2012 was a rough year for me and my family. My father-in-law died of colon cancer which was tough by itself, but the fact that he had been diagnosed in May and died before the end of June was even harder. It never occurred to any of us that he would miss his first grandson’s second birthday.

My mother-in-law sold the house my wife grew up in, which wasn’t a big deal for me and wasn’t a HUGE deal for Joan, but it was still hard.

Joan also had two miscarriages that year. Both of them were early, before the end of the first trimester. One of them would have probably been written off as a late period had it not been for that stupid early pregnancy test.

I can say now that the only thing that really got any of us through it was our faith. And I don’t mean that it was our faith that “all things work to the good of him who loves God,” and I don’t mean “God has a purpose for everything” kind of faith. I mean the simple faith that God was real and He loved us, and He was there holding us as we cried at night. We could barely see ten feet in front of us most days, we couldn’t possibly look forward to next week or next year and say “I know God will redeem this.”

Pain is like that.

There were a lot of times in that year when I would cover my face with my hands and say “Lord can I just go back to bed? Can I just be done with today? Can’t we just say today didn’t happen and try again tomorrow?” There were a lot of days when my wife did the same. But we never gave up, no matter how tempting it was. And I learned the hard way that reality does not require my permission.

I find myself reflecting on that time recently and I realize that it was a real turning point for me. The triumphalist rhetoric of American Evangelicalism rings hollow in the middle of that kind of pain and forced me to ask a lot of tough questions about myself, my faith, and what I thought I had understood about God. So in no particular order, here are some of the key points I did manage to walk away with. Here’s hoping that they can help you skip the hard part of the lesson.

  •  Reality does not require your permission
  • It’s ok to grieve
  • Sometimes you have to go through the motions just to get going
  • It’s ok to cry
  • Just because God doesn’t answer your prayer the way you want, doesn’t mean He isn’t listening.
  • “no” is a valid answer to a prayer.
  • Sometimes you lose.
  • Sometimes you don’t get a participation trophy.
  • Sometimes your best isn’t enough.
  • Sometimes the dead stay dead and the sick stay sick and there’s no real explanation for it.
  • Sometimes the band does not get back together.
  • People are not always who you think they are.
  • The best people are still human.
  • And that’s ok.

I suppose it’s tempting to look at the list of “sometimes” and to disregard those, consciously or sub-consciously with a “that will never be me.” or maybe “but this isn’t one of those times!”

I hope for your sake that you are right. But the truth is that reality is not dependent on your desire or your opinion and if anything from the list resonates with you, then chances are that this time is a “some time.” Sorry, but that’s reality. I hope you can dig in and see it for what it is, because once you do, that’s when you get your chance to get back on your feet.

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