Have you ever considered the option of to love exactly what you have hated? Or maybe instead to grab things from the fire that were meant to be left behind?
I remember the day on April 15, 2019 when a fire broke out at the Notre Dame Cathedral. Later in the week I read an article about how people formed a human chain to save all of the relics, art and artifacts from the fire…to preserve them for when the structure was restored. This hit me that day but I couldn’t quite put it into words at that time.
It has struck me that people would go into devastation and destruction to preserve what they could…in this case, to save it for the rebuild. And yes, this is admirable. But at the same time it hit me as something sad when I thought about it on a bigger scale.
Then, as the whole world heard this week, a helicopter went down killing 9 people including Kobe Bryant and his daughter. This kind of thing usually hits me so hard that I avoid it the first few days. After that I usually start to read an article or two. The article I happened to read yesterday was with Steven Colbert and his feelings on it, especially since his own father and 2 brothers were killed in a small plane crash when he was a kid, also due to fog.
In talking about how he feels about his own tragedy he said, “I’m not angry. I’m not. I’m mystified, I’ll tell you that. But I’m not angry. I learned to love it. So that’s why. Maybe, I don’t know. That might be why you don’t see me as someone angry and working out my demons onstage.
“It’s that I love the thing that I most wish had not happened.”
– Steven Colbert
Oh my goodness.
Could I say that about my own life? Or do I run into the tragedy and try to salvage what I can, hang on to what I can with the hopes of rebuilding the same thing?
I have not had the same kind of tragedy that Colbert has had, or Vanessa Bryant, or any of the other remaining family members from that crash. My best friend lost her dad suddenly a year and a half ago…my other good friend also lost her dad suddenly 9 months ago. I have not walked that road. I have stood by the proverbial grave of my first marriage but I have not stood by real dirt and a true hole in the ground for either of my parents, my siblings, my friends or, heaven help me, my husband or my child. Yet.
More than one of those days will come eventually. What will I do? I don’t want to think about it. In my smaller scale tragedies that have been in my life, it is so tempting to be bitter…to hold on to anger...to run in and preserve what I can and keep some kind of ember burning in that which was meant to be done.
You often hear of the bitter ex husband or ex wife…I don’t want to be that but if I continue to hold on to that which was meant to be fully gone, I only keep the ember of bitterness alive. Nothing else.
I was reading a Bible story this morning about Hagar and her son when they were in the desert, close to death. Hagar laid her son down to die but then God opened her eyes and she saw a well of water nearby. She took her son there and they drank and they lived. In her blog, Ann Voskamp said, “There is always a well…I’m blind to joy’s well everytime I really don’t want it.” The well is always there, regardless of circumstance. I can find joy, regardless of circumstance.
I think what Steven Colbert said really hit me because that is the way past bitterness or anger…to love what I most wish didn’t happen. To accept it. To say yes to it. And then to let it change me. To see the well of water, the well of joy, that it actually was.
If I take a look at the tragedy of my marriage ending with eyes searching for the well, I see that God gave me a strength I didn’t know I had; he gave me a special bond with Summer that was only as special as it was because of the circumstances we were in; he showed me the faithfulness and love of my parents, friends…even clients who supported me through that time. He provided me for our material life…taught me how to manage my money and make it work. He taught me that though I have always longed for a man to love me to death, life can be full and satisfying in the absence of that.
He gave me years of cuddles with Summer in my bed BECAUSE the one side of my bed was empty, not in spite of it. I HAD to be there MORE for her BECAUSE someone else wasn’t. I got to be there when she was sick, when she woke up through the night, when she was sad…when she walked around with underwear on her head…when she was naked for a whole weekend while I potty trained her. I never left her side that weekend because I couldn’t – I didn’t have someone else to take over. And that vacancy led to a gift.
Why don’t I see these things? Why do I always need a rearview mirror?
Often I want to run into the fire and grab the mistrust that was in there…run out with it and hold on to it…bring it into my new life.
I want to run and grab bitterness that I was treated like garbage, worthless…and I want to take it into my new life with my back up, getting offended at every little thing I perceive as telling me I’m worthless.
I have run in MULTIPLE times to grab every last remnant of the fact that I was duped…lied to, tricked…played…made to be a fool…and I carry that charred piece with me everywhere in life. I hold it tight and get angry, making sure people know I won’t be duped again.
I am crying as I write this because I have carried these things into my brand new, unburnt marriage…into my unscathed family. I have even carried this anger and defensiveness to construction people who I don’t trust to stick to their word, or my kids’ extracurriculars.
I am still walking in ash covered clothes that I won’t throw away.
When is the time? When is it the right time? When will I love that which I wished most had never happened? When will I finally stop running in to rescue that which should remain in the fire? When will I drop the burden of carrying burnt ruins that have no value? When will I step out of my sooty clothes, that in actuality only keep people away, and put on clean clothes? When will I leave the fire and what is destroyed behind?
When my house had a fire, I didn’t go to live there. We lived with my parents. We let the repairs happen and then we embraced the new. We would have been crazy to refuse the restoration and live in that.