Chuck, in his blog, The World According to Chuck, wrote today about the loss of his father, about how the grief changes as time wears on, but it never really leaves you. At least that is what I heard him saying.
But then again, I have this habit of missing the main point entirely and zeroing in on a few lines that are not an integral part of what is being written, but practically shout to be lifted out of a piece and scrutinized more closely…Okay, so I have a skewed view and I waste a lot of time chasing rabbits.
Here is the rabbit I need to chase,
“I went to Easter service two years ago and cried, I was so scared. It's hard to be scared on Easter; it doesn't make sense. Still, I was in bad shape. I would get worse. I am better now.”
Last Easter, I (and my family) was in bad shape. My teen-age son was in a drug rehab facility, and we spent the day visiting with him. He was still a bit moody about being in rehab, but we all made the best of things and had a good visit in spite of the circumstances.
Following Chuck’s pattern, I (and my family) have gotten worse. But, to be fair, it isn’t just Chuck’s pattern. It is the pattern of life, really. Only, up until the last few years, I lived in such an idealized fairy-tale world that I could never have imagined the ongoing heartbreak that would come into my life in the last few years, never could have imagined myself in bad shape, and getting worse.
But, to get back on track, this Easter, I (and my family) have gotten worse. Right now my son is struggling in a relapse. It feels like we are back at square one, and the upward climb looks rough, to say the least. I have hard and complicated decisions facing me. And I come to Easter, the most glorious and hopeful of all seasons, scared to death, and with very little hope. It doesn’t make sense.
Though it does not look like it, the truth is I do have a hope, a hope that is not rooted in the outcome of my son’s struggles with substance abuse, a hope that is of more substance than fairy tale endings, and the absence of conflict in one’s life. I am reminded of the verse in Hebrews (11:1, I believe), “Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things unseen.”
There will be lot of Christians who will celebrate Easter in relative comfort and peace. I will only speak of myself here, but for so many years, that is how I celebrated Easter, with no real heartbreak in my life. With everything going my way, what was there not to celebrate about Easter?
This past Thanksgiving, when my son was in a program designed to help him turn his life around, and it looked like he was finally getting it, and having hope for himself, I was so grateful to God for new beginnings. Yet, in the back of my mind, the nagging question was, if it all caves in tomorrow, will I still be grateful? In church, we sang How Great Thou Art, and I was crying, thinking how easy it is to sing that song when our children are excelling at school, when we have the money to provide for their healthcare, when we know they are prepared to face the world in a healthy manner. Those things are no longer true in my life. Can I still sing How Great Thou Art? Can I still be grateful? Can I still rest in a “peace that passes all understanding”? Yes, yes I can, most days, that is.
But the added benefit, the real sparkle to my own gem of disappointment is a new appreciation, and compassion, for the many people around me who quietly suffer their own disappointments, the ones who may just feel that the church has no place for them. I feel so badly about all the years that I lived in my own sanctimonious little Christian world, the one where good Christians did not have problems with their children, the one where good Christians were rewarded for their goodness and their faith, the one where good Christians never, ever, strayed, or had doubts, or messy lives. There are a lot of hurting people out there, people who fly “under the radar” and go unnoticed in their loneliness and their pain. I knew about those hurting people once, even when I myself was not hurting, when I was younger, but I grew up, and got comfortable in my own happy little world.
I don’t know for sure all that I am trying to say here. I am probably trying to say too many things at once. If I were speaking out loud, I would probably drawl it out in my slow Southern way and use bad grammar for emphasis: I think I’m fixin’ to enter a whole new ball game where my Christianity is concerned. The only thing I know for sure is, I don’t need no game face for this game.
Part of what I am saying is that if you are hurting this Easter, dare to take your game face off, and let someone see your pain. I know have a real problem acting like I believe this, but I really do think it is true that God did not intend for us to suck it up and bear our burdens all alone (the verse “bear one another’s burdens and so fulfill the law of Christ” comes to mind). If you are in a church where they just don’t recognize your brand of pain, shop around and find a church that does acknowledge your pain. It is hard work, church shopping, and it may take some time, but I do believe there are churches out there that are doing it right in terms of reaching out to hurting people, and I am confident that God will lead you to one of them.
The other part of what I am saying is that if you are one of those who, for whatever reason, at this moment, are “too blessed to be stressed”, well, good for you, but take your damn game face off. You know good and well that you have had your moments of messiness and doubt too. Quit trying to look like nothing ever goes wrong for you in your Christian walk.
And if you are really deep in delusion and you think that you will never have any problems because you are just too devoted to God and His ways, ask God to open your eyes to the suffering of those around you, if you dare.
Whew. In a few minutes, I will worry that I have offended someone or that I should have not been so open in my writing today but I am better now.
At least for the moment.