September, October, November and December have been most difficult months.
On September 28, we lost our precious dog, Aja.
She wasn’t a parent or a human child and I know this big wide world is rife with suffering and heartache. But she was our family. She was quite old and dogs only live so long. Yes. And… still. She was a beloved and beautiful part of creation, and God saw her and saw that she was good. If you knew us, you knew Aja was woven into all the intricacies and details of our life. Yes we are grateful for her longevity , but if I’m honest the “happy memories” hurt and the pictures make me want to pull her paws through the screen and kiss that soft spot by her ear. When you love deeply, there’s never enough time. And my goodness, do I, did we, will we always… love her, love her, love her. It’s just that now, our love doesn’t have a reply.
It’s heavy, though we have no choice but to carry on like so many of you are, too.
Social media this season captures highlight reels: Christmas tinsel and 6 year old jack-o-lantern smiles. People write things like “beautiful family” and “gorgeous girls.”
And I suppose that’s just fine. My newsfeed is full of many pretty, smiling faces. And Christmas can be enchanting.
But, as I’ve weathered this difficult season it does make me wonder what would happen if people were more forthright about the things they carry and how they shoulder them because two things I know for certain: 1. It isn’t (usually) what it seems 2. I’m not the only one grieving.
I don’t post things when I feel sad because I don’t know how to be. I don’t want to be dramatic but I want to be honest. I don’t want to be careless and impulsive, but I don’t want to be vague and withholding. I want to connect but I don’t want to be affirmation-seeking. I don’t want to be image-driven but, who am I kidding?
To participate this way, in this medium, I am not above image-drivenness.
That is, I suppose, why reflecting on social media and what it does to you and is to you is an important life-skill; as is reflecting on how we steward our health, our money and our relationships. The Internet is limitless: always on, always there, always moving. But we, small humans, are quite limited.
Our souls were not created for Facebook liking fans, they were created for flesh and bone friends.
Precious time is not given so we might anonymously peek into others’ lives, but so we might hold each other tight.
Grief, like most rich and true things takes: time, tears, effort, rest, intention, awareness and courage.
And somehow, doesn’t it seem, that our attachment to our screens chips away at these things? Whittles them to non-essentials when they might be the very reprieve we seek?
So, these past months- I have put my phone and my head down- in prayer, in rest, and mostly…in work.
I continue to grow in my work with Beacon, my private practice with children and families is quite full, and recently I was offered a part time adjunct teaching position at Baylor. There have been other good things too. The walls of our home have not been void of laughter.
This life. Tangled colors of joy and grief.
It is most natural for me to rise to challenges and seem quite fine. Getting to work is what I do best. People don’t know things are hard, and if I tell them, they usually give kind crinkle eyes and tell me: so sorry.
We have been given much during this aching season: we have friends who are family who opened their home when we came crashing in with sobs. They cleared out a space for us, made the bed, stocked the room with tissues and the cabinets with tea. They made us food and sat with us, knowing full-well what this meant. They moved us in for a month because we needed a home, and our home without Aja, felt far from one.
As time has ticked on, we have moved back in and tried to put our best feet forward. I have learned that the expectation and the hope is that time will kind of dull the rawness. I think of the prophet Jeremiah in the Old Testament when he says “they have dressed the wounds of my people superficially, saying ‘peace, peace’ where there is no peace.” (Jer 6:14) How might we know when a wound is dressed well? When the hurt stops? When the scab is gone? Will anyone wait with me that long? Would I wait with anyone that long? I see why staying in the shallows of life and lullabying heartache away (peace, peace) tempts me like it tempts most. Come, we say, let us rush our grief along.
The Pslams give me lanes for real, raw emotions. The Psalmist says his heart is broken, and I can too. If ever a person tells you that to be a follower of Jesus you mustn’t grieve, crack the scriptures halfway down the middle and find a psalm of lament. There was also that whole thing about Jesus being a man of sorrows and well-acquainted with grief. (But, I digress)
Though I don’t feel light, I feel heavy; though I don’t feel whole, I feel cut-off, I can say to myself: yes, Jesus came for this. Emmanuel. This is the fleshy, God-honest truth. He came for this death that has touched our home. He came for broken bodies and horrific violence and babies born still. He also came for the worn down marriage and the mind-numbing work and the incorrigible fourteeen year old. He came for stubborn grief and mundane exhaustion. Yes, Jesus came for even this.
Christ has come. Christ is here. Christ will come again. This is the great and joyous mystery of our faith.
And sometimes, it feels like the tenuous one.
Because it’s not yet right. God has not made all this new yet. He has already come, but He has not yet come. Aja does not wait in our foyer with her deep eyes and knowing face. The hospitals are filled with families who pace the waiting rooms, Christmas this year will startle many with its emptiness.
This world is a true waiting room, an in between space, in which we are learning to walk faithfully in the dark.
Oh, by the light of Christ and the warm glow of His people, may we learn to move wisely and well. ✨