On the Flip Side

March 6th, 2013 § 2,728

I’ll be the first to admit that a season of full-impact, all-out transition is rich and beautiful and life-giving.  And to be sure, there are delectable, little moments when I’m in touch with this reality. These moments occur especially on sunny afternoons drinking sparkly water on the front porch. Or when I go to the movies by myself on a Sunday. They are moments when I realize that I’ve learned how to enjoy being, how to really sit with myself, how to limp off the rat wheel of performance and rejoice deep in my bones that I am free, that I am loved before I ever do or accomplish or achieve.

But there is another side to this coin of transition.

It’s a dark, rabid side too.

It feels like opening your eyes in the morning and wondering if you were ever actually asleep because you’re already exhausted and you just woke up.

It looks like mad scrambling to figure out where the hell you’re going to go and what the hell you’re going to do and how the hell you’re ever going to make a living, let alone be happy doing it.

It sounds, sometimes, like uncontrollable weeping for the fear and anxiety that are so immense you feel like you’re being smothered with a pillow, and you claw in the midst of the tears for the breath to say allowed, “God is good. God is good. God is good. God is good. God is good” because it’s the only thing you know to grasp for in your misery.

It’s all very dramatic, I realize this.

And I’m even smart enough to know, cognitively, what a profound waste of personal resources it is to fear in this way. Life will go on, and chances are I will be more or less as cared for as I am today.

But the heart!

The heart feels what it feels, and anyone who has two ounces of honesty about them knows that reason is no pacifier.

My most vulnerable self, the one that is desperately afraid of pain and cries out to avoid it at all costs, has begun to realize that I am, indeed, screwed either way. There will be a great ache if I do get into graduate school, and a great ache if I do not.

If I get in and go, I will have to endure the excruciating loss of proximity to people I love and would give my life for. If you’re wired like me, this is second only to death in its powers to devastate your heart. And if I don’t get in, I am left struggling under the weight of another slew of questions. I’d have to endure the terrifying reality of living further into this fatiguing, insufferable season of unknown, free-falling through my worst fears of unhappiness, and most likely accepting work that doesn’t make me feel alive inside (at least for a time).

And so it is I’m not getting out of this mess without hurting.

But hallelujah for a man who has words when the issue at hand is pain-avoidance! I’ve returned to them over and over and over again in the past four years since I first read them. What I need when the great Fear monster has me in his clutches is someone to elevate the conversation to a higher plane, one where I am gently and winsomely reminded about the role of pain in our lives. When I read these words, I remember again that I don’t believe in living life as if it were a game to avoid all of what’s difficult and painful and scary about being human. I don’t want to live that kind of story.

‘Of all arguments against love none makes so strong an appeal to my nature as “Careful! This might lead you to suffering.” To my nature, my temperament, yes. Not to my conscience. When I respond to that appeal I seem to myself to be a thousand miles away from Christ. If I am sure of anything I am sure that His teaching was never meant to confirm my congenital preference for safe investments and limited liabilities. There is no safe investment. To love at all is to be vulnerable. Love anything, and your heart will certainly be wrung and possibly be broken. Christ did not teach and suffer that we might become, even in the natural loves, more careful of our own happiness. We shall draw nearer to God, not by trying to avoid the sufferings inherent in all loves, but by accepting them and offering them to Him; throwing away all defensive armor. If our hearts need to be broken, and if He chooses this as the way in which they should break, so be it.‘  –C.S. Lewis, The Four Loves

So be it.

And so it shall be.



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