An invitation to confession.
My journey in gratitude is a clumsy one. Once this summer when my husband and I were at the beach, there were some little boys digging in the sand near us. I watched as the older one grabbed a bucket and ran to the water. Noticing that his big brother was already on mission, the little one quickly grabbed a blue bucket and darted toward the lake. In his hurry, he didn't see my legs. He proceeded to run and trip over them, and then continue to fall over my beach bag, and then over our cooler. Although he fell a number of times, he didn’t seem to lose sight of his goal, nor did he lose any speed. And then he stopped. When he turned around, his face was full of terror and he ran head first into his dad, nearly knocking him over. The kid stayed buried in his father's chest for at least 30 minutes.
While I'm learning how to be like the child who quietly slips her hand into God's when she's scared, I'm more like one who runs into to him full of drama, shocked, embarrassed and angry, wishing I could disappear. And when its time, he gently turns me toward the water, reminding me that I'm here to play.
My first experience with grief happened between my freshman and sophomore year of college. I fell into a deep depression. There wasn't a reason for it. I hadn't experienced tragedy or trauma of any kind. My relationships were healthy. By all accounts, I had a beautiful life. But I was sad, so sad that in desperation, I looked for an escape. I remember scraping my wrist against the pavement until it bled, just so I could feel something. Self harm only pulled me further into the darkness.
And then thoughts of suicide began to surface. I was consumed with my own pain, acute and unintelligible. Death seemed like a place I could rest in, a place where I imagined myself belonging more than life. In my mind, it was an actual, reasonable option. It didn't matter who I hurt and how much they loved me. Once you turn on yourself, you are beyond selfish. It's not apathy. It's hatred, intense and blinding. I would look around at my life, at the beauty of creation, at the love of family and friends, and at myself, and think, "Nothing is enough to keep me here."
I had become my own worst enemy, desperate to kill what was broken inside, to act, to do something. And so just before I chose the only thing that made any sense, I prayed. With death an arm's length away, I sat at my kitchen table and told God that he made me. I threw myself back at him as hard as I could. Here. I don't have any fight left. What am I to do?
And then he gave me a word: Stay. Just stay. Keep breathing. Keep that pulse going. You don't need to bleed in order to feel alive. You've got a pulse. You don't need to feel happy. You don't even need to smile. Right now, all you need to do is keep being here. I bled and died so that you could stay. Am I not enough for you?
That day Jesus became the difference between life and death for me. When life didn't seem worth fighting for, when I had given up, he stayed. God is God and He is good. That's our story. That's our hope in life. I've spent the last 10 years searching for threads of his grace in even the darkest circumstances. It's not a conscious exercise in gratitude. I need to be reminded all the time that he's here with us.
Last March, I had a miscarriage at 14 weeks. We were able to hold her, to see her perfect hands and feet, and how God had been knitting her together. What I remember most about that moment was how still and how quiet it was. On our first ultrasound, she looked like a fluttering little tic-tack, all heart, and too fast to count. She was coming rapidly into body, into life. Five weeks later, she looked like a person. We watched her kick, flip, and suck her thumb. And just two weeks after that, our baby was in our hands, motionless.
Sometime later, this verse came to me from Genesis, "The Spirit of God hovered over the surface of the deep." The surface of the deep became our world. It was then that I knew my baby wasn't alone. She was created for life, and the fact that she died before she was born doesn't change that. In the quiet stillness of death, she waits for God to speak.
That same Spirit that created our world, that raised Jesus from the dead, is here with us, and He's already begun to make all things new. If you haven't already, you will experience loss that will knock you off your feet. It may be the loss of a child or another loved one, the loss of your physical or mental health, your home or your innocence, a parents' divorce, or the loss from your own mistake. We all have within us a deep knowledge that things are not the way they are supposed to be. And I challenge you to call this out when you see it. Because when you do, you honor the life that was taken. And when we name the good that we lose, we join God in claiming it for the day when everything will be made right. To grieve our losses means to be able to look at what was so good and beautiful, and then to say, "It's gone." But to be okay, to put our finger to our pulse, and stay.