Your life used to have that old form. It was nice. You had learned to wear it, to dress your day in the shape it took. It almost felt like a part of you. But then, it was different.
Life took on a different form. Change can happen in a moment and there may have been one instant when it all shifted. But the heart inside you cannot make a shift in a single instant.
Even if on the outside life appeared to keep going on as always, it still happened. And something started happening inside you the day the shift came.
That shape of your life that felt like a part of you, it said goodbye. But it couldn’t wait for you finish saying goodbye back. Because how do you even say goodbye to something that feels like part of you?
And even as you tried to keep your head up and move forward, even if you weren’t going to let it get to you when that part of your life said goodbye… it was after that, that all those old pieces of your life that had said goodbye to you before, came back to enter your memory and remind you of what you’ve lost, to remind you of who you’re not, and the way your life does not look today.
And while I’m talking to myself, maybe you can relate somehow. Because the Word says there are no struggles except what is common to our experience as people.
And maybe you’ve had a baby or moved to a new city. Maybe you’ve had to part ways with a person whether you both stayed on this earth or not. Maybe you’ve lost a responsibility or gained one you weren’t ready for. Whatever shape your life has taken, you’ve said hello and goodbye to so very many seasons. It’s a whole lot to be grateful for and it’s also a whole lot for a soul to bear.
And as much as it may seem sometimes to be a much smaller load than what someone else has to carry, life is still a lot to bear for every life that lives here.
Sometimes it can feel ridiculous to give myself permission to call something a real struggle. Tears want to come, but the moment doesn’t feel grief-worthy. Silly me. I’ll just keep stepping forward.
But then it happens again.
And this year, while we were learning the hellos and goodbyes of calling a new town home, we had our first surprise pregnancy. And we were so excited to say hello to our little boy, that “goodbye” didn’t seem to have a place. Then, I passed my due date, the induction was scheduled, and the night before he was born we got in the car with the girls to go to dinner as a family. And when we pulled out of the driveway, my eyes got really wet. Because while I was so excited to say hello to my baby boy, it suddenly felt like this season of life was saying goodbye to me and somehow tears were the only response I could give to that.
I thought on it for a few moments that night, but it felt a little silly. And we went on to enjoy the evening, to look to the joy of the next day when we got to experience all the wonder of meeting our precious little boy. Then a few days after Gideon’s birth, tears fell when I looked at Liesel and all of a sudden she didn’t look like a baby anymore. I took some time that day to hold her tight and to journal through the moment, then… we stepped into the next day… and the next week, because that’s what you do.
Then, for the past couple weeks or so, life has felt so wonky. Feelings I’ve known before keep coming back. People I’ve parted ways with, moments of life that brought tears, pieces of life that I’ve struggled to recognize as something separate from what I’m defined by… one by one they keep resurfacing. As if something has triggered the remembrance of how all those broken pieces of my life felt.
Because, I don’t know, but it feels like my soul is trying to grieve something. Like a whisper inside me wants me to know that even while I take joy in getting to know my baby, it’s okay to also feel sad about the season of life that has gone. I don’t completely understand why it’s something that I feel a need to grieve, but somehow I have a need to give myself permission to acknowledge that life no longer looks the same way it did that evening when we rolled out onto the road with four occupied seats in the car. It’s okay for both Liesel and I to grieve that our relationship does not have just the same shape as it did before. Grieving the change does not lessen the joy that we have in getting to call Gideon a part of our family.
It does not make us any less grateful for what we have when we acknowledge the grief that we feel.
Because grief and gratefulness do their best work when they join hand in hand.
And our one biggest reason to be grateful took place in death. The cross brought grief and gratitude. How could it bring one without the other?
So we feel grief and we give thanks.
We feel broken grief just as Jesus body was broken and this becomes a gift. With this grief, we get to press our hurting pieces into His death that brought life.
This grief, perhaps it allows us to not simply say words of thanks, but to feel something inside us, a glympse of what Jesus felt, and to remember with the heart inside us, the life that His death has brought us. Maybe when grief and gratefulness join hands in our lives, we get to press into something that is big enough to bear it all.
That life of yesterday that felt like a part of you, it said goodbye. But it couldn’t wait for you finish saying goodbye back. That season where you were a mother of two, it said goodbye and now you remember it all again…
The season when you called Garland home, it said goodbye. The season when that soul you loved was a part of your life, it said goodbye. That season when you were a little girl sitting in front of your dollhouse and life didn’t feel this complicated, it said goodbye. They all felt like part of who you were. And when they said goodbye, shy, awkward and incomplete felt like part of who you were.
It all felt like a war: Feel the grief and hear how incomplete you are, or just try to be grateful enough that you can’t hear the rest of it. It felt like grief versus gratefulness, as if this was your war, as if they were opposites.
But maybe the grief that invites you to feel as the flow of life carries you forward, maybe the grief of insecurity that keeps showing up to remind you what you are not, maybe this is an invitation.
An invitation to know that this war that you feel between grief and gratefulness: this is not the war. The war is against that devil who wants you to think that these two pieces of the cross are separate.
Our call is not to deny the grief, the dark pieces inside us that can feel so incomplete. No, our call is to deny ourselves, but to take up the cross.
The cross of Jesus is the place of grief, where everything that ever said goodbye to us belongs. It’s the place that can bear everything that ever felt like a part of who we are.
I wanted to be enough to hold all the seasons of life without breaking. I wanted to be enough for the ones who parted ways with me. I wanted to be enough to never feel like my personality was shy or incomplete. But that is not what I was made for. Because I was made to know the beautiful glory that happens when all these broken pieces that feel like a part of who I am say goodbye to me and attach themselves to the beautiful cross.
And when I grieve and feel that grief in the presence of Jesus, I acknowledge that I was not enough to hold it all without breaking. When I grieve, I deny that I was ever enough. I cannot move from one life season to another without things cracking inside me. I cannot live this life without feeling incomplete inside. But when God uses that grief to move me… to help me to keep carrying these broken pieces of myself to Jesus and press them into His beautiful cross, everything incomplete in me dies with Him there. And inside His cross, He gives life to me. He takes these broken pieces of me that were pressed with grief into the death of His cross and in His death He presses these pieces all the way through to the life of His cross that shines on the other side. He makes me a part of His own sweet cross of life and here He makes these pieces of me into a new person that is whole. The broken person of me is remade, renamed and found whole inside of this lovely cross.
He never looks to my grief and says it’s too small and unimportant for His cross to carry. He invites it with His Word. “For we who are alive are always being given over to death for Jesus’ sake, so that his life may also be revealed in our mortal body.” (2 Cor. 4:11) And if today wants to bring me grief for all these little things that I cannot carry, these are just more broken pieces of me that will keep being remade inside of that beautiful cross.