First of all, know you are loved. I'll get back to you in just a moment.
If this post offends you, I'm sorry but not sorry. I firmly and truly believe that the enemy grows fast and quick in the dark, damp places, much like the moldy bread from our young school years. Leave it alone and close the door, you'll come back to much more of a mess than you left. Darkness needs tending to. There is no offense in that. Only the offense of self and ego. There has been darkness for too long.
No, no. The darkness needs light. Light in every corner light. Light you squint into. And here I go with a beacon.
Over a year ago, a church we loved and held dear, was turned upside down. A decision (and many more to follow) was made that changed every life that ever walked in the doors.* It's okay to say this out loud.
The reactions were deep and varied. Some couldn't step in the building again, some lingered a few weeks...months...a year even. A theme seemed to drape us all: don't talk about it, be okay, move on, nothing to see here, nothing to grieve or hurt over. Pretend it's okay. Keep it secret. Can I tell you about secrets?
Secrets are a tool of the enemy. Secrets in families only cause to destroy relationships, create a false sense of reality, affect lives, cause suspicion and resentment and can cause illness (mental and physical).
A friend pictured it perfectly...sitting in a field of lambs...each injured, bleeding, bleating, wandering around and lost. Desperate for a shepherd, a healer, a hope. None was to be had. They were shaking and scared, many in shock. Fear in their eyes, heaviness in their chests. Eyes burning from tears. This was the reality for many. It's okay to say this out loud.
Our hearts, in many ways, were moistened with our tears and stuffed in a plastic bag and hidden in a dark corner of the closet. Things began to grow.
For some depression. For some anxiety. For some pain from other events in life surfaced. Wounds opened. Some have given up on church all together. Some feel alone. Some are overwhelmed. Some despair still. Still. Still. I've seen this with my own eyes.
We were grieving a thousand deaths, not just one. This is why the pool is so deep.
I get that. I get all of that. It's okay to say these things out loud.
In the months since that decision, I have held many a hurting heart in my hands. Trying to listen. Trying to hear. Trying to be patient in pain and share burdens until they eased. I've cried a thousand tears and mourned as many memories, both alone and with those I love. I've lost relationships and dreams have vaporized before me. I've been lied about and lied to. And I've gotten through. I've gotten through.
All the while the fire continues. You heal, move on and then you stumble on another broken heart and it begins again. The holding of the heart. The tears, the pain, the grief. This is not about forgiveness. At least not for all. You can forgive and still grieve.
It's a cycle that heals. All these things on their own will tear you down, but have them take place in a fire and you get refining. You get strong friendships. You get renewed faith and hope. Add fire to clay and it gets stronger.
Fire strengthens. It removes the weak and unnecessary distractions from our lives and shows us what is important. This enables us to not be distracted by the things that won't make a difference anyway...fire clears those things away.
We may not have started the fire but we CAN benefit from it. We can use it to heal our hearts. We can use it for change and growth and new. We can benefit from the blank canvas it leaves behind. It's okay to say this out loud.
All these things I've learned to be true. I've mourned. I've cried. I've hurt. I've moved on with my flock to new pastures. We have found our way and have begun again, some together, some not. But every so often we look back. We look back and see a limping lamb. Hiding there in a bush, nose to the ground. Eyes still stinging from tears, heart still heavy, wounds still bleeding. Shame covering them like a veil because they still hurt. It's okay to say this out loud.
Those lambs keep showing up, even as recently as the last couple of weeks. And my heart breaks over them all over again. There is no shame in grief, but they believe it. There is no shame in not being okay, but they believe there is. They are gun shy and shaking. And that one limping, hiding lamb tells me something important...
Where there is one, there are more. And here is the beacon. I want to say out loud that it is okay if you are still hurting. It is okay if you are still mourning. It is okay if you are still in pain...if you are depressed or anxious or aching about a decision that changed your lives a year ago. It's okay to say this out loud.
There is not a timetable for grief. There is not a "get over it" day on the calendar. We are mourning a thousand deaths here. It's more normal to still be hurting than to not be.
Your heart is breaking. I hear you.
I know where unchecked grief can lead to...the roads depression can take you down. I know these things and I hear you. If I could come to your door and take your hand, I would. But you are hiding.
And I am begging. I and so many of the sheep who've begun to heal. We are begging.
Please do not believe the lies of shame. Do not think you can't be "not okay". Do not think for a second you are alone in your hurt, your despair, your distrust, your anger, your broken heart.
We are told to leave the 99 and go after the 1. Period. End of the sentence. We want to come for you. We want to hold your heart and help you through. But you have to summon the strength to reach out of the darkness. Just one hand into the light.
We have resources ready. A small group to surround you, counseling to help you through. An ear to listen, a heart to know your pain. We know you are there in the darkness and we are looking for a hand to pull you out.
And this is not about church. This is about Church. We want you to be where He wants you and we know it's not alone and bleating by yourself. We know He wants more for your heart. He hears your pain.
He loves you and His heart breaks to know you feel alone. You are not alone we are here.
Email. Text. Message. Comment. Anything you can muster up the strength to do. If it's with us or with anyone. Just reach out. A hand into the light. That's all you have to muster up.
My email: email@example.com Paige's email: firstname.lastname@example.org
All praise to the God and Father of our Master, Jesus the Messiah! Father of all mercy! God of all healing counsel! He comes alongside us when we go through hard times, and before you know it, he brings us alongside someone else who is going through hard times so that we can be there for that person just as God was there for us. We have plenty of hard times that come from following the Messiah, but no more so than the good times of his healing comfort—we get a full measure of that, too. 2 Corinthians 1:3-5
*Feel free to insert your life changing event here. This is obviously about a specific event but I felt strongly that it needed to be a blog post because others need to hear it. It's a universal thing, this pain and grieving. I am certain you can remove my event and insert yours and say all the same things. I hope this will encourage your next step, whatever that looks like for you.