Monday, September 9, 2013

the story isn't over

"To experience sorrow does not eliminate joy. In fact, I've come to think that sorrow actually deepens our capacity for joy - that as our lows are lower, so are our highs higher. Deep sorrow expands our ability to feel deeply. We feel sadder than we ever knew we could, sadder than we think we can survive. But our sorrow prepares us to experience a more satisfying and solid joy than we've ever known before. When joy surfaces, it allows us to see that deep beneath the chaos and catastrophe is the strong current of confidence that we can be content in the sovereign hands of God. It's just not natural to experience profound joy in the face of heartache. It is supernatural; it is spiritual. This is the kind of joy God has for [us]. It is not produced by the human spirit in response to pleasant circumstances, but by the Holy Spirit in spite of difficult circumstances. It is the very joy of Christ fulfilled in us." - Nancy Guthrie, Book of Hope (page 269)

I've always been a deep feeler, even when I was younger and life by all accounts really wasn't that hard. I have a melancholy spirit... and am also extremely empathetic. The combination of the two can make hard days harder. My heart breaks easily. I really don't read/watch the news much because I find myself carrying the sad stories with me for days at a time.

For me, fighting for joy can really be a battle. I easily can sink into depression, fear, and sorrow with the weight of the Fall on my heart. Sometimes it's hard for me to see and embrace Jesus not only in spite of the sorrow, but because of it. In Andrew Peterson's "Don't You Want to Thank Someone" he sings "And when the world is new again/And the children of the King/Are ancient in their youth again/Maybe it's a better thing/a better thing/To be more than merely innocent/But to be broken then redeemed by love/Maybe this whole world is bent/But it's waking up/And I'm waking up..." Is it really better to be broken, and then redeemed than to never have felt the pain of brokenness at all? Deep down I do think that it is... but some days it's hard to believe. Sorrow does make joy sweeter, but sometimes it's hard to choose joy at all. As Nancy Guthrie says in the quote above, it's not always natural... especially for a melancholy soul.

And when joy and sorrow are walking together closely in the course of a season, that can be even harder to navigate. I am in the middle of a season of what should be much joy. And don't get me wrong - there has been great joy. Every time I feel my little one kick or hear his or her heartbeat or notice that my belly really is getting bigger, I smile. The joy definitely is richer given all that we went through last year. Because of the sorrow of miscarriage, this pregnancy's joys are sweeter. I don't take a moment for granted.

But some days, sorrow still lingers. My good friend Ann recently recommended a book to me called Bread & Wine by Shauna Niequist (you can read Ann's review of the book here.). It's a book of essays and recipes about community and friendship and food. Last night, I read the essays about her miscarriages and all that she went through emotionally when she found out she was pregnant again after those losses. I could basically relate to almost every sentence she wrote. But this paragraph really put in to words how I've been feeling, even at this almost 28-week point in what has been a blessedly healthy pregnancy:

My cousin Melody was pregnant as well, after one healthy child and three miscarriages. One night, when we were all gathered around our table, another friend asked me if I was feeling nervous, and I redirected the question to Mel, who was almost thirty weeks along. "Well, I'm nervous, of course, but I'm sure it will get better. Mel, when did it get better for you?"

She didn't bat an eye. "I wish I could tell you something different, but I'm scared every single day. We know too much. We know what can happen." (page 85)

So much can and does go wrong, and my heart hurts over it. Right now I'm holding a lot of sorrow in my heart for a dear friend of mine who lost her full-term little girl last week. I wept for hours when I heard the news, and my heart is still weeping now. This past weekend it somehow felt wrong to watch Matthew and my brother-in-law Kevin paint the nursery, and for my sister Natalie and I, with our identical baby bumps, to start our registries. In the back of my mind there is this grief for our friends, and I frankly just don't know what to do with it.

Meanwhile, earlier today, another very dear friend welcomed her new son into the world. And the thought of this brings so much joy and excitement - a new member in our small group family. He is beautiful and I am so happy for them.

I have so very many pregnant friends right now, and friends who have just welcomed home sweet new little ones, and a sister who is due just six days after I am. But I also have a dear friend who is struggling with fertility issues; a dear friend who is waiting and waiting for her adopted child to join her family; dear, amazing, beautiful friends who are waiting to meet their husbands...

I could fill this next paragraph with cliches and with verses about how God has a perfect plan for those who trust in Him, and how He works all things for good - and He does - but some times you just have to be quiet and cry and listen and wait and grieve and hope.

I know this is only the beginning. I know this child will break my heart time and again for the rest of my life. But I also know that this child will bring me more joy than I can even comprehend. It's going to be hard, but I know that I can't be so scared of the pain that I stifle the joy. There's an episode of the show Firefly where Zoe is arguing with her husband Wash about whether or not they should try to have a baby given the very transient, dangerous life they live. Zoe looks at Wash and says "I ain't so afraid of losing something that I ain't gonna try to have it."

And I know it is all worth the risk. This is the very nature of life - joy and sorrow both permeate the air, and we're walking tentatively on a beam right in the middle of it, trying to keep our balance. As I walk, I'm trying to remember that there is so much beyond the frame, that the story isn't over yet, and that God is with me, steadying me as I walk.

(Andy Gullahorn just released his new album, Beyond the Frame, a few weeks ago, and it has ministered to my heart so much already, especially this song, "Grand Canyon"...)

There are endless tears
And suffering we can't explain
There are dark grey clouds
That never seem to drift away
There's despair in the morning
That will tie us to the bed
But the story isn't over yet

There's a white flag raised
Saying we can't bear anymore
There are silent nights
Because nothing's like it was...
And our dreams retell the sadness
So we cannot forget
But the story isn't over yet

I took a picture of the Grand Canyon
So I could remember that day
Oh but the beauty of the Grand Canyon
Stretches way beyond the frame

I can't sleep
There's too much weighing on my mind
But there's a bird out there
Still singing in the dead of night
Like it knows there's a season
When the sun's gonna set

But the story isn't over yet
The story isn't over

for Becky...