when haven and hell are just inches apart
Grief is a funny thing. (Obviously, I don't mean ha-ha funny, I mean head-scratchingly befuddling) Sometimes I feel like, in our culture, we don't know how to grieve. Every September I end up colliding with the reality of this - my little brother Ian's birthday comes and goes and with it the pain of losing him at 16 to suicide. Then the very next day I celebrate the birth of my own oldest boy Josiah, who this year is turning 10 and he is the most excited about his birthday that he could possibly be. When Josiah was little, and the loss of my brother was fresh, this month I focused 100% of my attention on Josiah's birthday and Ian's birthday was just another day on the calendar, a day when I was busy getting ready to celebrate Josiah and not a sad day at all. But for the last couple of years, it has been hard.
Yesterday I let myself get swept up in busyness, trying to outrun a killer headache and mental fog that was chasing me down. The grief was there, hiding around the corner, where it's been for the last couple of days, but all I did was sweep it under the rug (my default reaction to all unpleasant emotions) and now today I am dealing with the consequences of not having dealt with my emotions yesterday. Today sadness is here like the John Green quote "the thing about pain is that it demands to be felt" I avoided it yesterday but today it is demanding to be felt, refusing to be compliant and just go away. ugh. All morning I've been remembering the words of that Rich Mullins song "our hell and our heaven only inches apart we must be awfully small and not as strong as we think we are." so true
Joy and grief are cohabitating in this month - but that's life, right? You don't have to live for very long to learn this lesson - that joy and grief, sorrow and celebration, they do not stay in their own tidy little separated boxes. We don't usually get to experience life one thing at a time. They are all mixed together, baked into a shepherds pie - beauty and blessing one minute, and the next (or in the same breath) brokenness and pain.
As I trudge through this day, a thought surprises me - that joy and pain cohabitate in the little space of today, but there is a third thing wanting to be here too - God's presence. He wants to cohabitate with my sorrow. He cares that today is hard and wants to share this space with me. It's hard for me to even begin to understand what that means - how to invite the Holy Spirit into my grief. It isn't something I necessarily have a vocabulary for.
I open my Bible and today's Psalm speaks hope:
"Weeping may tarry for the night, but joy comes with the morning. You have turned my mourning into dancing; you have loosed my sackcloth and clothed me with gladness, that my glory may sing your praise and not be silent. O LORD my God, I will give thanks to you forever!" Psalms 30:5,11-12
I hope that I'm learning a lesson - to face my sorrow on my brother's birthday and not wait until it flows over to the next day. I'm thankful that homeschooling is simple and that the weather is nice enough that we can spend a few minutes at the park. Today I'm leaning into the ministry of sunshine and music, and the joy of the sweet smiles of my little ones and the routine of an ordinary day.
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