Spent some time at the lake house this past weekend. Was able to sit here on the north side of the house where I sat so many times and had coffee with Mom. It was her who told me, “get some chairs and your coffee – we can sit on the deck over here, this is where the sun is in the morning.” Sat there on my own, just me and God, trying to wrestle through some stuff.
Found myself in the book of Romans and got stuck at the beginning of chapter 5 – “…we rejoice in our sufferings knowing that suffering produces endurance and endurance produces character and character produces hope.”
Don’t these verses sound so noble? Push through the suffering, because you’ll get endurance and character and hope. I read through those words and promptly began working through the things I can rejoice in and all the ways that I’m growing through this:
- I can rejoice that Mom is no longer sick.
- Mom is no longer having to deal with the pains and struggles of this world.
- Mom is with Jesus – how do I not rejoice in that??
- I can rejoice in the many years that I had her, for all of the life I got to live with her.
- For me, it’s a reminder that this world is not how it’s supposed to be – this is not the end. This is not our eternal home, it’s just a stop a long the way.
- It’s a reminder that because of Christ’s sacrifice, this is not the end for me.
- It’s growing empathy and compassion in me for others.
But as I sat and tried to find all of the positives and look at all of the ways I’m growing, I stopped and thought, do I need to do this? Do I need to find all the positives? Can’t I just be sad? Why am I trying to make it more than that – why am I so busy trying to silver-line things? Spiritualize it? Rationalize it? Minimize it?
What if this just sucks and that’s it? Full stop. End of sentence. My mom died and this sucks.
What does it look like if I’m just sad and that’s ok? Why is that so uncomfortable for me? Why do I feel this pressure to fix it?
Deep down I find value in strength – in the ability to keep on moving. I’m proud of myself for getting up and going back to work just a couple of days after Mom died, just like I kept on going while Katie was sick or during the divorce. I wear that like a badge of honour.
But why? Why can I not just be sad? Just admit that, hey, I’m not doing too good with this? Admit it to myself? Why do I keep minimizing this in my head?
- Well, people lose their parents all the time – it’s not like this is unique.
- I’m the oldest, so I got to have Mom around the longest – she was at my kids’ graduations, even Katie’s wedding, compared to my little nephew who will never know her.
- I had a great relationship with Mom – I have a lifetime of memories to hang on to.
- I had the opportunity to say goodbye, to say all the things I wanted to say.
But while all of that might be true, the reality is, I’m still sitting here, with tears streaming down my face. Those tears that show up so often, that are always just hiding around the corner, waiting for an opportunity to leak out.
I’m frustrated with myself – why cannot I not just push through this? But I’m also frustrated – why can’t I just be sad? Why do I need to push through it? Why can’t I just be a hot mess, admit to the world that I can’t do this?
Part of it is because I want it to be over – I don’t want to be sad anymore. I want to know how to do this, do it well, get points for grieving well, and have it be over. I want the hurt to be gone.
Because I think it’s weak. Because it seems lame to me – I mean, this isn’t some sort of Greek tragedy – I lost a parent. People lose their parents every single day in much more tragic and awful situations.
And there I go again – justifying
Underneath it all, I’m afraid of being perceived as weak. I’m afraid that people are going to think I can’t do something. I’m afraid I’m going to find something I can’t do. That I’m going to fail. I hate failing. I also hate weakness.
As I thought that, the words of 2 Corinthians 12:9 came to mind, reminding me that God’s power is made perfect in my weakness? What am I saying – God, I don’t want to be weak, so I don’t worry about your power, I got it?
Reality says, though, that there are things that need to keep being done. Work needs to happen, kids need to be cared for. Reality says I don’t get to just throw it all in – I need to keep going. And let’s be real, Mom would be the first person to say that. Sometimes I stop and think, “Look, Mom – I’m doing it. I’m still working, I’m still doing all the things. You’d be so proud.”
But as I sit here, pondering through all of this, not wanting to be weak, Romans 8:11 comes to mind – the same power that raised Jesus from the dead – the Holy Spirit – is also in me. Wow.
So, maybe I need to reframe this. In this moments when I’m feeling weak, instead of pushing that aside and forcing myself to not feel the things, I have space to feel the things. Because I have the Spirit in me, because God’s power is made perfect in my weakness, I have space to feel all of the things AND keep going. Because it’s not me pushing forward – it’s God in me. In those moments that I just can’t quite pull it together, but need to put one foot in front of the other, to realize that it’s not me – it’s the power of the Spirit. That it’s in those moments of weakness that God steps up and takes over.
It reminds me of the Footprints poem that was written years ago and was printed on everything – remember that one? You could buy pretty much any sort of home décor with this poem on it. The truth of it is true though – how many portions of my life has there only been one set of footprints, that God was carrying me through? That I was not persevering of my own strength, but only through God?
I think it’s in realizing this that I can come back to rejoicing. I can rejoice in God’s power in me – I don’t need to find ways to silver lining my suffering. I can acknowledge it, I can be sad, I can feel the feelings and rejoice that God is walking through it with me.