silence following her pain-filled words, I quietly reached my hand to the backseat to find hers. I heard a muffle of sobs and just squeezed her hand a bit tighter. When we reached home, she ran straight upstairs and hid in her cocoon of a swing. I peaked my head in and saw her sobbing face, I just want to be alone! I gently responded, If you want me to leave you alone, I will… but if you want me to hold you, I can do that too.
She untangled herself from the swing, climbed into my arms and I held this seven year old baby girl as she cried alligator tears of pain, regret, disappointment and loss… she can’t possibly reconcile the emotions that stir in her heart – and I can’t begin to undo it.
But I can sit and hold her forever. It was the most tender of moments as my heart longed to bring relief to what swirls in her. I never held this child as a baby – she wasn’t mine to hold. This holy moment was as healing for me as it was for her. A glimpse of the heart of a father, who gives us people that will sit and hold the pain we carry, not bringing a solution not even promising hope… just being present.
My dear friend, I do not know what places you have journeyed, what pain envelopes you today. I repent for the way I may have viewed your pain through my lens of hope… not fully seeing the depth of your pierced heart. I am so sorry.
I cannot help but ask, is there room in the pit for me?
I will not fix it and I will try not to relieve it… I just long for you to know you are not alone in the middle of it.
If I may be an echo of a still small voice, please hear me say, You are worth EVERYTHING.
And when you’re ready, maybe we can find hope.