Laid on the carpet and gave into the anguish. The crack in my control widened as the losses tumbled out of the boxes in which they’d been carefully locked. Tears streamed. Snot accumulated. My wails got louder as I surrendered to the grief and pain. It was an ugly cry, I’m sure. The cats stared warily and gave me a wide berth.
I couldn’t stop the flow of emotions I had controlled for so long. So I decided to stay awhile. I didn’t change the subject or blink back the tears.
I mourned the “should have been.”
My marriage shouldn’t have failed. For years I prayed. I persisted. I tried to do all the right things. I should be ensconced in happily ever after. The dramatic and explosive failure dressed with shame barely fit in its box.
My oldest son shouldn’t have left home in anger to couch surf rather than live with my house rules. He should be launching himself to college. The anger he tries to lock away, that bubbles to the surface shouldn’t be hurled at me, his closest parent.
Lynn, my friend, our concierge, should not have died suddenly. She should be organizing girl trips, parties and outings for our group of friends. This loss came so close to my crumbled marriage that I figured if I cried I wouldn’t stop.
Pina is another friend who shouldn’t have died. One night she sat with me at the hospital while my young son had an emergency appendectomy. A few days later she lay in her own hospital bed fighting for her life. She shouldn’t have lost that battle. I would call her now if I could. “Please pray,” I would say. And she would. This box has lots of questions. Why? Why her? I need her, God.
I never cried when a friend took offense at an innocent comment and chose to abandon our friendship. The support we offered each other through texts and phone calls was suddenly ripped away. I stuffed the hurt and loneliness in a box.
When another friend suddenly became too busy for me, the indictment that I didn’t have enough to do in my life eerily echoed complaints from my ex-husband. The unexplained support withdrawal left me bewildered. And tearless. This betrayal got a big box.
Finally those boxes tumbled off the shelves where they’d been stacked haphazardly. I experienced the hurts anew. I cried harder.
The pain was physical.
“Record my misery; list my tears on your scroll—are they not in your record?” (Psalm 56:8)
When I dragged myself off the floor, my heavy heart weighed me down. No new perspective or supernatural peace graced me that day.
I decided to sit under a rain cloud with Eeyore awhile and marinate in my misery. My head knew God was with me.
“Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid or terrified because of them, for the Lord your God goes with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you.” (Deuteronomy 31:6)
But I needed to mourn. So I indulged in the pity party.
It didn’t take long before I turned to God’s comfort. The desert is a thirsty place and settling into God’s presence was like a drink of water refreshing my soul.
“I am worn out from my groaning. All night long I flood my bed with weeping and drench my couch with tears.” (Psalm 6:5)
Gently, God reminded me that my grief and pain matter to him.
“Let the morning bring word of your unfailing love, for I have put my trust in you. Show me the way to go, for to you I lift up my soul.” (Psalm 143:8)
In the midst of my slog through the dark valley, God reminds me that this journey is the point. I have waited for my suffering to end. I have longed for a new beginning, for the happily ever after. But my focus should not be on the “when.” God asks me to be in these painful and hard moments.
“I am with you and will watch over you wherever you go and I will bring you back to this land. I will not leave you until I have done what I promised you.” (Genesis 28:15)
We all experience loss and pain. But God assures me during sleepless nights, in the midst of my crying jag, even when I’m wallowing in self-pity, that he’s got this. I can trust his promises.
“Hear my cry, O God, listen to my prayer. From the ends of the earth I call to you, I call as my heart grows faint; lead me to the rock that is higher than I. For you have been my refuge, a strong tower against the foe. I long to dwell in your tent forever and take refuge in the shelter of your wings. (Psalm 61:1-4)