Do you remember the last time you looked yourself square in the eye? I find myself only looking to check eyeliner or engaging in the infrequent use of dental floss. Any pause that allows my eyes to engage with my eyes in the mirror and I can sense the comfort being chased from the corners of my soul. I strategically avoid my own glance because somewhere inside the woman who stands there, when distraction and rush are placed to the side, I come face-to-face with often sad eyes. Eyes that carry disappointment.
For a long time I have been negligent to uncover the places of disappointment and loss because I genuinely didn't know they existed. Your life is your life...so deal with it is the cruel whisper that makes me think that I'm brave and infused with confidence and perspective but denial is not strength, it is weakness. It lingers as a dark and dying place in the heart of people who cannot confront what is most real and most heavy at the bottom of our hearts.
So at the bottom of this deep ocean of my being is the sunken idea of who I thought I would be and how I thought I would be a wholly-LOVEr, vibrant-LIVEr, gracious-mother and good-wife. People said we would make great parents but I feel like it only brings out the worst in me. I thought I would have better maintained my waistline and committed to home-cooked meals every night. I just knew, as a 24-year-old, that I would find a rhythm in being a wife that would make our story look like a fairytale on the 4th of July. I thought I would have figured it out by now, ten years into marriage and entering my mid-thirties, but my life is not what I expected. And it might not even be what I wanted.
This conversation is often condemned and its mouth covered with a kind of webbing that not only discourages the plea for help but it shoves it back into our souls. I cannot help but think that even this darkness is always looking for the light, desperate for its own death. Open the doors, open the windows and let in the light.
I guess because, honestly, I think it's hard - even impossible - to love the life we have until we grieve the one we've lost.
It's the paradox of growing and aging and maturity: we can carry deep gratitude for what we have, for what our hands and wombs create, for the time that has come and gone and for the time that is yet to envelop us. All this can live and thrive right alongside the gut-wrenching and take-your-breath-away sorrow that life is not what it should have been or what we had hoped it would become. It is the perfect union of our humanity and our other-worldliness.
There is a theology floating around today that makes us believe that running alongside the trajectory of our life and its brokenness and realities, is a path of the should-have-beens or what perfection would have brought us, had humanity never plummeted in the garden of Eden. As if God's script for humanity was originally written without "flaws" as defined by our hearts and minds. As if the fall was out of His divine and sovereign plan but when I look at the scriptures and fall back into what God says about what comes and goes and how He moves and breathes, I see that the life we have and the life we are living is His plan. It is His plan for us to live in brokenness, it is His plan for us to face trials and suffering, it is His plan that "bad things happen to good people," because He knows that our hearts cannot find rest and peace until we find Him. He will set aside or take away from us the gifts, circumstances, and even stability when He sees it replacing His role in our hearts and how that shapes our affections. So rather than fix our eyes on the imaginary path we call "Should Have Been" and wish we lived there, we "run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God." (Hebrews 12:1-2)
The disappointment that comes with being unhappy with how our life unfolds is placed there to create a deep desire for God himself, not the life we wish He had given us. It's really easy at this point for fear to creep into this way of thinking and cause us to fold into ourselves and away from Jesus. Unless we know Him, unless we've studied Him, and unless we have seen His beauty and goodness shining for us.
"For the Lord your God is living among you.
He is a mighty savior.
He will take delight in you with gladness.
With his love, he will calm all your fears.
He will rejoice over you with joyful songs."
"Those who look to Him are radiant
and their faces shall never be covered with shame."
I am more convinced than ever that all things unfold for His glory and our good. I've given myself freedom to grieve the life I thought I would have and instead of finding a great void or emptiness, I've found myself falling deeper in love with Jesus. He can graciously fill the places of our hearts that writhe with disappointment and give us greater measures of Himself: the better and most satisfying. Treasure Him, friends, and you will find your life.