It was the first Lenten Season and the first spring for 3 years that felt a sense of “this is normal”. The fresh smells, the signs of new life, and the dawn of days that would stretch longer into the evening didn’t come with pangs of hurtful memories. One of my favorite things in life is the start of a new season that always brings memories of the ones that came before it. Hot sweaty summer afternoons remind me of playing in my grandparents’ backyards as a kid, crunchy leaves reminds me of high school living in the fall, smells of cinnamon remind me of Christmas morning magic coke winter, and spring reminds me of the being engaged and planning our new life. As we were granted a due date in the early spring, I looked forward to the years in the future when this season would remind me of becoming a mom, but what has come is memories of trauma and fear. However this year, the fear felt a little secondary and I wondered: am I better?
It has been quite some time since I could listen to the radio or a playlist of a genre like country or 2000s, with interest of the song to come next and what I may remember, versus the fear of one that took me to a place of loss. Flipping through my phone at pictures before Shannon was possible again, without throwing me into a place that would be hard to shake. Returning to Northern Virginia did not require a set of breathing exercises to look beyond the car in front of me and remember my life here… the before. I could wake up in the morning and it wasn’t my first thought….. there was not complete healing, just a new version of peace and a return of a different type of hope.
Being able to pull back the sheet and examine life up until this point felt like a luxury I had given up. What was it like to have fond memories? The gift of what the present gave was the ability to give it all up for a new world that started and ended with a little girl. A little girl that didn’t know me in that place, that doesn’t think of anything that is lost and that I would give it all up for every day without even a question. This new life held so much of what I had dreamt of and when I am being honest, it has a provided a method that allows me to live it focused exclusively on her. That price has moments of feeling mighty large: will we ever move on, can we move on, do I want to move on? And yet the gift of her gives me comfort I am doing some version of right for who she is and how happy she lives. None of these thoughts and reflections were possible before this time. Moments of clarity sure, but for the most part all I could do was look ahead…. and now I was slowing down to turn around.
So I started the Lenten Season with a feeling that I could cultivate peace. I welcomed spring with a chance to marry my old life and new one and feel complete. My 38th year would be the one I could really sink into and shake off the dirt of where life had led. And we would welcome 3 for my little girl as even stronger duo than I could ever have dreamed of. The week Lent started I experienced something that can best be described as journey into the light and truth. The Lord allowed me to sit in the deepest reality of my life and my heart. It was the strangest experience of making the burden heavier and lighter. It was the oddest mix of fear to see it and relief to have it seen. And when I realized it was the start of the true healing it was a profound sense of overwhelm to feel like I am just starting and then incredible hope that healing will actually come because this time it is totally rooted in Him. And with that the Lent I never expected… the life I had no idea was coming…. and the gift of being called and answering it came to life.
Taking this whole thing to prayer…. talking about it in length with my therapist… seeing my priest….and examining it through the eyes of Christ I realized this happened now because I was ready. It was not that life up to this point had been wasted, I was surviving to get here. It does not mean that going through this I will finally have perfect peace, clarity and an explanation all tied up in bow that I can share. It does not mean I am headed for the pit of despair in the pain. It meant I was going to truly walk through this with Him and that I was going to no longer experience it through my limited humanity. I WAS ON FIRE. How can you be so afraid of what it means? While also so ready I would have to clear out anything that could stand in the way and cause a slow down. One who was never for fasting, I gave things up left and right – anything that felt like a distraction. There were moments where I felt outside of myself, making decisions with a weird pause that allowed me to see them in their entirety: here is what my humanity wants, here is what God wants, and here is where I have to pray for the strength to choose His way. It was wild and it changed little things and big things and everything in between. My lenten writing project that I had been working on since February – put on a shelf. My plans for Shannon and I around some specific family interactions: complete 180. My approach to my home life, my relationship with Danny, my work – a major facelift. My time, my money, my energy – all being spent very judiciously. It was as if I didn’t recognize myself and yet I was being the best version of me.
And I saw Easter in a whole new light: the win we humans never expected. The promise land was awaiting a king and received a poor carpenter. The Jewish people expected a battle and victory, and instead witnessed murder. We as people thought it was death and with Jesus it was brand new life – but not of this world. And the only way it could be achieved was by sending Jesus: fully God and fully human. The Lord’s ways are not our ways and so what he calls us to, what he makes of our lives is not what we expect. The answer I have been praying for isn’t the one I am getting, but it is the one I need. And none of it I face alone: because the sin, pain, shame, fear that I have lived through, Jesus already took to death with him on cross. I crave the ability to explain it and be understood, and Jesus already knows it all intimately with his shared heart. That experience and this truth has changed Easter, my faith, and a lot of life as I know it. The peace achieved has been a Godsend and yet the fight to keep connected to it while living in this world very hard. Just as it is supposed to: we are on a journey.
I live out this Easter season grateful that I have had some healing and that I can see the full reality of who I am and my life. But not because I am healed, rather that I have been blessed with the scars of survival from living a human life. The depth of their hurt, isn’t a failure but an opportunity to press into their rawness to find Jesus, to see the truth that hurt only comes from true giving, and that I was never meant to heal them…. just live through them singing Alleluia for the one who already took them to the cross.
Happy Easter friends: He is Risen!