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Tuesday, January 30, 2018

Broken Yet Beautiful

He stood at the glass door, his hand on the wooden half-moon handle, dressed in a navy blue tracksuit and his bulky winter jacket, as he looked wistfully in. The room was filled with people, women in black leggings and tank tops sporting motivational quotes as they ran on treadmills, men in shorts and tight tees as they concentrated on lifting weights. Even after the remodel, there were still many good memories from this place. Now he was leaving. Not out of choice; out of necessity. They seemed to think they would manage fine without him. 

He stepped in for a moment and was quickly surrounded by a small cluster of people. One young woman stepped forward, shyly handing him a bag, mumbling her thanks for his help. Several asked for his help with a workout routine and one picked up their final supply of supplements. Carla gave him his final white envelope, he went to the heavy wooden front doors, opened them, and walked through. This was goodbye.

After handing him the bag, I returned to the treadmill where I turned my Mandisa mix up higher and carried on my brisk 5K pace. I would miss seeing the coach every time I went to the gym, yes, but this was life. People came and went and really, why should I mourn this loss any more than not seeing the cleaning lady in the cafeteria who would smile when I said thank you as I pushed my empty plate through the slot to be washed. 

Except it wasn't just one more loss. Every loss I grieve is all the losses previous wrapped up into one.

I don't know why I must compound loss in this way. I think it would be easier if I could somehow mourn a loss individually. Then it would be hard, yes, but manageable. This way, though, it makes it hard to breathe sometimes as a simple moving on of a gym coach becomes a boss, little tots, the dearest of friends, a close mentor, family, even places and time gets mixed up in there somehow.

In Marilyn Gardner's book, Between Worlds, she ends with the beautiful story of a broken teapot, mended with thick staples to become what would ordinarily be seen as something worthless now transformed into a piece of art. She says, Despite the original break, despite the cracks it continues to be useable and stronger than if it had never been broken. . .life can crack and mar us but it doesn't have to destroy. 

I'm going through one of those breaking times right now. I wake up crying. I wake up feeling sad. I know it's because the losses have become too much and the community around me doesn't understand or if they would, I am afraid to be vulnerable enough so they can see the tears and offer empathy.

As a Christian, I also struggle with the misguided belief that I should be strong enough to handle this on my own. I should be able to go to God and He will give all the comfort I need because He is more than enough. I shouldn't expect family or friends to have to carry this burden because they have enough of their own, so I should focus on giving because it is in giving that we are blessed. 

Except sometimes I need someone to just sit and cry with me

I am the one who sits with the grieving, the frustrated, the lonely, the lost. I put my arms around them, pray with them, write them a little note of encouragement, send a text to tell them I'm thinking of them. But I'm not brave enough to put my hand up and say, Can someone sit with me for a while? I'm feeling sad and I don't want to be alone.

I worry, though, that this struggle to reconcile losses means I'm too much. That those closest to me will keep their distance so I keep mine first. I step back and I don't let them see the longing for companionship because I'm afraid they will think that I need them too much and I should be a strong woman whose life is only enhanced by life. 

Are they the staples that hold me together? 

The Christian mentality says that God should be our all in all. I'm sure there's a praise song that says that somewhere. So the staples holding me together should each be imprinted with God's image. I'm not saying God isn't enough. I know He is. He has proven Himself to be in my darkest times. I know that He is my Sustainer and gives me breath each day. Yet somehow there seems to be a flaw in the logic somewhere. 

God created us to be in community. 

Right now, my community is going through a lot. It's not just me who is working through loss. So I'm hesitant to reach out because I feel like my needs are not as significant as theirs. There are times, though, like today when I need to see God with skin on. When I need to hear His voice and feel His touch through those closest to me. 

The other misguided belief is that I should learn to rely on God alone.

It seems every time I get close to someone, they leave. I went through several years in my 20s when I lost the close knit group of friends I'd had as they moved on for jobs and marriage. Those were very lonely times and often during that time, I struggled with the expectation that I should be able to find all my emotional needs met in God. I think ideally we can go to God first, pouring out our hearts to Him, but then we need to talk to someone. To sit with someone. To reach out and know someone's hand will hold ours.

Today, I'm thankful for my mother who patiently turned on her iPad, plugged in her earphones, and listened through a crackling broken internet voice call to her adult daughter work through some of the emotions that threaten to overwhelm at times with their intensity. Though it was after 10 pm and she had worked a full day, she was there when I said I needed someone to listen.

I can't guarantee tomorrow will be better. It may take time to walk through this dark valley and it may be that there will be more days like today. Yet there is one thing I know with certainty.

I am sure that God, Who began the good work within you, will continue His work until it is finally finished ~Philippians 1:6 NLT

Til one day that small teapot is covered with staples and stands proudly on display for all to see. Broken yet beautiful beyond belief. 

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