It was a birthday party. People mingled and when the birthday girl smiled you could see the sunshine that was the party theme shining in her eyes. Her surprise was genuine and she glowed with sheer delight and I hugged her tight. But the crowd called her attentions away and I moved on. And people mingled.
Familiar faces shuffled in and out of seats and floor space and I was catching stories, journeys, and then I saw them. Saw Mrs. J and her daughter and her toddling granddaughter and they came bringing their own well wishes, but after a few strings of sentences she stumbled over his name and I watched the widow in her pool. I watched her shoulders slump lower like the holy cross lay directly on her. And I watched her sway a little and heard her sorrow and wondered what it felt like to be alone after almost 40 years of marriage. And people mingled.
And before her was the Mama who squeezed next to me on a couch spilling with chatter, and I leaned in close as she forced the swallow muscles to hold back tears. She tried filling me in on her first born who was not yet 5 but who doctors were concluding that his brain was too large for his skull and yeah, they may have to shave his hair off and cut part of his skull away and she’s just trying to hold him and all of this panic together and I could feel the room spin. Spin among these people mingling.
And the five AM phone call from the childhood friend who homeschools her 4 kids under the age of 10. The one who talks fears out of my insecurities and shortfalls and adores her husband a thousand times more than the day she married him. The one who tried to resuscitate her brother after he’d shot a hole straight through his beautiful mind, who merged all her days and nights together because the trauma brought nightmares, she’s the one with the cancer diagnosis now, and I can’t stop my voice from cracking over all three timezones.
I’m hearing them. Watching them. Watching these crowds of people mingling like life has only one layer, it’s a casual well wishing of circumstantial surroundings. And I’m watching them pick away at the pain like fuzz balls on a sweater. Hoping less fuzz less pain. ‘Cause sometimes we feel safer, better maybe, not sharing. We worry and watch eyes glaze over and we’ve been taught the modern mantra that says, ‘Grow up and toughen up.’
Mrs. J’s daughter knew about that. So when her own Mama begged my pardon for tears over a lost husband, she took her eyes off an escaping toddler for a split second to bust out, “Life Sucks!” And something in me boiled over and I blurted way out of my comfort zone that that’s not true.
I began to tell her that, yes, it’s hard and it hurts and it’s painful, but it’s also beautiful and exciting and amazing and who would we be without all the ups and downs of this life? We are meant to be constantly, continually created. It doesn’t just happen in Genesis or in the womb, but the creation of a breathing soul is forever a puzzle pieced together with delicate precision. We were not meant to be just pink or just blue but this beautiful intricately created being that God holds and shapes and molds. And it’s my opinion that those who have felt and lived all of these parts and stories are the truly dazzling that walk this earth. And the small mingling group stilled before I could shut my mouth.
Friend, are there really any of you out there that haven’t been written into a drama of some genre? There’s pain. Life hurts. And we can rail against our story line, but what if it didn’t have all these parts? What if you never knew how to cry even when it’s a cry to God? What if you never had to fall to your knees in complete hopelessness? Would you truly, intimately, know your Redeemer and how He loves the brokenhearted? And then I would ask, if you never felt despair, could you have the ability to authentically sit with and pray with those who are hurting? Please know, these are questions and thoughts I have had to wrestle out for myself. Death, grief, depression, loss of control, financial inadequacies, mental battles with self-esteem, these are a small list of my “hard”. And, no, they don’t just go away, but there are the magnificent parts of this life too and all combined, they make me. They make you.
Paul writes about his thorn in the flesh, “Three different times I begged the Lord to take it away. Each time he said, “My gracious favor is all you need. My power works best in your weakness.” 2 Corinthians 12:8,9.
Begging. We’ve all been there. In silence, with no one mingling about. But friend, wear your weakness. Place a hand gently, but firmly over the thorn that feels like it’s sliced itself right into your heart, because that’s also where you’ll feel the power of a cross hung Savior.
Life is hard, but it. is. beautiful. And maybe it’s not about insurmountable odds, but instead evenely laying our lives out before a good God. Ask this Mama whose born 3 babies all hooked up to life-saving machines. Even she has found gracious favor.