Reader, this season is hard.
If I could sit across the table from you, cup of coffee in hand, and pour out all that is on my heart, I’d share how I’m feeling cooped up, isolated, a little bit anxious and a lotta bit lonely. I’d share how my moods are changing by the hour, and how though some days I feel like I can identify and embrace all the beauty and joy there is to be found in this season; most days, I’m battling for joy and rejoicing is painful. I’d share how I’m finding so much to be thankful for, yet mourning the loss of so much. And I’d tell you how I’m feeling guilty about my struggle because I have been infinitely blessed and so many of my neighbors haven’t been. I’d tell you how most days I question who I am to consider this season one of suffering.
And I’d ask you the same questions I’ve been asking God.
Questions like: How do we rejoice in this season of suffering, isolation and loneliness? What does it look like to give thanks when so many people are losing and living in desperation? In this season of emotional frailty and weakness, where do we find the strength to rejoice in the Lord? When all we have are hard emotions, exhausted hearts, and weary minds, how do we embrace the command to rejoice?
Do we muster up “good” emotions? Do we look for the silver lining? Do we try to fake it ‘til we make it? And what about that thing called joy? Is it there and we just can’t find it? Or are we doing joy wrong?
“Don’t be afraid.” Easier said than done, am I right?
You know, there are a lot of commands in the Bible that I can easily get on board with – a lot of straightforward, easy to understand commands. No, they aren’t all easy to follow of course, but a lot of them seem pretty black and white, right and wrong, do this and don’t do that. And I can see value in them all, even though I fall short of each one, often.
But when the Bible commands Christians not to be afraid, it throws me off because it isn’t just a suggestion or a good idea. It’s not just a friendly phrase to throw around in the midst of trials or to encourage loved ones with. It’s a command.
“Do you forgive me?”
In my head? Yes.
In my heart? No.
This is often how things play out between my husband and I after an argument. It doesn’t really matter the circumstance, whether it’s a huge, deep hurt against the other or a small comment taken too seriously, when my husband and I disagree, he is always quick to apologize and quick to forgive.
I wish I could say I’m the same way. I wish I could say I fight for unity with ease and am quick to reconcile, but the truth is, I don’t and I’m not.
And I hate that.
I hate that I am often the grudge holder in our marriage. I hate that I am a keeper of wrongs. I hate that apologies don’t come easy and that I cling to unforgiveness. I hate that my mind is ready to forgive, but my heart and my emotions are not.
I see you.
You, the exhausted, worn out and weary soul, tired of chasing grace, yet refusing to accept it.
I see you.
You, who are fully aware you aren’t living in the freedom Jesus promised, yet paralyzed by desperate, failed attempts to taste His sweetly promised peace.
I see you.
You who’s been beaten down by shame and who’s given the reins to the enemy to attack you with his accusations. You – trapped in an exhausting cycle, a victim of the less-than-perfect, never able to meet the demands of perfection, yet refusing to ever accept the reality that we are surrounded by an imperfect everything.
Yeah, I see you. And in every way, I’ve been you.
“Mom, be prepared.”
This is what I used to say to my Mom as a child every night before bed. Not your typical, “Goodnight-I-love-you,” am I right? I don’t know many women who long for their goodnight cuddles and their “I love you” to be returned with, “Mom, be prepared.”
But, for most of my preteen and early teenage years, I ended each day with a rigid routine – one where I placed my phone on the exact same spot on our coffee table, got ready for bed, washed my hands three times, restarted the bedtime music I slept to about 15 times, carefully took 11 sips of water – three regular, three big, three small, one gargling, one tiny – and then, always the same each night, “Mom, be prepared,” followed by the assurance, “Honey, I’m prepared.”
See, during those years I struggled with chronic anxiety and severe Obsessive Compulsive Disorder. I couldn’t handle anything out of the ordinary and I worried constantly. I worried about my mom traveling on business trips. I worried about being the last one up at night. I worried about being away from home. I worried about school. I worried about losing my family or friends. I worried about germs. I worried about getting sick. I worried about what I thought. I worried about what I said. I worried about what I did. And I worried about change.