If you’re going through something crazy hard, I won’t insult you by telling you you’ll be completely okay, but I will tell you that it’s okay to fall apart.
Sometimes we have to fall apart. Sometimes it’s the healthiest response we can have to life’s greatest agonies.
I worry about the people who don’t fall apart. Maybe they’re fine. Maybe they process differently than I do. Good for them. But I worry that, culturally, we’re emotionally constipated. We pound back protein shakes and how-to articles and we erect walls high enough to trap all our ooky monsters into sterilized clean rooms in our souls. We lift and tuck our outside selves when, really, we ought to be sitting in sackcloth and ashes.
The more you force yourself to have it all together on the outside prematurely, the more junk you’ll have to power wash off later. Better to fall apart at the beginning and get it over with.
We’ve lost our ability to lament. And Christians are the worst at this. We freak out if someone isn’t embracing all the spunkiest Bible verses and we have a pep talk for every situation.
But there are a lot of verses we ignore, and sometimes it’s okay to spend some serious time in a state of lament. Wail, rend your garments (Wear old clothes. Do not rend your Anthro shirt from Christmas. That would make you sadder.), tear your hair (Nope, I don’t advise this. Tear some duct tape or something.), and don’t try to stuff it for the people around you.
If you need help in this area, look to King David, my emotional Bible muse. The man is a master of lament.
Lord, do not rebuke me in your anger
or discipline me in your wrath.
Have mercy on me, Lord, for I am faint;
heal me, Lord, for my bones are in agony. [He’s swooning; he’s got bone problems; this is some serious falling apart. I mean, fainting and bones in agony. He needs a protein shake and some calcium, stat.]
My soul is in deep anguish.
How long, Lord, how long? [Deep. The anguish is deep. ARE WE THERE YET? HOW MUCH LONGER?]
Turn, Lord, and deliver me;
save me because of your unfailing love. [Because of your love, God, not because of my merit. It’s about your character.]
Among the dead no one proclaims your name.
Who praises you from the grave? [”So you’d better save me, God, because I can’t praise you if I’m dead!” This is solid logic.]
I am worn out from my groaning. [Groaning as a killer cardio routine?]
All night long I flood my bed with weeping
and drench my couch with tears. [He is drenching multiple pieces of furniture. He must be dehydrated. And also, EW.]
My eyes grow weak with sorrow;
they fail because of all my foes. [He literally cried his eyes out.]
Away from me, all you who do evil,
for the Lord has heard my weeping. [I think everyone has heard your weeping, David.]
The Lord has heard my cry for mercy;
the Lord accepts my prayer.
All my enemies will be overwhelmed with shame and anguish;
they will turn back and suddenly be put to shame. [Because of his great battle strategy or his amazing workout regimen? No. Because he cried and cried out to the Lord. So many emotions.]
Of course, David had a lot of really good reasons for losing it on a regular basis, whereas my stuff usually consists of things like this:
- My new iPhone is too big for my hand and I can no longer text one-handed under the table where no one can see me.
- Fox canceled Firefly a bajillion years ago and I’m still bitter.
- My kids have a permission slip that must be signed or they will never be allowed to cross the threshold of school again or maybe everyone will laugh at them and call them names and they can’t find the permission slip and I can’t find the permission slip and this field trip is the most important event ever and they can’t go and I’m trying to write a note with a crayon because I can’t find a pen because I’m not a real grown-up.
- I accidentally drank decaf and can’t figure out why I want to take everyone out with a hair straightener on high heat.
You get the idea. No one has tried to kill me. At least not to my knowledge as of the printing of this book.
My friend and her husband had an unexpected, violent death in the family and showed up to church that same morning. We were all like, “WHY ARE YOU HERE!?!” And they said, “Where else would we go? At a time like this, where should we be if not with our church family?”
I was amazed. When I was hurting, I took a breather from the church because I couldn’t hide my pain. But my friends ran to the church with their pain. Yes. That’s the way to do it. We need church cultures where people feel safe to do this, where we can all sit down together and cry our eyes out, just like King David.
When you feel like you’re falling apart, sometimes the bravest thing you can do is wake up, open your eyes, exhale, and get out of bed. Sometimes the hardest, bravest thing is choosing to live another day in this broken, wonderful world.
(excerpt from It’s Not Fair: Learning to Love the Life You Didn’t Choose, Zondervan 2016)