That’s what the last few months have felt like.
Everything’s different and each day is filled with struggling to make it as much like the past as possible, while realizing those days are not coming back.
I learned in one of my counseling classes a few years ago that each new season carries with it an equal amount of grief and joy. In order to move on, even to good and desired things, we have to let go. If you want things to change, you have to learn how to grieve the present fading into the past. Welcomed transitions still bring a season of learning and changing, knowing that whatever life was like before will become something that moves you forward from the background instead of perpetually being in the forefront.
But sometimes unwelcomed changes bring the grief first and you have to fight for – wait for – the joy. You have to hope and believe. He doesn’t let anything happen unless it will somehow be for our ultimate and eternal good.
Loss and brokenness; it is not good, but it can be used to accomplish what we never thought could be possible.
My theme for this year was to remember that whatever God had given, it would be enough. But I fought for mere survival because I began to believe that’s all that was there. For me, at least.
I’ve been living with this obnoxious pain in my foot off and on for years. Each time it has surfaced, I go through the motions of home remedies, give my foot a short break, and eventually it’d go away. But it started coming back more quickly. More often. And for days at a time I’d limp around, trying to convince myself nothing was wrong.
After a few months, I finally went to the doctor. As I somewhat expected, he didn’t give me much hope for improvement – suggested to do this or that, but concluded my pain was likely due to inevitable deterioration of health. Another casualty to add to the list.
It was when I was walking back to the car that it hit me. Somehow I just knew this wasn’t how it was supposed to be.
Soon afterward, I found myself at another appointment I had to fight for; had to delay because of complications; had to show up for and be turned away because of a mistake out of my control; had to fight for again to be seen.
Then, success. A glimmer of hope.
Physical therapy would come next. And the pain. And the frustration. And the work.
From a day to day perspective, I couldn’t tell there was any significant problem. The pain only surfaced occasionally. The rest of the time I felt fine. But my hands, my feet – all of me – told the story. It was evident my body was weak. I had just learned to manage. I would continually accept it, deal with it, and find a way. But survival doesn’t tell the whole story. It can’t. It’s incomplete.
The physical therapist examined my foot and pressed on all sides to find where it hurt. Pain began ringing from places I hadn’t even realized were involved.
I briefly wondered if those sore and screaming muscles had a direct line to my heart. There were placed there I didn’t realize hurt, too.
I didn’t realize because I was too tired. I was treading water – surviving – and losing all my energy in the process.
But here’s the healing we all forget in the midst of this kind of chaos: You only need to tread when you’re sinking, and you only begin to sink when you choose sight over faith.
We choose treading over walking on water because we prefer the illusion of control.
And then we settle for surviving.
Instead of the miraculous.
But it’s easier to say we know this rather than to live like we do.
As I mindlessly focused my eyes on the glow of the words crawling across the screen, story after story of people just trying to survive amid the brokenness, I was distracted by my own cracked and bleeding circumstances.
Stop the bleeding the best you can. Try to remember it will be enough. Be a good steward of what’s in front of you and it will.
I leaned into the pain while the stretches awoke the angry muscles, voicing their complaints. It meant tomorrow it’d probably hurt to walk. I was too tired to protest.
When most days I’m reminded both time and money run short, it feels like being told not to live in survival mode is futile. I can’t create more space. I can’t clear my schedule. I can’t do anything different until something changes.
But I’ve also realized sometimes the treading is the storm before the calm. Sometimes it’s hope rendering, brilliantly being woven together for what comes next.
Christmas feels different this year because the celebration is different. My life is different, and this time celebration doesn’t look like lights and trees or packages and bows. But Christ hasn’t changed. And that’s what changes everything.
It’s one of my favorite verses: Blessed is she who has believed the Lord would fulfill His promises to her. (Luke 1:45)
And yet the believing – the receiving – came with a struggle; the temptation to fear; waiting for something to be different, also realizing the identity of this baby is the change the heart was so desperately waiting for.
Mary knew. She believed. She had faith. Still, there had to be some twinge of feeling like she was treading and surviving, even after He had arrived. After all, she had to run. They had to run for their lives.
But she wasn’t running merely to protect life – death had no power over the One who had entered the world as both Son of God and Son of man.
She was running in faith that the Lord would continue to do what He said; running to embrace the role given to her by Him.
Literally carrying in her arms the weight of what that meant.
Laying down the false hope of surviving; picking up the promise of new life.
From the beginning, she had to fight for it. She had to lean into the pain and feel every bit of it. She had to struggle and cry out and bleed and keep her sight focused on what she knew He would do.
He didn’t leave her to wither in pain or hide from danger without the hope of what was on the other side of it; the reason. True healing. Not a change in circumstance but a change in identity. Not a temporary fix but an eternal home.
And then – the cry of pain faded into the cry of hope. A cry that echoed in every corner of the world, summoning everyone to come and see, come and believe.
The thunder now a lion’s roar. The deep waters now standing firm beneath our feet. The bleeding now covered with Divine blood, washing it and redeeming it to a state we never deserved, given freely because of Love.
Rest has been at the forefront of my heart lately. I have to give myself permission not to do everything and be everything so that I can be who He desires I be, even if that role doesn’t always look how I want it to.
More than one friend has given this to me as encouragement through the months of frustration and heartache – jubilee is coming. Rest is coming.
I don’t know when exactly. I don’t know how. I don’t know in what way. But I know. The prerequisite may be work and struggle and pain and the temptation to fear. But the circumstances just prepare the way. They don’t define the outcome.
This is what I will focus on in 2018.
Waiting and getting ready. Hoping and choosing faith. Not expecting disappointment, but expecting rest and newness.
Expecting something greater than what I can see. And knowing the cry that changed everything has changed me.