Most days, I live inside a fantastic free fall of optimism and delight.
Don’t believe me? Check out Car Moments with Jeff and Brooke. We could entertain ourselves through the entire state of Utah and wipe out world hunger if food was measured in puns and laughter.
Reading consecutive road signs out loud to each other:
Watch for strong crosswinds
Well YOU watch for falling rocks
No, you watch for wild animals
Why don’t they just make a sign that says Be Alert?
Why don’t they make a sign that just says Watch It, Buddy?
Why don’t they just make a sign with a big eyeball?
Hiking in the canyons:
How did those holes get in the walls, I wonder.
Prehistoric fish swam into the walls and bumped them.
I know what they said, do you?
But then there are other days, and weeks and entire months, when I can feel it bubbling up inside me, the discontent. It starts out slowly—a steady drip in the same thin spot, until my resolve caves and the sadness pours in.
When my third brother announces my fourth little niece or nephew, and I am equally through-the-roof ecstatic and doubling over from the sucker punch. When we make it through Mother’s Day unscathed, and get blindsided by loads of infants and adorable first dads infiltrating the internets on Father’s Day. When a 101 y/o Nepali prophet and host mom—neither of whom know our story—claimed blessings and Exodus 23:25-26 over our lives…
25 Worship the Lord your God, and his blessing will be on your food and water. I will take away sickness from among you, 26 and none will miscarry or be barren in your land. I will give you a full life span.
…And it doesn’t work, for the 30th time. Literally, the 30th time.
A wave of grief builds in my stomach, grows through my chest and crashes over my head.
For a split second, I’m floating, unanchored. Hopeless. Confused. Bewildered. This is not who I am, I think, in that bluish underwater twilight.
But at the same time, I just want to feel it. The pain and sadness and despair, raw and scratchy, fierce and scary, suffocating. I don’t want to rationalize or sublimate or uproot it; I don’t want to deny it or spiritualize it. I want to let it roll me up and drag me across the sand. We are broken. And this is what brokenness feels like.
I believe every right thing about God because I know it’s true.
But I don’t understand it, and nothing makes it okay. Not Rwanda, not Cambodia, not even Nepal or Cupcakes or Cuba. Not new friends, not old friends. Not stories of adoption, not tiny Chinese babies flung across the ocean in slingshots straight into someone’s heart, or miraculous spontaneous naturally occurring pregnancies from people post-adoption or post-IVF or from people who thought they might never conceive. In fact, your stories are the worst because they’re not mine.
Mostly I reach for antidotes from the sandy floor. I dig deep to find What is Saving My Life Right Now—in July it was an unexpected visit from intern Anna and the coke she brought that day. I put on my Heartometer3000, or at least sit on my heart’s porch with a shotgun. I pray away the bitterness in Jesus’ name like I saw that guy do at the Leadership Conference. Last September I wrote in my journal that I was 30 days clean of bitterness. I knew it would come back, but in the name of Jesus, I had planned to rip that shiz right out again. Here I am only three months later, and my garden is overgrown.
Eventually I’ll burst through the surface, spitting and flailing. At these moments you can find me eating donut holes in parking lots and yelling at people for spilling dillweed.
Or I may simply wash up on the shore when it’s all said and done, quiet and curled up in the Nook.
Either way, we are living this maddeningly complex life where God has provided for all our hopes and needs in measurable and mind-blowing ways, and where he has simultaneously withheld our single greatest one.
My writing group buddy wrote a breath-stopping piece once about the sweet moment in the morning right after she opens her eyes and before she feels the tip of the spear at her chest. This is where I live most of my life. Between my closed eyes and the tip of the spear.
Why does God not either remove the spear or remove the pain?
I don’t know.
In the meantime, I guess J will continue to carry the torch of hope while I weed the bitterness out of the garden…