Faith

Today We Weep

It’s emptiness in the center of me. My brain is stuck in second gear, and I’m numb. People will tell you that you shouldn’t feel this way; that you shouldn’t mourn. If God is in control, they say, we should always rejoice. I disagree. When there’s a death, it’s okay to mourn. When there’s a loss, it’s okay to weep. It’s not good, but it’s good for you. I think what they mean to say is don’t despair. That’s different. That I agree with.

Despair will keep you on the floor. Despair will convince you that there’s no longer any reason to get up. Despair will take your joy out back and shoot it in the hindbrain. But I know my joy’s not dead. It’s somewhere upstairs, watching old episodes of Quantum Leap, waiting until I’m ready to have a conversation. It’s patiently waiting, flipping through old copies of Boy’s Life and Elle, for me to deal with the hurt. Mourning is mentally working through loss; getting used to a world without the thing you had or wanted. It’s a form of rest, and it’s preparation.

Stop telling us not to mourn.

Mourning is self-care. I need some self-care these days. I’ve been running, and dieting, but maybe today I need a shake and some burgers. (that’s right, I said ‘burgers’ with an ‘s’). I need to surround myself with love and humor. But most of all, I need to feel something. (Not run from it; not pretend it’s not there.) I need to accept that something bad is happening in my brain and deal with it. Deal with it until every scrap of it is dissolved. Because pain has a way of coming back—growing sharp teeth and biting you to the bone—years from now, in unexpected ways.

It’s small, what I’ve written. But it almost always makes me feel better. I haven’t said much, but sometimes pouring your bag out on the table is the most satisfying step in getting to a clean bag. Just having that sucker empty. Because all I’ve done is pour out my hurt and it feels good. Listen, If you want to help, don’t tell me that hurting is wrong, or that I should trust God more. When my friend’s father died, he said he’d told a man the year before he understood what he must be feeling when that man’s father died. He had no idea, he told me. None at all.

When I mourn, I trust God. I trust that he’ll see me through it, and not be uncomfortable with the fact that I’m hurting. My weeping, snotty, prayers don’t seem awkward to Him.

Talking about our pain is healing. We fear that it’s too much. To tell. To hear. But it’s like pushing over a bucket of filthy mop water onto the ground. You just made a huge mess on the ground, but the world’s big enough to soak up the mess; take it all in. I tend to turn my bucket over onto the page. It always soaks it up. Sure, it leaves a stain, but the words are like a monument of hope. Something I can look back to and nod knowingly. Seeing how far I’ve come.

Seeing that is no mean thing. How far we’ve come. We don’t look back to be pulled back toward despair, or even mourning, but to be reminded of how far we’ve come. We look and see how small our pain appears from this distance. How much we’ve grown to be able to step over it, how strong we’ve become to be able to climb out of that pit. How faithful God is, even in that mourning everyone told us He despised. And that will most certainly bring a song of praise to our lips. …But not today. Today we weep.

Years of Doubt

I

I was four. I clearly remember standing in front of my bedroom closet. My mother and my cousin were about to make a trip to pick something up, and I had to decide whether to go or not. My fingers were knots, crawling one over the other as I stared at the clothes hanging there. I leaned my face into the soft sleeve of one of my winter shirts, but it wouldn’t comfort me enough to take the stress of the dilemma.

                                                 Should I go?

                                                                         Should I stay?

Cartoons would be on. But my mother would be gone. I saw myself in the floor, in front of the television. I saw myself in the backseat, behind my mother. I stayed. I left. My stomach was a fist. My mother walked into the room to ask if I was going. The dilemma came rushing to a fine sharp point. My mouth contorted, by eyes exploded into tears; I ran into her arms. “I can’t decide if I should stay home or go with you!”

It’s a strange memory, but a comforting one. It serves to pull me in close and remind me that I haven’t learned to be this way. It strokes my hair and whispers that this is how it’s always been. I haven’t become broken. I was born broke. Writing that, I can understand why you might think that’s not comforting at all. But there’s something restful in knowing that I don’t have to search incessantly to find where I fell apart. That my anxiety and needless worry over the everyday are a natural dysfunction. As natural as doubt to faith.

II

The bus window was half-down. It wasn’t particularly cool outside, but any air was better than the stale, warm air of a school bus. Screams, laughs, cries buzzed about me, but I stared out that window. Not at the freshly planted fields of soybeans and rice. Not at the green of new leaves on trees and bush. Just out. Do I love her? Do I not?

It’s a question without much actual existential weight for a fourteen-year old. What could a boy who played with action figures just a few years earlier understand about the intricacies of love? Meaningless or not, the question still burned both sides of my brain. A tennis ball of doubt bouncing around the inside of my head, breaking up the place. I slouched as I pulled my bag onto my shoulder and slunk off the bus. I was too old to burst into tears. There was no one to run to this time. No one to urge me in one direction or the other. I just knew I didn’t want to be alone. I prayed I could keep loving her so I could keep getting her love.

III

I was seventeen. I clearly remember kneeling down in the center of the living room in the middle of the night. I’d wrapped myself with the blanket from my bed and stumbled in the dark to that spot, slipping to my knees. Then I collapsed forward, weeping. The moon had set. The stars were clouded over. So dark, so quiet. My brain was the only noise, and it was loud. Louder than it had ever been. “Stop,” I said, elongated the word, grinding the heel of my hand into the side of my head.

I wept there, begging God to make it stop. Then a new thought occurred to me, and I gasped. My body froze. I realized I wanted to die. My head shot up, and I stopped breathing. “This is where I am, God!” In my head, I was screaming it. “I want to die!” Don’t you get that? Do you see me? “…Please let me live.” Years of this-the anxiety, the unwanted thoughts, the constant sound of a broken brain.

Do I live? Do I die?

There was no burning bush. No armor-clad angel of light. No glimpse of glory. Just a boy, empty of fight. I pushed myself up on trembling legs, the weight of the blanket almost too much to pull along behind me. I crawled back onto my bed. It’s the last thing I remember. Somehow I fell asleep. While I slept, He came. I don’t remember the warmth of His touch, or the weight of His words, but I know He pulled me close and whispered that this was not how it would always be.