I have been consumed lately with what my heart looks like. I am overly perceptive of how I react to things, mentally putting the information away into my file cabinet of “interesting” to go back through later. My reactions are wide and varied. My son fell off the bed a few weeks ago and hit his head straight on the tile floor. There was nothing I could’ve done in this particular incident to stop the fall except to prevent him from getting on the bed in the first place. (Which is now a rule… that gets broken repeatedly.) As I rushed to his side, surveyed the possible damage and held him close rocking him, I was alarmed at the reaction I was forced to shove down through deep breathing to maintain sanity. The anxiety, the sweating, the heart pounding, the hands shaking, the tears close to pouring over the rims of my eyelids… all of it came on in a matter of seconds without a choice. My brain was hijacked by the memories of previous traumatic experiences with my boys and their disease and the adrenaline fed the fear and high emotional reactions. It took a long time to calm back down and get back to a place where I didn’t feel so out of control.
Other times, it’s just little things that happen that make me reflect on what is truly going on deeper down inside me. I’ll be trying to have a conversation with someone and I simply just can’t. I can’t think of the right words, I can’t think of a complete thought, I can’t process what they are saying. It’s awkward! And then there are the moments where I find myself defensive for absolutely no good reason. Still other moments, I actually feel a bit normal and able to function without having to think too hard about it, which believe it or not, throws me for a loop too.
On a daily basis, I seek to really live (meaning, I’m present) despite all the reminders around me of our pain and grief and missing. My emotions go from joy and creative passion to absolute dread and exhaustion. And in between is this numb sort of place where I do most of my living. I numbly work, I numbly exercise, I numbly take care of my family, I numbly interact… but wait, am I really living then? I call it “schlumpy”. Is that even a word? I guess it is now!
As I sit in my schlumpy-ness, I wonder at the state of my heart. Is it too hard? Is it becoming stone with thorns surrounding it? Is there beauty in there somewhere still waiting to be discovered or have I used all that up and am doomed to be ugly and broken for the rest of my life? What shape does my heart even hold? Like a broken nose that never grows back quite straight, I imagine my heart has been broken enough that it cannot look normal. Is it twisted and ugly or has it taken on a new refined, yet wild natural beauty? Maybe yes to both is the right answer. How can it not show the scars and the damage it has endured in this broken world? Yet there is a living being in that heart. It’s the Holy Spirit; God himself taking up residence in me. How He can find my heart to be a perfect home, I have no idea. But what I believe to be true is through the vines of the thorns that have grown around as a result of disappointment, hurt, selfishness, anger, loss, and pain, is a light. A pure, full spectrum color, dynamic light that beams around and through and inside out. It puts a spotlight on the brokenness, but not in the way I would expect it to. Prisms of color I have never seen before as a result of the light hitting cracks and awkward angles, bursts out. As those colors beam brightly, I see that growing amidst the thorns are actually beautiful roses. Without the light, I wouldn’t be able to see them, the darkness camouflaging them, trying to snip them off the vines with the scissors of nonexistence. But nonetheless, there they are. Growing. Beautiful. And I’m left to wonder what in the world to do with them. Am I uncomfortable with them being there? Those roses are a signal of life still at work. That death has not won and there is still life to be lived; missions to accomplish. Do I snip them off and say, forget it? Tending to these roses takes work… too much work. I would have to feed them, water them, provide them with sunshine and plenty of room to grow. It would require pruning and caring for new growth. And that is hard. Really hard. And right now, I’m schlumpy.
But I’m reminded, with a gentle prodding, that there will be a time to care for those roses, but there is also a time to sit back and allow the joy found in these beautiful buds to just be, simply because. Not because I did something to earn it, deserve it, or make it be, but simply because joy gets to exist in the presence of my God… the one who lives right inside of me. It’s one of his many characteristics, one of the deepest and most profound for me. Joy and schlumpy can actually exist together for a time, but then joy gets to win. Is it happiness? No. So what is joy in the mess of this heart of mine? What is it in the mess of this broken world and the complicated back and forth that is living in between broken reality and hope of redemption?
Joy is not a what. It is a “who”.
Who is my joy?
My joy is Jesus.
Jesus who loves beyond brokenness and faults, gives peace throughout this journey and redeems the in between and now, but also the future forever. Joy does not mean I carry a happy flag around. It means I look to Him for strength, for hope, for sustenance. It means his love reflects in and through me. And when life gets schlumpy and weary and I-just-can’t-do-this-anymore, I know my joy is not lost, because He is not lost. Jesus has never left my side and will always be there as my hope and joy no matter how dark this reality can get. Am I blind? Am I romanticizing this too much? How can Jesus really be enough when I feel the dark depths of depression and the wild ride of anxiety creep up on me?
I guess you’d have to know and believe the end of the story. The one where Jesus has conquered the very darkness that has settled in a dark cloud over our household… death.
Death… so separating, so lonely, leaving me to grieve the finality it is for all of us here on earth. Yet, only in this world is it final. Jesus has the final say. When he went to work and went to the cross and died for us, the very resurrection of his life showed the victory he holds over death and ALL things evil. His death and resurrection reflects across the brokenness of my heart with one big loud “I LOVE YOU” and “You are worth this sacrifice” and more, “You are worth this VICTORY”. Death, hate, pain, grief… all of it is redeemed – made right- through this great love story. All he asks is that we believe him! That we believe he really does love us. That he really has won. That this brokenness is redeemed and someday, we will never experience this pain again. For now God gifts us with hope and joy, also known as Jesus, in our shaded, fractured, damaged, despairing, gaping wounded hearts. Mission accepted… even in my schlumpy state, for my heart longs for all that you are, Jesus.
These are my hope and joy gifts…
Thanks for listening,