Life is hard is almost a throw away sentence and yet is probably one of the truest things I know. Life is hard makes Chris squirm because he is an Enneagram 7 and it is better to focus on what is ahead and whether or not a vacation is on the calendar. Life is hard is every human’s reality–and yet we all somehow want to hop off the ride and choose something a little slower and more predictable like the ferris wheel: it may go high…but we have a better vantage point and can see danger from a mile away. I recently heard someone say that pain and love are the most predictable things in this lifetime. This statement is a cousin to life is hard, but I like it more because it speaks of Love.
When we returned from Uganda I kinda thought we had hit our quota of life is hard and maybe would experience a lot more life is easy–or at least less painful. The residual sadness and depression lingered far longer than I could have ever imagined. I have already written a dozen blogs about this as well as referenced the disorientation I felt spiritually speaking. I do think the grappling and grasping for clarity on where my faith fell in the midst of suffering was alarming at best. At a tender age I was taught that a life with Jesus would not be a bed of roses…pretty sure this was a direct quote…but it would be a lot sweeter than living without him. In the deepest darkest recesses of my wounded soul I wasn’t so sure. Instead of smelling roses I smelled something reeking a bit of prosperity gospel and it filled me with nausea. My childhood faith simply could not sustain my life is hard real life experiences.
Deep down I believed–maybe subconsciously or secretly: to live a good life meant good things would follow you…or nothing really terrible would happen. (Isn’t that what most proverbs tell us?) I knew about Jesus and taking up our crosses…and even knew what was His eventual end…but I couldn’t imagine life would be truly hard–as in–excruciatingly hard.
I think the real kicker was returning home and still having hard stuff land on our doorstep. Stuff like suffering still occurring all around the world and it was filling my newsfeed. Stuff like a parent with a drug addiction or dementia. Stuff like being betrayed by a co-worker. Stuff like untimely deaths and broken relationships. Wasn’t Uganda the end of the hard life stuff? Didn’t we hit a lifetime quota of hard? Did we do something wrong and not learn a lesson the first time?
To some my words may be a relief. You have lived long enough to know life is hard–or have walked alongside a loved one who has suffered. You have grappled and grasped and there was no pretty bow, nor roses, or cherries to put on top. It wasn’t because you weren’t looking or didn’t like flowers or trusting…it was because it simply couldn’t end with prosperity…or pretty packaging…it was too deep, too dark, and too tragic. To be honest, it was non-sensical, which leaves us desiring to eat a truck load of chocolate while scrolling social media simultaneously making a commitment to never step foot in church again. Or on a rare occasion–as was my case–all of the above–and THEN actually continuing to grasp and grapple despite my best evaluation and judgement to see if there is anything left on this side of faith to cling. The desperate search looks like turning over the dead log in the forest…inspecting it for life…to see if even the strange creepy crawly things might have some good purpose after all. I have found faith is still faith when you do this type of investigation.
My words might be off-putting to some who are looking for a pretty bow or a positive lesson learned. A three point sermonette neatly packaged detailing how we “trust God in the hard” seems appropriate. Those words will sell books, fill services, and are perfect for memes on social media, but these lips won’t be saying them. It is not because I am bitter…I am actually much better than I have been in a long time. But in earnest, to exit our Uganda story and step in to a new story meant losing a sense of self and and certainty. It was a peeling off of skin that was both painful as well as delicious…similar to Eustaces’ plight in The Voyage of the Dawn Treader when his dragon skin was removed.
No one wants to exist in itchy dragon skin when they were created with a heart of a human. Love came and painfully pulled at the thick layers revealing Eustace’s tender pink skin underneath. For me Love came down and slowly but surely provided a new story with new skin. It was disorienting because trusting my wings and breathing fire was a very natural way of life. I was certain beyond certain of most all things spiritual–and specifically Christian. Now with the leathery protective shell removed, with fresh pink skin, the tender heart of this little girl knew about deep pain and deep love and not much more. If there was a bow, roses, or a cherry to speak of in this lifetime, it would be Love. Love in the smallest sense and simplest action sparked a hope for me in humanity. Love pointed me to our Creator. Love in the greatest sense…a love that came down and continues to come down pointing to something larger than my life or my story. Love in the daily sense is what has saved me. My family and friends have shown me what being the hands and feet of Jesus really look like. Not because I deserve it–or because they are hoping to avoid pain by alleviating mine–but my friends and family have quite literally entered in to the pain and brought love (and sometimes food) and it inspires me to do the same for the world around me.
May You Believe You are Loved and Be Love,
(Photo cred: image-20160411-21959-ps6nll.jpg)