Nothing can undo seventeen years worth of sanctification like teaching your son to ride a bike. All I have to say is that there were lots of mutterings at God for making me do this alone and lots of praises when the task was complete because I didn't want to revisit that part of myself anymore.
Saturday would have been my 11th wedding anniversary, and though I sat down to write something, I couldn't find any words. The day passed with lots of cleaning and some hang time with a dear friend, and I almost forgot what day it was. Almost, but the day wasn't sad, in fact it was more characterized by wholeness and deep joy. Unlike when I tried to open a pickle jar yesterday and nearly had a meltdown at God for taking away my husband because now there was no one in my life to open the pickle jars. At least I have my grief priorities figured out. Sheesh.
Earlier this summer, I dropped by to visit Emmett's grave and wept when I found the Cheerwine bottles I left last year still there, one empty and one full. Sometimes life gives you metaphors so obvious an English teacher would cringe at the tackiness. But it occurred to me that in reality I was the empty bottle, not the full one, and that fullness doesn't come here, at least not completely anyway.
Lately I feel surrounded by a number of friends who are under attack. I find myself coming to God in prayer, simultaneously deeply burdened yet completely helpless. Sickness, divorce, single parenting, depression, grief, money problems, loneliness... these are just a few of the things weighing heavily on some of the people I love most. One friend recently joked that it felt like a quarter-life crisis.
In another conversation recently a different friend said something like, "I guess people just aren't as nice as I thought they were." I can't escape the haunting idea that we carry a deep grief about the injustice of sin in the world with no idea how to process it, starting when we realize that this life isn't what we hoped for or what we were promised. My own grief has been so great for so long that I'm only just now feeling able to breathe for the first time in years.
I suppose we don't have to process this grief. We could ignore it, pretend it doesn't exist or try to cover it up or medicate it away with careers, money, alcohol, etc... There are plenty of distractions or excuses to keep us busy. Only I had no choice. I was given grief so staggeringly large that I had no choice but to face it head on. And I'm just now realizing the deep mercy in being forced to face what I would rather have buried.
People had told me the second year of grief would be worse, and I think I finally understand why. The second year of grief is when you grieve the expectations you had for your future: the children, careers, anniversaries, and lives you hoped to have. I kept reciting Ephesians 6:13 to myself: "Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand." I have been to the point where all I could do was stand. In the past year I have been emptied of every hope and longing. Not that I don't still have hopes and longings, but I have given up my delusions of control and my expectations that I will get what I want. And I find in the emptiness an inexplicable joy.
I'm newly obsessed with Johnnyswim, and I love their latest single, Heartbeats. My favorite line is, "I've got Heaven locked up in these bones, Oh I feel you coursing through my veins like fire."
So when I am forced to confront my old self, like teaching Quinn to ride a bike, I can honestly say I no longer want to return there. Egypt no longer holds any appeal for me. I have stood. And in standing, I have found that if you stand long enough, there will eventually be space to dance, especially in your kitchen while you're cooking. It feels good to be made into the new me and to see the promises of scripture being fulfilled in my heart. For the first time in my life, I can say I love the person God made me to be, and I'm excited to be better acquainted with her. That has been my hope in grief, and I have not been disappointed.