I think we all like to think of ourselves as unique individuals (and theologically it is accurate that we are each unrepeatable designs of God the Creator), so maybe I’m no different in wanting to not get lost in the crowd of humanity. But it has always given me a distain for clichés. You know, those standard, and usually cheesy sayings that we find ourselves brushing off when spoken to us and yet using without intention when talking to someone else. (Kind of like when the person at the movies says “Enjoy your movie.” and you respond “You too!”) Here are a few that I find particularly cringy…
“Offer it up” – This is just a nice way to say, “quit whining”
“Pray about it” – This usually means, “I wish you’d talk to God about it because I don’t want you to talk to ME about it” tbh.
“When God closes a door, he opens a window” – Says who? God is not bound by some obligation to ventilate your space. Maybe he wants you where you are so he’s quarantining you (too soon?). What if that window is on the second floor? Are you suggesting God wants me to jump out of that window?
“God doesn’t give more than you can handle” – Again, says who? God is not bound by some obligation to limit what he gives you based upon your strength or ability or arm capacity. I don’t know about you, but I wouldn’t have said that to Jesus as he fell three times carrying his cross. Sometimes, what we find ourselves with, wasn’t from God in the first place so making it his problem doesn’t really help.
Here’s the truth…sometimes things just suck. That’s it.
And while there is always hope and optimism and a silver lining available (which people need to be reminded about), that doesn’t mean that the silver lining is always better than the thing that was lost. Look at the story of salvation throughout the Old Testament. There wasn’t always a feel-good moment at the end of the day for the Israelites. In fact, just when they’d think that it couldn’t get any worse…it often did!
Some of you just lost what were supposed to be some of the best few months of your adolescence. Proms are cancelled. Graduations won’t happen. Even those weirdly exciting days of commiserating over finals, cleaning out lockers, signing yearbooks, taking pictures and making everything a memory…lost.
And I’m sure it hurts…as is fair for it to.
Some of you just lost jobs, family gatherings, birthday celebrations, and even opportunities for sacraments of initiation. We all just lost the chance to celebrate Holy Week and Easter together as a family.
These things hurt…and its fair for them to.
(Dang Meagan, this is such an encouraging and uplifting blog…said no one ever)
But here’s the thing, God is not only in the good days. A whole aspect of beauty is precisely it’s frailty. Think of the things we stop to enjoy when we’re outside, like a sunset or a flower. We stop to enjoy them precisely because we know we have to take them in as much as possible at that very instant because they won’t exist in the same capacity even within the next few moments sometimes. This is why fake flowers, that might look exactly like real flowers, will never mean the same thing as real ones. While they might look the same, we know they lack the true beauty of the real flower that will wilt and die. A life without the risk of sorrow and pain, in a similar way, lacks true beauty. There can, without question, be real and true beauty even IN loss itself.
It’s not just ok to have bad moments or days; it’s in some ways necessary to have them in order to have great moments or days. Look at the book of Psalms, most of which are written by David. He was clearly a man not afraid to acknowledge when things were dark in his life and to tell God that he didn’t like them. Yet, he also wasn’t afraid to tell God how much he appreciated the moments of light and victory in his life either. The span of human emotions is massive, and it’s ok to experience them. It’s ok to be upset, to cry, to be sad. But it’s also ok to smile, laugh, and be happy too.
So, wherever you find yourself in this current time. That’s an ok place to be. Maybe it’s not an ok place to stay in for too long, but give yourself a break, and a chance to feel your feelings. Don’t be afraid of new instances of disappointment or pain in this time. And likewise, don’t be afraid of new depths of beauty in your honest relationship with God as you talk with him and invite him into these real aspects of your life. Don’t be afraid to be honest with yourself and others around you about where you are and how you actually feel, in good times & in bad. And in this circumstance, don’t be afraid if these things change more rapidly within yourself as this new pacing of life settles in.
Feelings and emotions come and go, and while they may not be solid foundations to build your life upon, they’re not without merit in their own ways. Let them help you lean in deeper to the heart of Jesus and the community of faith that He has given each of you. And remember, you can’t have a rainbow without the rain. (ahhhhh, ended on another terrible cliché! Got ’em!)
For the Lord,