I don’t want to pass over it this month. November is the month where gratitude is the banner hovering over us all. Yet, November is the month that my deepest loss occurred. So as the “give thanks” signs start to make their way into homes, the temptation to become resentful and angry surfaces in mine.
It’ll be fifteen years this month since my dad went to heaven, but I am only twenty-three. I look back and think to myself, “you made it this far.” But I look forward and see how much life is still ahead. The moments that he will miss will only increase. There have been so many journal entries scribbled with words that have aimed to do their best to describe what was felt yet somehow no words have ever been able to actually articulate it. The harsh reality that I am sitting in is that there are still more blank journal pages to be filled. There are still many moments that he will miss. The happy moments will forever be accompanied by a sense of sadness because he won’t be here.
And then the sometimes November rolls around and the temptation to be angry really isn’t a temptation at all, then you just feel guilty. Or November rolls around and for so long you have lived under the presumed expectations of how you are supposed to feel that you have no idea how to untangle how you really feel. Especially in the world of social media, where we feel as if people are watching with a front row seat to our grief process and because of that we believe we must always preserve our image. Loss does not come with the responsibility to always have the right words to say. Loss does not come with the responsibility to post something on the hardest day of the year, with beautiful words strung together that will inspire. Loss does not come with the responsibility to feel a certain way after a certain amount of time. Loss does come with the responsibility to “share your story” every time someone asks. Grief was never meant to be attractive. Grief was never meant for you to leverage for followers.
Grief is about you and God getting in the trenches together and when you come out of that trench, then it will be time to speak of how even there God was present. But what is happening is that people are coming out of the trenches before it is time or people are never going into the trenches at all. This is leaving us with too many people feeling the pressure to “say something” and the words that are manifesting lack vulnerability and sincerity because they do not possess raw emotion. You cannot speak on that which you have not truly dared to experience.
I am preaching at myself here. November 21 rolls around every year and I have a perfectly written Instagram caption that will tug at the heartstrings of my followers but what I have come to realize that I have written about November 21 many times yet have not lived it.
There’s a lot of us out there. Those of us who have written but haven’t really lived it.
What does it mean to live and not just write?
I think it means being okay with sitting in the tension for a little while. I think it means to be okay with slipping away into the secret place and going unseen. I think it means to wrestle with God and work through doubts, questions, and anger. I think it means to not post. I think it means to know that you can be silent. I think it means to figure out how you really feel and to show it. I think it means to let your life speak louder than your words ever could. I think it means to stop putting so much pressure on ourselves.
November –you usually come with so many “shoulds” or “should nots” and I lose myself completely. You usually come with words that lack emotion because of a strong willpower to avoid all emotion. Sometimes you come with a slight case of depression and exhaustion. Sometimes you come with a retreat mentality and from even my closest friends I shut the door. You don’t even need to come with a mask because I’ve become pretty good and making my own façade over the years. You always come with a cry from my soul saying, “I miss him” but sometimes that cry never endures the journey to become an audible whisper. Deep down I know that November will always be accompanied by a wish for the story to not be what it is and it is about time that I come to terms with that.
Until I give myself permission to still miss him, I will never be able to give someone else the permission. I will never be able to speak on what I am not living. I will never take someone somewhere I have not been myself.
Oh, how I want us to live through the grief and not just write about it. Oh, how I want us to not say anything sometimes. Oh, how I want more people to go to the trenches so they can one day rise up singing a song that actually means something.
I waited patiently for the Lord; he turned to me and heard my cry. He lifted me out of the slimy pit, out of the mud and mire; he set my feet on a rock and gave me a firm place to stand. He put a new song in my mouth, a hymn of praise to our God. Many will see and fear the Lord and put their trust in him. Psalm 40: 1-3
David says the Lord lifted Him out of the pit and put a new song in his mouth. There are a lot of people out there singing songs about how to deal with the hard times and the thing is we don’t need any more people singing the same songs. We need people singing new songs. We need people to get in the trenches and then let the Lord set their feet on a firm place to stand. You can go there, my friend. You can disappear from the public eye for a split second. You can let it just be you and God so that one day you can tell your story. The real story, not just the story you have become so good at telling. We want real. We want mud and mire. We want a new song.
I have had moments when my song has had a change in key. A couple words here and there have started to change as I have gone back and started to deal with the loss of my dad but I want a completely new song.
It’s the month of gratitude and it’s a fight to cultivate that spirit. However, when I look back at these last 15 years – in one hand I see the messy, painful, and broken moments. In the other hand, I see the truth of who God is and His promises. When the two collide they simply paint the picture of the cross – tragedy and triumph.
That’s what these years have been: Tragedy yet triumph. I cannot help but be thankful for a God who takes complete opposites and works them together for a purpose far greater than we could ever imagine.
Maybe things would be easier if my life had been all triumph and no tragedy. But I have grown to like this story of mine. The story where every ounce of heartache is leading up to a “but God.” A story where I will never minimize the pain but I will also always maximize on who Jesus is and what He has done.
Don’t you see it? Those moments in the trenches are building up that “but God” declaration. The more descriptive, honest, and vulnerable you can be, the more intensified and amplified that moment will be. The tragedy is not the climax of the story, the triumph is. The tragedy is the rising action, which always leads to the climax. The climax centers around a person. The person is not you, it’s Jesus.
Let the tragedy be known. Let the trenches be a real place you have been. Let there be a new song. Let the song always declare the triumph.
-doing November differently.
-to allowing myself to feel it.
-to knowing it’s okay to still miss him.
-to living it and not just writing it
-to maybe not saying anything
I know He is not done using this….