What happens when things fall apart? Imagine you drop your favorite vase. The second it leaves your fingertips you know there will be a crash. Your desperate attempts to catch it before it explodes into a million unrecognizable pieces proves futile leaving you hopelessly, helplessly, watching the scene play out before you with a total loss of control.
That’s how I feel every time something bad happens. Powerless to stop it. And like a sonic boom you know the wave of pain is next. It will hit hard and all you can do is survive.
I don’t know why there is so much tragedy in life, only that there is. I’ve watched parent’s grieve the loss of their children. I can’t think of anything more tragic than that. The pain of loss is so visceral it can’t be swatted away. It embeds itself within you and becomes a part of who you are.
All tragedy becomes a part of who you are.
But then what?
How do you let it change you? How do you move forward?
Harry and I are learning from each other in this new marriage of ours. He is teaching me how to deal with one kind of tragedy and I am teaching him how to deal with another.
There is a kind of tragedy that effects your core. Like, when an ideal, a dream, or a person dies. Those kinds of tragedies result in the creation of a demon. And that demon must be dealt with. It might take years, or even decades, but you can’t ignore them. When you least expect it – they will pop their ugly head out of your soul and taunt you to be someone you do not want to be.
Harry always believed that he was powerless with these demons. He resigned himself to the acceptance that they would return, that they would make him ugly, and there wasn’t much he could do about it other than wait it out until they left. But God is in the business of dealing with demons. And things like unconditional love, grace, a genuine heart, choosing to do good, and humbling yourself before God have a way of making the demons hide. I think I’m showing Harry how that is possible.
The other kind of tragedy happens all the time. They were the kind of things I held onto before Harry. I let these things ruin my day, my week, sometimes, my year. But he’s teaching me that these must be unloaded and forgotten. Getting an F on a test, coming up short for your monthly bills, getting a ticket, losing a job. Bad stuff to be sure, but life ruining events? Only if you let them be.
Every bad thing that happens brings with it a resolution, a consequence. You get an F…maybe you change your major, drop out of school, take that class again. You can’t make your bills…maybe you get evicted and have to find another place to live, you have to get another job, you have to pay more money for interest on your credit card. You lose your job…you get a new one, maybe not even as good, maybe you go hungry for a while. You get a ticket, you pay it. Maybe people think you are a loser. Ok. Maybe they do. But you move on. You don’t let these kinds of failures ruin your life, or make you think any less of yourself. Learn from them, and do better next time, and the next time, and you keep going. Keep expecting things to get better. Be a fighter.
I’ve watched Harry give himself and others grace in light of these kinds of tragedies. Sometimes he laughs in their face. They are only as big as you make them. If you can’t do anything to change what happened, best to forget it and move on.
But both kinds of tragedies have the potential to weigh us down and cause our life to feel heavy.
Paul wrote in Hebrews 12:1
“Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a huge crowd of witnesses to the life of faith, let us strip off every weight that slows us down, especially the sin that so easily trips us up. And let us run with endurance the race God has set before us.” (NLT)
I’ve never really thought about this verse in terms of pain, and tragedy before. I always considered the sin he was referring to as things like hate, anger, jealousy, sexual sin, abuse of alcohol or drugs. But not pain. I mean, when you feel pain, you just do, you are a victim. It’s not your fault.
But nursing pain is a sin. Think about it. The root of all sin is pride. “How could this happen to ME?” , “How could I be a failure?”, “Bad things are only supposed to happen to other people!” And when you stew, and beat yourself up, the pain settles in deep and you begin telling yourself, “You ARE a failure”, “You don’t deserve happiness”, “You are just going to screw up again, so you might as well not even try.” or “This happened to you because you deserved it.” A prideful, haughty, boastful spirit leads to one who condemns. It creates a root of bitterness within our soul THAT IS A SIN. Bad things DO happen to good people for no other reason than because it’s a part of life. Don’t allow yourself to say, “WHY ME?” And if you do, don’t keep saying it.
Instead when bad things happen, we must “strip off every weight that slows us down, trips us up so that we are free to run full speed. Not weighed down by our past failures or tragedies. WOW.
I mean capital W – WOW. Huge mind blowing moment for me. I think this is what happens when you are in a healthy, God-fearing relationship. You begin to teach each other about God’s true character. God does not promise us a life without pain and struggle. But he meets us in those moments with forgiveness, grace, and mercy.
Harry is teaching me to stay strong despite getting darts and arrows thrown at me. He is teaching me to live each moment without regret.
I am teaching him that we have more power in our weakest moments because God does not abandon us there. He is there replacing the bad with good. Filling our voids with love, peace, and healing.
Whatever horrific thing is your demon…keep saying no to what it tells you. Find a person who will tell you the truth in the moments when the demon is unleashed. Someone who loves you and knows the truth, not the lie. If you feed a demon with the pain, he will live. But if you starve it with love, over time, it gets weaker, and eventually hides. Healing comes with it scars changing us forever. But healing is possible.
I’m watching Harry deal with his demons and I’m watching them get smaller. It is happening before my eyes, like a snake sloughing off a dull layer of skin. The result is a vibrant, fresh, new layer that allows that snake to continue to grow.
Because we are in each other’s lives…Harry and I have run faster and harder, and gotten the furthest ahead in this race of life then I ever thought possible. We are learning from each other, learning about God, and looking to the future with hope.