Can I tell you something? Sometimes life is just hard. I know, right? I know we all know that, but sometimes we need to say it out loud, to write it down, to read it in print, and to allow ourselves to acknowledge that there isn’t anything uniquely bad or wrong with us when life is just hard. From the outside looking in, we often work diligently to make things appear smooth and harmonized and like all the pieces of the puzzle fit neatly in place without worry or flaw.
I don’t know about you, but sometimes when I’m working on a jigsaw puzzle, when I’ve looked for a piece for probably a little too long, and I pick up the same piece for the 3rd or 4th time that clearly should go in the space that’s open and I try it again, and it’s still just not quite the right piece for that space, I’ve been known to place it there anyway, and then pound on it with the side of my fist somehow thinking that if I pound on it long enough and hard enough, it will finally fit. Yeah, not so much.
I wonder if that’s what we do to ourselves. When we can’t understand why what we’re doing isn’t working for our sense of peace, or purpose, or happiness, we try harder. We try harder to look better. We try harder to “do” better. We try harder to fit in, to tow the line, to follow instructions, to read the next best plan that promises help, healing, and happiness. Too often someone else’s plan for happiness doesn’t fit the space we have inside ourselves and we decide something is simply wrong with us. And maybe we sorta beat around on our edges emotionally and spiritually and verbally because we don’t fit and we think we should.
The fact of the matter is that life is just hard. Period. Not always because we’re wrong; or because we’re bad; or because we’ve committed some unpardonable sin. Sometimes life is hard because it’s just hard. We get a diagnosis that doesn’t fit with where we were going or what we were intending. The people we love most in the world struggle with life decisions, with interactions with each other, with accepting themselves, and we can’t help them. We try to do right things and the outcomes somehow come out completely wrong. The more we try to help people, the more hurt there seems to be; the more we try to let folks make their own way, the more it seems to them like we don’t care.
Geez, Nanette, I read this every week to feel better, did you get up on the wrong side of the bed this morning?!? Did you get to the end of the latest jigsaw puzzle and one piece was missing?!? Did your sister send you a Betty Crocker cookbook for an early birthday present?!? (Don’t do it Belinda, just don’t do it! *snort*) What’s the deal?!?
I think the deal is that being who we are, and acknowledging that sometimes being who we are is hard, is a good thing, a healthy thing, a healing thing, and if I might be so bold, maybe even a God thing. How much energy do we spend trying to deny, ignore, or pretend – often, we think, for everyone else’s sake – that we aren’t struggling, that we aren’t hurting, that we aren’t carrying around baggage from all the years of living life? What might we do with that energy if we simply stopped? If we admitted our insecurities, our fears, our self-defined-as-odd anxieties? Would the world stop turning, the foundations of the universe crumble around us, would we lose all our friends, our way of life, our – take a deep breath – salvation?! Is our God really that fickle, that shallow, that, well, human?!
Hear me yelling this: No, NO, NOOOOOOOOO! Our God is not fickle, not shallow, and most of all, NOT LIMITED TO HUMAN UNDERSTANDING! Here’s the most difficult part of our faith I think: God knows us as we are and LOVES US TO THE END OF ETERNITY AND BACK AGAIN. Period. And we struggle to believe and trust that because we don’t love ourselves or each other that same way.
But what if we can, even when it’s hard, even when we don’t want to, even when everything seems to be out of place, out of alignment, maybe even out to get us?! What if we can actually and quite literally believe we’re loved and loveable?! What would change? I mean, life would still be hard sometimes. And sometimes we’d still get what we deserve and sometimes we wouldn’t, both good and bad. Maybe what would change is us – our perspective on the world, on our lives, on the people around us. Simply looking at the world from a place of love, well, maybe God was onto something there, maybe love does change and transform, maybe from the inside out! And then maybe when life is hard, we reach out to others and they reach out to us, and we build honest community and somehow the struggle is more do-able when it’s shared. At least maybe it’s worth a try?
The following is one of my favorite quotes from Harold S. Kushner, most well-known for his book: When Bad Things Happen to Good People:
If you have been brave enough to love, and sometimes you won and sometimes you lost; if you have cared enough to try, and sometimes it worked and sometimes it didn’t; if you have been bold enough to dream and found yourself with some dreams that came true and a lot of broken pieces of dreams that didn’t, that fell to earth and shattered, then you can look back from the mountaintop you now find yourself standing on, like Moses contemplating the tablets that would guide human behavior for a millennia, resting in the Ark alongside the broken fragments of an earlier dream. And you, like Moses, can realize how full your life has been and how richly you are blessed.