“No man for any considerable period, can wear one face to himself and another to the multitude, without finally getting bewildered as to which may be true.”Nathaniel Hawthorne (from The Scarlet Letter)
I didn’t want to get out of bed this morning. After months of rising well before the dawn, today I simply wanted to pull the covers over my head and call it a day. Then a text came in…a friend who knew. Some will say instinctively, but I know better. It’s the joining of people through God’s Holy Spirit that allows us to know when someone we love isn’t well. The sweet friend whose text prompted me out of bed is a heart on a similar journey. The heaviness of this year was crashing in on both of us.
This morning I feel more like the disciples after Jesus crucifixion than the shepherds after His birth. Post traumatic stress sets in as they cowered together trying to reconcile what in the world had just happened. 2020 has been a bit like that. A year that started with so much promise hit most of us like a freight train that has backed up and run over us again and again. Now, the reality is, most days I can appreciated what this season has taught me and even see the gifts God has given me. Things I could have never experienced without this crazy time of Covid. But this morning all I feel is heaviness. I have painted on the smile, most of the time it was genuine. I have hosted the gathering, finding reasons to celebrate through the struggle and the sadness. I have tried to laugh more than I have allowed myself to cry. Yet, here I sit this morning…the smile is gone, the laughter has been drown out with tears, and the heaviness of it all surrounds me. The heaviness of the burdens I see so many that I love carrying, the heaviness of watching people all around me hurting, the heaviness of wanting my body to feel “normal” again after having Covid almost 5 months ago, the heaviness of feeling like an animal locked up in cage longing for the freedom to roam wherever I want, the heaviness of what this year has robbed me of…precious time with my dad before he passed away. In the quiet of the morning, when there is no one to smile for, sometimes the heaviness is just too much to carry. This is where I find myself today.
“To all who mourn in Israel, he will give a crown of beauty for ashes, joyous blessing instead of mourning, festive praise instead of heaviness…”Isaiah 61:3
In their sadness after the crucifixion, the disciples couldn’t see that this horrible turn of events would become the greatest gift the world would ever know. It’s interesting how God gave them a day to just mourn…to wrestle with what they had experienced, what they had seen, and how it seemingly ended. In that day of silence the human heart was allowed to shatter in the pain of it all…but only because God was about to put every splintered piece back together with a beauty that it could have never possessed without the pain.
This morning I decided to write, much less to publish and far more as a means for God to soothe my aching heart. In the process He has reminded me that there are many who are painting on a smile even though they are struggling. There are many who are choosing laughter as a way to suppress the tears. There are many who are fighting to find a way back to a normal that might be lost to us forever. And He has reminded me that sometimes we just need to give ourselves permission to keep it real and be sad about it all. Because how can God ever minister to the heart that doesn’t admit to the depth of the wound or the weight of the burden or the intensity of the pain? We can say “we are fine” to everyone else, but God always knows the truth. And the healing, the comfort, and the strength always comes when we trust God enough to be honest with Him.
I cannot promise you that 2021 will be any better than 2020. Unfortunately, there is no blogger that can. However, I can promise you that God will take the ashes of all that has ached our hearts and turn them into beautiful things. Things may never go back to what they were….time lost can never be regained…we might continue to struggle. But what if out of all of this pain the best is yet to come? What if we trusted that God sees the bigger picture and sometimes the path of heartache and struggle leads to the most amazing gifts He has for us? And hear me…my body may never be 100% what is was pre Covid, more people I love will experience struggles at some level, and I can never get back the time Covid lockdowns robbed me of with my dad. Yet, I feel better than I have months…I have seen miraculous healing as the people of God have flooded heaven with their prayers…and in the end I did get precious time with dad, even if it was only a few days, God made sure it was enough to say and do all that was needed. So while I am sad today, God promises that joy will come in the morning and that joy is not dependent upon our circumstances but rather simply on who God has proven Himself to be. This is the promise I am holding tightly to. Maybe it’s a promise you needed to be reminded of as well.