Sometimes you need to put into words what you are feeling.
Sometimes you don't. What if you can't handle what you are feeling?
Sometimes you need to stop running and figure out what is really going on.
Sometimes you don't. You need to get through just this one more thing.
Sometimes you need to step back and see the situation from another point of view.
Sometimes you don't...
This week Big D left for school. I found myself filling the empty space with binge reading and working in my classroom. One afternoon I came home to our empty house and suddenly had an urge to go for an afternoon walk. As I walked I finally took the time to think about what I was feeling. The words "I am lonely" came into my mind. Now as I sit here typing on a Saturday morning, I think a better statement is that I feel loss. Even though I miss Big D, it wasn't necessarily loss from his leaving. It was the accumulation of loss from the past year- the moving, the leaving, the good byes, the what could have beens. Some of that loss was brought back this past week as a university where some of my former students attend was attacked. My heart still hurts every time I hear about another attack.
I don't want to be a person who is always talking about loss. I have so much. My husband and I love our new jobs in West Africa. Our children are in schools that allow them to grow and blossom. We have friends and family who love and support us. There is so much to celebrate. That is why I appreciate what Emily Freeman said in her book Simply Tuesday..
We like to talk about celebrating the gifts we have been given, but facing the losses is important too. Not to wallow, but to keep company with them long enough to recognize what part they play in our story, to name them, and eventually release them in the presence of Christ. Before we move too quickly to hope, it's important to grieve the losses, to handle them, face them, and let disappointment do its deep work. (p. 178)
So this morning I am taking the time to grieve the loss- to remember and put into words what I am feeling. King David did that in the Psalms. He put his loss into words. Of course his words are much more poetic than mine but I think the important thing is not the wording but who the words are directed too. It is only when I acknowledge my feelings to God and give those feelings to Him that they can be dealt with. I love how so many of the Psalms begin with "woe is me" and "everyone is after me" and end with "my hope is in God" and a declaration of who God is. At the beginning of the summer I took the time to process and then I just didn't. The thing is grief is not just a one time thing and then it is done. Grief is a process. In the same way, my relationship with God is not just one morning of journaling but a daily remembering of who God is. In that daily remembering, I acknowledge who I am and what I am feeling so that I am free to once again remember who God is and that He alone can fill those empty spaces.
I love the story of Elijah meeting God on the mountain. Elijah just came off a victory in a showdown with the prophets of Baal and just a few days later ran due to a threat from Jezebel. In I Kings 19, Elijah who was on the run was cared for by ravens next to a brook and then sent by God to the mountain of God. Upon arriving at the mountain, Elijah experienced a strong wind then an earthquake followed by fire, but God was not in any of these. Instead God was in the small voice that asked Elijah what he was doing there. Elijah's response didn't match God's question. Elijah proceeded to tell God how faithful he had been and recited all his losses. But then again God's response to Elijah didn't seem to match Elijah's answer either. God refocused Elijah by giving him a task and part of that task would be training the prophet who would take his place. Then as an afterthought, God told Elijah that there were 7000 in Israel who had stayed faithful to Him. It almost seems like God didn't hear Elijah. Shouldn't God have said something like, "I am sorry you feel that way," or "What you are saying is not really true." The great thing about God is that he sees all of us inside and out. On that day, Elijah didn't need a pep talk, Elijah needed a task. God knew that. Just like God knew when David poured out his heart in the Psalms that David needed to be reminded of who God was and where David's true hope rested.
Sometimes I need to just sit and write and wait and listen. I need to take time to see how the losses as well as the celebrations are a part of my story. By putting words to the loss, I make a way for hope to grow. By recognizing my loss, I see my weakness but also have the opportunity to see God in a new way. By seeing where I have been and God's faithfulness in all things, I am made ready for what He has next.