Peace Like a River, Sorrow Like a Sea
"If the world is watching, we may as well tell the truth. And the truth is, the church doesn't offer a cure. It doesn't offer a quick fix. The church offers death and resurrection. The church offers the messy, inconvenient, gut-wrenching, never-ending work of healing and reconciliation. The church offers grace. Anything else we try to peddle is snake oil. It's not the real thing." Rachel Held Evans
I've been drawn to this project by the desire to "use my voice," but I recently got a little Sunday-nudge that made me realize I should be using it more fully. So, I present to you one more alternative moniker that this blog could have carried, "Not All That Well With My Soul."
Not that catchy, I know. Nor is it terribly humorous. Although, to be fair, I've spent a good bit of my life (approximately 30+ years) masking my discomfort, insecurity, even doubt in my beliefs with humor. I'm still unpacking that particular piece of emotional baggage.
For me, the Church and God always felt like a sweater, bequeathed to me by generations of Good Southern Christian foremothers. A sweater that I let sit on the shelf of my closet. I could take it down for special occasions or when I was feeling vulnerable. Nice to have it there and ready for me when I was ready for it.
Or, as it turns out, for when my husband was ready.
My "coming to Jesus," was not dramatic. It wasn't during an Altar Call. It wasn't when I was sobbing on the floor of my shower, punching the tiles and cursing God. It wasn't in the moments that I have pulled over on the side of the road because a song came on and I needed to calm down so I could drive. It wasn't in hospital waiting rooms, or during a late-night bedside vigil. It wasn't when we had to tell our kids that their daddy was sick, the first or even the second time. In all of these moments and in so many more throughout the course of my life, I was angry. And I relied on that anger to get me through, to propel me. Which, to be fair, kind of worked for a while.
My moment came in a casual conversation with SH, when he told me that he wanted our family to start going to church. It kind of surprised me...being as we honestly had never had much of a conversation at all about religion. That may sound absolutely insane, Dear Reader, but it just really had not come up. I agreed, as I do with most things he wants to do, with the stipulation that the church we chose would be a welcoming and accepting denomination (read: Liberal AF and little-to-no fire and brimstone. It gives me agita.).
Luckily for me, Dear Reader, SH was raised Episcopalian. Because of course he was and that's how things work out for us.
So, this is how I came (back? still unsure.) to God. In a cozy little white church, in a quiet pew, I began to feel a change. My heart felt lighter. My mind was able to quiet and calm itself. I felt part of something BIGGER and it was, all at once, ancient and now and forthcoming. I felt clarity and peace. THIS, I realized, was it. This was how my life should feel. I wasn't meant to just wait for the next good day or the next moment of happiness. My life should be peaceful. I should be centered. I should be able to feel whole enough within myself so that I can give and give and give to others and never feel empty.
I'm able to thank God now. I thank Him for every day that our family remains as it is. I thank Him that SH cares so much for us that he led us to this place (spiritually and to our actual church itself), to be taken care of after he is gone. And I thank him for our friends, old and new. And for our ability to still help others, in spite of sometimes needing the help ourselves.
I'm still angry. But He wants my anger. He wants my worst with my best. So I pray for patience and clarity and strength and peace and healing...and when I'm weak I will damn sure beg for my WANTS instead of His will. There are times when I'm too desperate for words and I will simply breathe and cry and just FEEL. And I'm ok with that because I kind of think that God gets that a lot and it's probably preferable to me saying mean things.
I still struggle with the concepts of people dying too young and going to "a better place," and, "everything happening for a reason." Because I just...I can't right now with all of that. And I don't know how or if I'll ever be able to.
What I do know is this:
There are moments of unbearable pain when I look at my family and imagine how it will one day change. And I pray for strength and my body stops shaking.
There are prayers that begin in heartache and conclude with silent tears of gratitude.
And through all that we have been through and continue to go through, we manage to carry each other, at times dragging each other through it, and make each other laugh during the worst of it.
And I know that at the very least, God put us together for all of this. And that much is so very well with my soul.