I feel pretty broken these days, pretty bruised, pretty forgotten and unnoticed. The grief inside me feels crushing somedays and the grief around me in the lives of others weighs heavy on me too. I never knew struggle could bring so much depth and so much uneasiness to my heart. Everyone has their own advice to give when you feel grief, sadness, hurting. Others judge the validity of your hurt. Friends that once felt safe, seem far from it. Friends that once seemed a bit crazy, seem the most sane and empathetic. And sometimes I wonder when this next season of life will unfold. Sometimes it feels easier to forget that this year existed and white her out, but I haven’t. Not yet at least. My world has been flipped upside down in 2014. And I still think it’s only the beginning of my story.
I have wished this chapter of my story was blotted out; this whole year can just get up and walk herself out of my history. I went from being in ministry, to a caseworker, to being disabled. From busy to flat out pillow fluffer. From living for years below the poverty line, to finally having more than enough to get by, to zero income. I went from known and understood to unknown and very, very misunderstood.
I’ve received all sorts of well intentioned advice this year. I’ve struggled to respond with grace. I’ve struggled to recognize that no matter how much I am told “I understand” by most people, the fact is, they really don’t. And it’s usually not their fault. Worse off, I can feel the lack of understanding in responses. I’m sure you can too. It’s taken me a near full year to learn to respond with grace. And I’m still learning. I haven’t given up.
When someone trusts you with bits of their story, that’s cherished, sacred ground. That’s a crazy, brave move they are making to share a jacked up situation or moment or, like me, a whole entire year. Especially when the story hasn’t ended, when there’s no magnificent happy ending. Sometimes the story just hurts. That’s it.
Maybe they fumble for words, cry, and wear the heaviness of shame or hurt or misunderstanding. Maybe they’ve thought for many days or weeks or years about telling you, about telling anyone. Maybe they are desperate for connection, to feel beyond grief or shame or despair. And maybe you’re the 100th person they told and the grief still feels no lighter for them. Regardless, people’s stories are sacred ground and should be treated with care. People are fragile in these courageous places.
Sometimes our best attempts to comfort someone in their grief come from areas that bring out our own discomfort. We start to feel the grief in ourselves that’s been buried so deep for so long. So it’s uncomfortable for the one trying to give comfort. Sometimes it feels like we, ourselves, are hurting so much that we can’t possibly take on one more story, one more hurt, one more need. I’ve been there, too.
I am told from time to time that “for what it’s worth, I don’t think you’ll be in this space forever.” My friend, THAT IS WORTH A LOT.
Sometimes God shows up in the big things, but more often than not, He comes in the small things. He shows up in the Mrs. Meyers soap smell that reminds you of a more gentle season. He shows up in the aged and wrinkled face of an older friend that you haven’t seen in a decade who has lived long enough to know the pain of ministry burn out. He reminds you that you are not forgotten when you meet a friend’s grandmother who has such soft skin that you get a momentary glimpse of your own grandmother that you’ve longed to be embraced by each day since she died.
Sometimes God shows up in big ways when our stories are shared. But I think more so, God shows up by teaching us how to listen, how to hug, how to be near others in their grief. He shows up in the silence of discomfort when we don’t know what to say. And He shows up in the space when we feel like we will be in this place forever. My friend, THAT IS WORTH A LOT. And maybe the most beautiful chapters in our lives will be the ones that don’t go unnoticed because they’ve been painful or shameful or have no happy ending. Maybe these are the stories that need to be shared more than all others.