The past two nights I’ve retired to bed with my heart singing with joy. We enjoyed days at the lake with our friends who used to live down the street from us. We played on the boat and went to the beach and enjoyed delicious meals and swam and played cards and drank beer and laughed and told stories. Our biggest worry was if the toddler was too close to the water or if one of the girls had taken the other’s preferred life jacket. Life was easy and good.
Perhaps it’s age, or perhaps it’s my yoga practice, but I remained fully present to this joy the entire time we were together. I noticed in my mind I would say, “this is an amazing weekend” and “I think this will go down on my list of top favorite lake trips.” I was aware of the joy expanding my heart.
And then the dreaded time comes, as it does any time we go to the lake, that we all must go home. I could barely stand the goodbyes. I watched them hug my children and we made promises to see one another soon (and confirmed the date). But as they pulled away it felt like someone had taken my heart and stomped on it, leaving it completely deflated. The sadness I feel is even much greater than when we pulled away in the moving truck.
This probably has a lot to do with our friends being completely fantastic, for sure. And it also is likely related to missing the comforts of our old life amid the transition into a new community. And, it’s Sunday and I get weepy on Sunday.
I’m inclined to believe, however, that it has much more to do with the elasticity of the human heart. Only when it expands does it know how it feels to be empty. And, as it does when pumping blood throughout the body, as it does this more often and with more power, it actually grows stronger. Perhaps we get better at loving people by loving people. The more we do it, the better we get.
The downside to an ever-expanding heart is the process of deflation – the missing people, the sadness, the ache. By not filling your heart, you never realize the weight of its emptiness. Like a real balloon, our hearts become lighter as they expand.
In many ways it would be easier to deal with the rest of this day – the tired toddlers, the cleaning, the return home – if that dull ache of loving people could subside. I can be so much more operational when I’m not feeling all of the feels. But today I have a bit of gratitude for my current deflated state. I’m taking it as a sign that I’m loving well. I’m going to choose not to numb the sad because I want to be able to experience the sense of joy that precedes it.
May we love well. May we feel the sad as and indicator of the joy that led the way.
1. I’m not a good listener. I am fantastic at hearing and absorbing and synthesizing information. However, if simple listening is what you need, I’m not your gal. Recently, I’ve tried to ask friends about their needs in this regard. Do you want advice right now or do you want me to just listen? At least then we’re both understanding the same expectations. Because….
2. I’m an ideas person. I’m a believer that we are not so firmly planted in our ways of life that we cannot change the things we do not like. We can’t change all of the things, but we can change our approach or our response to them. So I all-to-often share what I’ve done, read, heard, or thought about. I’m one of “those people” who will recommend a great book for an extremely difficult season in your life. I know this about myself and I’m trying to pull on the reigns, but it remains a life pattern which is not easily rectified.
So do you know how God has dealt with me, continually throughout my life? He gives me people in grief. I’m completely awful with it. I’m not good at talking about it because there is no book or lecture I can recite to alleviate the pain. I hate the pain, it’s so incredibly hard to sit with and hold their pain, so I wash dishes and bake cinnamon rolls and try to pretend it’s an illness that will someday find healing.
I must be a failure at these grief “growth opportunities” because they have appeared throughout my life. Particularly with friends whose mother is named Deb. Those friends’ mothers tend to die of cancer. I feel as if I should offer this as a warning to potential new friends. I should write it on my name tag at socials and meetings.Hi, my name is Michele. If your mother’s name is Deb, we cannot be friends. I’m sure you’re fantastic!
Grief seems to be the extreme side of general “hard times” in life, of which all people move in and out. It seems the eternal question as a decent human being is: How do I help those I love during those hard times? What does love and support look like? Is it just listening? Getting a glass of wine? Bringing a pot of soup?
About four years ago, I was walking through an incredibly dark time. So many unknowns sat in front of us and it simply hurt to think, and to not-think, about it. I needed something from others but I couldn’t put words to it. One day I was singing to Crowder, as I often do, when I realized I was singing:
Shine Your light so I can see You Pull me up, I need to be near You Hold me, I need to feel loved Can You overcome this heart that’s overcome?
I realized that light was exactly what I needed. But here’s the thing: I didn’t need someone to shine a light at me. I needed them to shine the light for me. I needed them to walk just ahead, beside or even behind me and point that light forward so that I could see the next step. They may need even to drag me to the next step. Of course, daylight would be nice. But my friends have no control over daylight. They can, however, shine the light of a small candle in the immediate space around us.
Right now I’m not walking in a season of darkness. Actually, colors are quite vibrant in my world. I’m living in a spring day in which I see so much beauty – the grass is greener, the sun is brighter and I have a sense of where we’re headed. Even though many unknowns lie ahead, I’m not living in fear of constantly stumbling around in the dark.
But my friend is not. She’s living in the darkness. She remarked, “I just wish we could see some sort of light in all of this.” And I knew so well what she meant. My heart aches that there’s nothing I can do in the situation. I’ve delivered multiple pots of soup, so she’s probably a tad tired of my efforts to help.
Last weekend at church, the topic was something around “faith during hard times”. We sang a song very much related to that topic. I enjoy the song, but my initial thought was, “this isn’t exactly what I’m experiencing right now.” It felt a little untrue. But I remembered my friend and how true it is for her right now. I thought about the times that songs have been so true that I couldn’t mutter the words out loud because the trueness almost hurt. Or I would start crying. Yeah, mostly that.
These songs would make grand promises about God actually being good and seeing us through to the end and I wouldn’t sing because I didn’t know if I could or would believe that again. In my darkness, that part didn’t feel true. I didn’t sing those parts because I wondered if I believed it.
A teacher once taught about singing and gave reasons “why we sing.” It was a great lesson but the only one that stuck with me is that we might “sing until it’s true.” We might not believe something to be true, but we sing it anyway. The words and melody shape us and push us onward toward belief. They can carry us toward belief.
Last weekend I decided that we can also sing until someone else believes it’s true. Those parts of songs that are simply too true to utter out loud still need sang. Those of us living in light times simply must sing them on behalf of those walking in darkness. We must supply the melody and hum the rhythm so that, eventually, others can join in the song.
We shine the light. We sing the song. Not at, but for, beside, behind and around those who need it.
I cannot tell you how many times in the past 5 years I realized everything in my life is more a result of where I come from and the safety nets associated with my upbringing, as opposed to the results of my own good works.
Sure, I’m bright enough to do well in school, but it didn’t earn me enough to pay for my schooling – my father did that.
I’m a hard worker – I like to get things done. But honestly, I’m scared of ladders. Even corporate ones.
We take chances on investments but that’s because we have access to means to make the gamble.
We already had one foot in the race when we started this thing called life. Generations that passed us the baton ran hard, getting far enough ahead in a race we had no idea we were running, starting from birth.
I believe 2 kinds of words to be detrimentally dangerous to humankind: Always/Never language and Us/Them differentiation. It’s not They, Those people. Because so often, they are just like us. More so than we would like to admit. They simply might not have the same roots holding them up when things get hard.