Tuesday, May 26, 2015

broken open ... are we smarter than 5th graders?

Last week this lovely got "promoted" to middle school. Let me just tell ya, if you don't know or don't remember, everything about this age is BIG. 

Big dreams. Big plans. (This one intends to be the first woman president. Bravo, I say!)

Big emotions. Happy, sad, scared, angry ... it's all sort of hormonally hanging out there for the whole world to see.

I watched a gaggle of girls sob openly throughout the ceremony. It signified the end of the biggest chapter of their lives so far.

I watched them comfort each other tenderly, with sweet words they consoled and with gentle hands they hugged and rubbed backs and wiped their neighbor's tears away.

Even though I know that by this age they have surely formed into cliques, none of that was visible as these girls - young women, really - comforted each other. 

They gave each other their full attention, and even as they shed their own tears they wiped one another's away.

And I watched when, as one, they turned to the audience with smiles stretched wide and fists held high in triumph.

Their common emotion was bigger than any differences they might have had.

So what happens to us? Aren't we wounded by each other as we grow up, and still wounding each other as grown ups? Don't we separate ourselves into "us and them"? Or maybe just "me and everyone else in the world besides me"? And is it just me or do some of those dividing lines seem arbitrary and maybe even a little silly. Frankly, even a whole lot sad.

We could take a lesson from these sweet silly sad girls, I think.

We could choose to cross the divides, not hold ourselves apart from each other because of real or imagined differences. We could share tears and hugs and yes, even fists of triumph.

Shall we, then?

It will require each of us to be willing to "go first." We can't wait around for someone else to cross the divide. We must start across the bridge, or start building one if there's none there yet, and be willing to go all the way across. We can invite help in the building, and we can watch for our fellow bridge-crossers and link arms with them. And we can encourage those standing on the other side, the ones too scared to build or cross, that we are coming for them. To hold them close, wipe their tears, and share in their victories and defeats. To help them up, if they need it. To join them right where they are if they're too shaky to move. 

To mourn with them when they mourn, and rejoice when they rejoice.

Let's be like that gaggle of girls, for each other. And just see what happens.

Crossing the bridge,

Friday, May 22, 2015

on grief ... down the road

Nearly four months have passed since my friend's daughter, Emilie, and my husband's friend, Mike, died. We've lost more dear ones, and I have been reminded of and become acquainted with the raw grief of other great losses suffered by others near and far.

C.S. Lewis said, after the death of his wife, "I not only live each endless day in grief, but live each day thinking about living each day in grief."

There's no getting over it. There's no return to normal. Never, ever will those who loved them and those who love their loved ones be the same. We are forever changed.

The mourning goes on each morning. Those early days of shock and sharp jagged raw grief may fade, but the process of exploring the shredded heart and figuring out how to move on without "getting over it" continues even as life continues. Even as the sun dares to shine, the flowers to bloom, the children to grow.

It's like learning to live with an amputation. Not like suffering from a fracture. While a fracture produces acute discomfort and a temporary disconnect from daily life, once it heals we "return to normal." An amputation, on the other hand, alters a life forever. The limb is GONE. And there is the need, in fact the requirement, for the amputee to compensate for the absence of what was once a vital part of their body, what once they took for granted, what once they couldn't imagine surviving without. But survive they have, even though part of them is missing and will be missing for as long as they live this side of eternity.

How, then, to do life with a missing limb? Somehow, it must be artificially replaced to restore even the most basic function. But the replacement, although serving the amputee well enough to re-enter daily life, is really no replacement for the real thing and it never ever will be. It is made of wood, or metal, or plastic, not flesh and bone and blood and marrow.

And after an amputation, is there not sharp and raw pain even in the absence?

And they, as survivors, need help just as much now as they did when they were first wounded.

They need help moving on. They need us to stand by their side, wipe the sweat from their brow, help them out of bed, support them as they learn to walk again, pick them up when they fall. They need us not to abandon them even though the surgery is over, and the stump has scarred over. They need us to understand and acknowledge the pain they still feel in that missing limb, even as we help them learn to walk again. They need us to walk beside them, but not drag them when they can't move that fast quite yet.

They need us not to pretend nothing life-altering happened. They need us to acknowledge their altered life.

They need our presence. Even if their eyes are closed and they might seem oblivious to us sometimes, when they come awake the pain is there to greet them and they need us to be sitting there, still.

I've posted some recently on being broken open in our relationships. Many of us struggle with finding people who are safe enough to be broken with.

If there's anything I've learned in these past months, it's that I am safest to be broken when I am with the broken. When I acknowledge my own pain and don't pretend to have all the answers, when I simply cry and wail and grieve with them, when I pray with them and for them, when I feel their pain. I have been surprised by the capacity of the broken to respond to brokenness in me.

No, I can't pour my own pain on top of the unimaginable pain of my loved ones. That's not what I mean, and that's not helpful to them. But we can share pain, and that is different, and it is healing even though we never get over it, whatever the 'it' is, and there is safety in the common emotion.

We move on, move forward, our heads bowed together, our hands reaching up with an offering of perhaps the only thing we have to give right now, our pain. We remind each other that even when it seems that heaven is silent, God is weeping. And that we are not only acceptable, but accepted. And that God is merciful, even if it is a severe mercy today.

And that tomorrow is a new day, whatever it may bring.

Moving onward,

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

broken open ... when nothing fits the same anymore

I have this pair of fuzzy pants. They're my favorite. My go-to, first thing I put on when the laundry's done, favorite.

Cute, huh? Colorful, a little loud, maybe, quite noticeable.

There's just one problem.

Wednesday, May 6, 2015

broken open ... the critic

In our quest to find the people we can be vulnerable with, who will listen without judging, who will not criticize, who will not shame us, who are genuinely interested in our brokenness, it may be helpful

Sunday, May 3, 2015

unfailing love

Unfailing. To me, that means the opposite of failing. Or even to reverse a failure, to make it into a success. Until one day, when I came across this verse:

And I started to wonder, what does it mean when GOD says it?