Q & A Tuesday (well, Wednesday!) Wrap-Up: Week Five

WaterlogueThis fuzzy version of a photo of mine sort of sums up this week. Not one I want to remember, to tell you the truth. And no, I have not missed the irony of such a week when immersed in a series that has taken a turn toward wrestling with suffering. Somehow, the isolation, upset and disequilibrium wrought by a nasty stomach virus seems fitting, don’t you think? 

I am grateful for your faithful reading of a too-long essay last Friday and for the responses you formed, either here in the comments or on your own blogs. As always, you make me think and you remind me that we don’t take this journey by ourselves. There was some beautiful, lyrical work done out there in response to this question and I can see that most of you have already learned a lot about living into it.

I don’t know about you, but these lines just sing to me right now, as I slowly find my way back to normalcy. Such a beautiful ribbon of love woven through this:

And all through this week, though I am ashamed to admit it, I am also proud that I have at last really heard the declarations of love surrounding me. I have stood up tall and accepted that I am loved.  The dam broke, the river flowed and in the middle of it, swirling and twisting in delight, there was I, there Am I, bathed, buoyed up and revivified by this living water of love. I heard the message in hugs, smiles, kisses, on Facebook and Twitter, through the post, in the holding of a hand.

I am powerful and vulnerable. The Spirit dwells in me and I am loved.

We all need weeks like that, don’t we? Weeks that remind us of the truth, weeks in which we accept the truth and live it. I’m looking for one of those weeks to drift my way soon!

Our most frequent poet is on a road trip this week, but another of you posted a lovely verse, reminding us that we don’t do this suffering thing alone:

If each person is an island , then
we’re all floating in a communal sea
desperately trying not to drown
It takes courage to swim against the tide
when there’s no sheltering place to hide
Until a safe harbour hoves into view
tugging gentle on our heartstrings
willing us to steer strong and true
Vessels rest weary, depleted, worn,
storm-battered, tattered, torn
Ready to refuel and be restored again,
seeking respite for a little longer
we prepare to face fierce winds and rain
Now with our Captain at the helm
these surging tides no longer overwhelm

A new contributor this week dug through her (awesome) archives and found this gem from a Lenten meditation last year.

“My soul is overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death,” says Jesus.

To be human is to feel pain and sorrow, to sit breaking and broken as the tears roll down.  We hold-on for as long as we can, clutching tight to the old, the known, and then finally, letting go at last, we feel the fear of falling as the thin skin of safety, the strong walls of that which holds us give way to something more. 

And all along the dark, dry and narrow passage that leads us continually from death to life, the gift of tears comes to water us, to nourish our thirsty souls and the seeds of life within. 

Thank God for that gift of tears!

I read one post this week that just shredded me, and I asked its author to link it up for all of you. I am so grateful for her story about a church that welcomes brokenness, and makes a safe place for sorrow. If you have not already done so, I encourage you to read each of these posts in their entirety. They are all wonderful:

I believe the brokenness is beautiful….I think God does too.

I long for the day when the fire pit is pulled right inside. When there is space for brokenness and space for healing. I long for a time when my story and my church are not the exception, where people say to people:

Isn’t church the place where all those broken people gather and love on each other?

The brokenness is an offering. Even before it is healed. The brokenness is holy too.

Two of our ‘originals’ took advantage of the extra day for linking and each of them spoke eloquently of their own journeys through sorrow, discovering how to live loved in the midst of it. One young woman wrote eloquently of visiting old grief from the vantage point of several years, and learning so much from the journey:

My journal entries for my Composition 1 class are very much the assertions of a good girl. Reading them now, I feel sad for her. Why did she try so hard? Why did she force everything through her good-girl grid? Why did she skate, skate, skate over the top of her life?

All this helped me trust God with my suffering in new ways. As I wrote my pages about death, I remembered and chronicled what I actually saw and felt. I wrote it mindful of God’s love with me then, of His seeing and caring for me as I really was.  When I lived the experience, I was always trying to figure out how I should act, what I should do. Not until ten years later did I allow that it had all been too much for me. I accepted myself to have been a young, sad, overwhelmed daughter in an awful situation and I knew God’s compassion for me. I did not have to explain the shadows, did not have to bring God, like a lantern, into them–He was already there, with me.

And she shared the sweetest song, one that she wrote about dealing well with her grief after the passage of time. Hop over and listen.

And an older friend (closer to my own age!), talked about the same kind of process from the vantage point of decades and how the words of a friend/advisor helped her learn to let go of the comparison-game in thinking about her own journey through the valley:

And then  few months later
I told you I felt guilty
as I compared
my loss of a brother
to my sister-in-law’s loss of a husband.
That was surely worse,
wasn’t it?

And you reminded me not to quantify grief.
Everyone’s grief is their own, you said

and cannot be compared
to another’s grief.
Losing a brother is different
from a wife losing a husband
from a daughter losing a dad
from a son losing a dad
from a father losing a son
from a mother losing a son.
and even though
you had lost a brother
you did not lose my brother.

For grief minimized is pain unaddressed. And the pain is carried for years buried beneath the living of life only to re-surface. 

There was richness in the comments again this week, too. A good reminder that the bedrock of ‘living loved’ has to be our connection to God, not to anyone else:

Imagine close to 75 children, surrounding you singing a beautiful birthday song while they handed me a big sheet signed by everyone with words about how much they loved me. The song went on for about 5 minutes while I stood there in tears. It is wonderful to feel loved, but it is fleeting. Knowing you are loved by God is the rock under the doubt of human love, but I don’t always put my feet down. Anyway, thank you for this wisdom. It truly is the key to withstanding suffering. The physical suffering can be tolerated in a variety of ways, but not feeling loved cannot be tolerated. It is constant pain. Loving ourselves helps us love others, as you know, and is our first duty every day.

And this richness, from one who has learned to live loved over her lifetime:

if we don’t truly believe God is love and everything comes through his heart of love…we filter the sorrow and suffering of this world with the wrong lens…it’s knowing we are loved that buoys us in the seas of the unknown..it hold us through the dark…this revelation of His love has transformed my relationship with Him and others…not that I have arrived…but this scandalous love of His has changed the trajectory of my life and has brought me to a greater place of rest. I feel like I have just put my toes in the waters of His great ocean of love and we have now and eternity to dive into the depth of the sea of His Love. 

A good reminder that the ‘sliding scale’ of suffering I referenced can be problematic at both ends of the spectrums – underplaying or overplaying:

You mention a sliding scale when it comes to suffering. VERY good point. We often are too quick to minimize what we’re facing, going through right now – or at the other end of it – maximizing it. Lord help us to see clearly our situations and then open up our hearts to you and let it pour out. THEN we can open our hands to receive the grace we need for that moment.

And a great reminder that not all suffering is physical in nature:

As with physical pain, we all experience emotional pain differently. Emotional pain cannot be seen, or compared. We empathize and console by gently walking alongside.

Another addition to the pile of stuff that can get in the way of living loved looks exactly like this:

I struggle with condemnation, as if Jesus’ blood wasn’t enough to pay for my sin……..as if! As if my groveling and feeling bad will make it better. (We looked at Romans Chapter 9 at our Home Group the other night…this is fresh in my brain. :-) Does that make sense? My greatest giants are the ones I fight in my head but I’m getting better at throwing the truth at them, much more early and often.

And a late commenter summed it up quite well, don’t you think?

Learning to feel loved is a life-time quest for so many, and that’s why we do such silly things. The Buechner quote was fantastic, as it shows the dichotomy of living in this world, between one existence and another. It’s supposed to be hard. It’s supposed to be a struggle. And if I really embodied the fact that I am loved, then that changes everything !

My thanks to each of you for your faithful reading and commenting and writing. Even in the middle of a yucky week, your words have lifted and encouraged me. And I am grateful.

If all goes well, I’ll be back here on Friday with a new question to wrestle with and live into:

How do I make all the pieces fit?

 

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Comments

  1. I was thinking something must be up that we did not hear from you yesterday….and I am sorry to hear what it was. YUCK…I prayed for you these last few days…and am glad to see you here tonight. Blessings my “older friend.” 🙂

    • Thanks for the prayers, Carol. Yeah, it’s been a yucky week, all right. Just home from my husband’s colonoscopy (prayer for a couple of small biopsies would be appreciated), so he was going through that awful prep as I was recuperating from the flu! We were both praying he would not get the stomach bug anywhere in this process and recovery. So far, so good!

  2. Ms Diana, curator of questions and keeper of quotes–may the Healer give you grace in these hard, healing days.

    Joy to you–in Jesus’ name.

  3. Jody, i just read your “about” on your blog and i almost jumped right up out of my chair…another woman at my stage of life, collecting the things she has written, putting it on a virtual page and building into the lives of her grandchildren. I will spend more time there, and subscribe to your blog. I remember reading your blog about your dear sweet grandchild in heaven.

  4. Sorry to hear you were laid low, Diana. But look at you hear, weaving all of this beauty together in your gracious way. You are a wonder to watch and learn from, the way you create space for conversation and community. Thank you for leading here in the ways you do.

  5. Hope you feel better soon, Diana!

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