Early on a Saturday morning, I cradle a mug of coffee in my hands and sit in silence as the world begins to wake up.
The earth is turning cold and the pale blue sky hints at autumn’s arrival, and here I sit — watching the leaves blow outside my window and feeling things churn inside of me.
There is something about October that brings me to mourn, and there is something about this mourning that brings me to my knees. Whether by the change of the seasons or because the world seems to still be spinning slowly, I feel the pangs of loss, and I quietly grieve, telling God all of the things that I miss.
“Do you think you see Jesus as a lifeboat, or a luxury?” My friend and I are driving, slowly picking apart the way we’ve seen Jesus preached in our communities, churches, and young adults groups. “Because sometimes, I think we miss telling people why Jesus is so incredible in the first place.”
It’s a sleepy Sunday afternoon, and she and I are falling into our rhythm of long drives and strong coffees and deep talks, tumbling into deep and hard and holy conversations interspersed with laughter and good stories – my favorite. We’ve both noticed this pattern – Jesus being preached as if He’s a jetpack to make life better, if we want Him.
This is a question I’ve been asking a lot of people lately, curious as to how much this particular condition affects others beyond myself. I define pre-grieving as the act of mourning in advance outcomes that are not guaranteed. Or, in other words, giving a voice to anxiety where it has no place; being sad in advance over a future that may or may not ever come.
More often than not, in response to this question, I hear, “Oh yes. I pre-grieve all the time. I thought I was the only one.”
As I tumble out of bed, I glance at my phone and frown at the time. It’s later than I wanted, but I’m up now. I look at myself in the mirror as I put my hair in a scrunchie on top of my head – the bags under my eyes are beginning to resemble suitcases. I sigh.
My first coherent thought is to brew a cup of coffee, and so I do – the first good cup of coffee I’ve had in three weeks. This morning routine provides me with a small shred of steady familiarity; every sip is reassurance.
From where I sit, I have the perspective of a gnat. I am selfish and spoiled by nature, and I know this. I miss my friends. I miss my life. I miss normal. I miss lunch dates and late-night ice cream runs and Bible studies with my community. I miss road trips. I miss coffee shops. I know people are dying and yet I am a helpless bystander grasping at anything to numb the feeling of powerlessness.
C. S. Lewis wrote that to love is to be vulnerable.
The full quote is a beautiful one. It’s one I’ve held onto for a while, one that reminds me I have to give up safe in order to receive something so much better. But that doesn’t mean vulnerability is easy, by any means. And slowly, I am peeling back the layers of my life to reveal the fear and the imperfection, and I am learning to find joy.
“How do you reconcile the two? The goodness of God with the pain and brokenness of life. How do you make sense of it all?”
It’s after midnight, and the three of us are sitting around on the floor of our room, Bibles in our laps, honesty hour for each of us. After a long day of travel and unexpected experiences, we’re exhausted and cutting right to the heart of what we’ve all been walking through.
“I guess…I don’t know exactly. I think I often tend to believe that God doesn’t have to be good to me to still be good.”
I pause for a moment, and gather my thoughts.
“Almost this: I know I don’t deserve His love, so I see the love He does give me as a beautiful, wonderful gift, and everything else as extra. I don’t think that’s right or healthy, but that’s how I tend to reconcile it. He doesn’t have to be good to me in my mind for me to still believe He’s good.”
This mantra has been echoing in my head for months now, ever since a friend of mine sent me those words right when I needed to hear them. Right now, I’m watching the range of life seasons my friends are in, the happiness they’re seemingly consumed with – stepping into their careers, traveling across the world, falling in love. And oftentimes I wonder, in the mundane, everydayness of life – is there joy here? Truly?
In this season, I am fighting for joy. This season, in which my heart is tired, I am learning to find hope again.
Sometimes it takes a trip to the other side of the country to really start to see God more fully.
It’s not about the travel, though. Sometimes just a change of pace, and scenery, and a lot of long walks and talks with people that know your soul. Sometimes it’s just the space to sit for an hour with a journal in the early hours of the morning in a dark living room, or as the wind whips through messy hair and thick sweaters on front porches.
It is in the kitchen that I find myself on a Saturday morning, gripping a mug of good coffee, overthinking. We’ve squeezed seventeen people into a beach house, and so I’m surrounded by the coffee drinkers, those of us lingering around the counter as people have started to spread out – some on couches with fuzzy blankets and guitars, some around tables with card games, some zipping up jackets to walk to the beach.
As the conversation begins to wind down, I quietly slip out of the kitchen, grab my Bible and journal, and find a place alone outside, to think and pray and read and cry silent tears, if they’ll come.