I hate talking about the most painful things in my life.
It’s really hard for me to admit that I’m not doing well.
I even hate the simple act of saying that I am sad or upset about something.
I fight the tears, but then with a whimper of surrender, I will whisper that I’m not okay. It is funny to me how hard this can feel, even when it with someone I trust a lot (like my husband.)
I’ve heard over and over again that the only way out is through. I want there to be another way. I want to feel better without needing to sob first. I want to power through and be able to not need to cry about it.
But I’m a human, not a robot. I’m working on coming to terms that this is how I’m wired.
A few months ago, Jesus asked me to start telling some of my more painful stories. If it had been up to me, they would have stayed untouched forever. But, since he asked and tears came out at unexpected moments, I said yes. I sat down and bawled and named what had happened. It was messy and awful and I’m not finished with writing those stories. I’m not done being in pain yet.
But already, I can say that those hard and terrible stories already feel a little less hard and terrible. And not because they magically became less hard or terrible simply with a telling of them. But because they lost just a little of their power when I looked them in the eye, tears streaming down my cheeks. I took Jesus’ hand and told those stories that I’m not afraid of them, or at least I’m trying not to be.
I wish I could say that it is easy to name those stories, to be in pain or to be sad about things that are worth being sad about. But it isn’t. It took everything in me to sit and write and cry. I think whenever Jesus asks me to do it again, it will cost a lot to risk revisiting such a difficult place.
In Mike McHargue‘s article “Why It’s Important to Tell Even Your Darkest Story,” he says this:
“We change our memories every time we recall them.
That’s bad for our ability to recall facts over time, but good for trauma. It’s good because when you recall painful memories in a safe place, the neurological roots of that pain in your brain weaken a little bit.
This is why we’re compelled to tell our stories over and over.
Each telling of a story, when received with compassion, offers relief.”
How beautiful that this is how we’re designed. Jesus literally made us in such a way that we get to neurologically receive healing when we name what is hard and difficult and painful. When we walk into the storm, with each step, it becomes a little less stormy.
When I found out that I’m a feeler through a personality test, all I could was nod and feel deep affirmation in my soul. Yep, this is who I am. Whether it is spilling out in empathy for others or my own tears, I’m wired for feelings and lots of them. I remember one phone conversation with a friend who was telling me about some of the hard things in her life. As she talked, I was filled with tenderness and deep sorrow towards her situation. As I responded to her words, she stopped me and said, “Alison, I think you might feel this more than I do! I think it might be sadder for you than it is for me.”
I’ve been told many times that I feel deeply. This gets me into trouble sometimes. I don’t always want to feel deeply, especially if it isn’t a good feeling. I want to run away from feeling deeply if it is sorrow or grief. I want to stay far away from the deep caves of pain. But how quickly I forget that Jesus meets me there. He meets me in the mess. Not where I think I should be or where I want to be. He meets me right where I am. Right in the thick of that messy ugly cry. Right in the heat of that weepy moment, he comes.
He turned the sea into dry land; they went through the flood on foot; there did we rejoice in him. Psalm 66:6
And I will give her vineyards from thence, and the valley of Achor for a door of hope; and she shall sing there. Hosea 2:15
Only with the Lord is it possible for these places of trouble and fear to become places of hope and rejoicing and singing. As I read about the Valley of Achor in Joshua yesterday, it feels hard to imagine this place, where they stoned one of their own, where they felt the weight of their own sin, where they tasted defeat, could be fully restored.
Did you catch what those verses promised? In the midst of the flood, there did they rejoice. This place can become a door of hope. Singing happens there because of who the Lord is. This is who God is; faithful, full of goodness. He takes the dark, frightening, shameful things and makes them beautiful. He takes us back to that valley of trouble and gives us cause to sing. He meets us in the flood itself and we can rejoice.
We aren’t alone. The Lord goes with us.
Circumstances can be overwhelming and scary and full of shame. It can feel hopeless and beyond redemption. But that is where the Lord shows up. He is in the business of redemption. He is at work. Aslan is on the move. Seasons of distress and sadness can become seasons to triumph and rejoice because of who the Lord is and how he works.
This is the reason I will name my pain. Because I serve a God who takes me back there to turn it into something beautiful. He is the best of fathers. I serve a God of plentiful redemption.
O Israel, hope in the Lord! For with the Lord there is steadfast love, and with him is plentiful redemption. Psalm 130:7