Sunday, June 23, 2013

4 a.m.

I find myself up at four a.m. having another brain dump and knowing I will regret this tomorrow about three in the afternoon when I'm staggering around the house more useless and ornery than a drunk person.  I don't suppose we always get to pick the most convenient times to process our lives.  Sometimes I stay so busy this is the best time for me to hear God and work through my issues, of which there are enough for a lifetime of sleepless nights.

Sitting on my back porch at four a.m. (I'm going to keep saying the time so you'll pity me as you read this) I am overwhelmed by how achingly beautiful this summer has been.  Cooler than normal temperatures, an almost six-year-old boy, and a really terrible year in my rear-view mirror have left me with an achingly beautiful kind of brokenness.  Even now as I sit in the cool night air, the bugs are asleep and the birds are just beginning to wake up somewhere far away from here.  And I feel in love with all of creation.  Except for ticks.  That's where reality hits, and I remember we live in a fallen world.

It was just a few days ago when I realized how awful this year has been.  Just over a year ago I sprained my ankle so bad I thought it was broken.  Two weeks later my refrigerator leaked into my sub-flooring, which led to a year of fixing, replacing, and updating that just ended about three weeks ago.  I had a tough year at school with very little encouragement.  Quinn broke his arm twice in two months. I had a four-month long sinus infection that never really went away.  But the saddest parts of the year have be things like completely losing interest in cooking (seriously, I even dread going to the grocery store... I think I need a culinary intervention), not even wanting to pick up a fiction book for months at a time, and an incredible spiritual and moral lethargy that has left me thoroughly mired in sinful habits.

I'm not whining.  Really, I'm not.  I just need to communicate without exaggerating that, in some ways that are very hard to explain, this year has probably been the worst of my life.  Having lost a child and a husband over the last years, you  might think I'm nuts to say that about a year in which no one close to me has died, so I've just avoided writing lately while I've tried to figure out why I feel this to be true.

In the random Internet wanderings that inevitably precede any middle of the night conscious thought, I came upon this lovely little blog post, entitled "God Does Not Owe Us A Happy Ending."  If you had a choice between reading that blog post and finishing this one, then go ahead and stop reading this and head on over there.  It's that good.

I have watched and fervently prayed for friends as they bring their husbands home from the hospital and children home from the NICU, and thought why didn't I get to do that? I have deeply rejoiced rejoiced with friends who have bought new home and new cars and found new jobs and had more children all the while thinking about how I would have been doing these same things if God had written my story differently.  I've sat in a beautiful barn surrounded by wonderful people watching the sun set over the hills of Tennessee while people played a concert.  And while I loved every minute, I also grieved deeply because this is exactly what Emmett and I had thought our life would look like when we retired to the family farm one day.  Just the other day at the pool I watched Quinn watch as one of his friends saw his dad far away and ran toward him, screaming, "Daddy!" He just sat quietly and watched his friend break off their conversation and run to his dad.  My already mangled heart broke into a thousand more pieces for the happy endings he won't have.

This year I have watched everything I've prayed and hoped and imagined for my family come true when I have prayed it for someone else.  I can honestly say that I have thoroughly and without reservations prayed for and rejoiced with and tried to serve each one of my friends without interjecting my own baggage.

No wonder I'm soul-crushingly exhausted in a way that no amount of rest or vacation can cure.  At 4 a.m. this morning (had to remind you one more time) I finally got it.  I have been a magnet this year for people who want to tell me God is good because he got their kids into a certain school or they found the perfect house or he kept their child/spouse/refrigerator from dying.  And I have smiled and said, "why yes, He must be." But when you tell me that God is good because he did something you wanted to make your life fit your idea of a happy ending, it reinforces the lie in my heart that God is here to make my life easier and I must be doing something wrong because my life is so freaking hard.

I need to be reminded that God is good because he is God and not because he fulfilled the next step in your happy ending, and that being holy is about knowing God instead of putting in your dues to get that happy ending.

And I wonder if my preoccupation to happy endings is really standing in the way to my experience of God.  Okay, I really don't wonder.  I'm pretty sure it is true.  Another blog I stumbled upon recently reminded me that the most satisfying worship comes in the midst of emptiness, not plenty.  But emptiness is so hard and so painful, that I cringe to go there.  In fact, I won't go there, so God has dragged me there kicking and screaming and blogging the whole awful way.  And so help me if another person tells me not to worry because surely I'll get remarried, write a book, watch Quinn live a happy life, and bounce fat grandchildren on my knee, then I might just say something inappropriate.

Because it's not those things I want.

Honestly, I want to stand with Job and Moses and Habakkuk and ask God questions and have him answer me.  I want to face the mystery and power and emptiness and not have the answers and be okay with not having the answers.  I want to find the energy and strength to fight the fights that won't necessarily have happy endings just because they're worth fighting. I want to find other people who don't have happy endings and tell them it's okay and walk life with them.  Because so many of the battles I fight aren't really worth it, and I'm still having a hard time telling the difference.

So I'm raising my cup of tea in salute to the sunrise and praying for fewer happy endings and more fights worth fighting.


  1. Sweet Wendy. I wish I could find better words to describe this beautiful post and how it strikes me in my heart and soul. Just this week Bill and I have talked about the mystery of the Gospel which calls us to rejoicing and heartbreak at the same time, the call to week with those who weep as we also rejoice with those who rejoice. It is beautiful and mysterious and terrible and hard and joyful... Thank you for these words.

  2. Wendy -- a painfully beautiful insight. Thank you.

  3. Thank you, Wendy, for posting a journey few can be present in.

  4. I think my biggest fear as I watch others with their "happy endings" that I've prayed for myself, is that in wanting to be happy for them and content with God's provision for me, I will deaden the longings and dreams that I have. I want to wrestle with God and ask Him for dreams and cling to Him for blessings and believe Him even in the loss of unmet longings. I want to live IN the journey, not just cheer from the sidelines w a numb sense of contentment, even though the journey of authenticity before God feels a lot more ripe with pain. Just resonating with your thoughts. Thanks.

  5. Thanks, Wendy. So perfect for me in my own season of hard things and unhappy endings. Good encouragement. Have you ever read 1000 Gifts by Ann Voskamp? Some of your words remind me of her concepts and it made me think I needed to revisit it for the truth in them.

  6. This really resonated with me: "But when you tell me that God is good because he did something you wanted to make your life fit your idea of a happy ending, it reinforces the lie in my heart that God is here to make my life easier and I must be doing something wrong because my life is so freaking hard."

    I recognize in my head that that is a lie, but as you said, the heart wants to believe it - and I'm discovering that my heart believes it more than I realized and it's become a subconscious expectation. Then the legalism kicks in telling me the last part - life is so hard because you're doing something wrong.

    I'm coming to realize that I am terrible at arresting my thoughts and focusing on the Lord, His word, and His promises. I am not a good student in the school of contentment.

    Praying for all of us as we fight the fights worth fighting.

  7. Praying for all of us as we fight the fights worth fighting. Amen

    Thank you Wendy, I love you.

  8. Praying for all of us as we fight the fights worth fighting. Thank you Wendy, you are such a blessing to all of us. The words that God place in your heart help so many of us. I love you.