The passing of time is a funny thing.
In so many ways comforting and in others like a treadmill that’s set at a pace a little too fast for comfort. The seasons come and go: the summer sun has set, the leaves have started to change, and soon fresh snow will cover the peaks in the distance.
The change is welcome. Necessary even. The first walk with crunchy leaves underfoot and the first day the snow falls from the sky like glitter are still two of my most favourite moments the year has to offer. I cherish the rhythms of the seasons and the way I still get all sorts of giddy and excited when I get to pull boots and toques from their summer storage. And how when spring and summer come again next year, I’ll be again savouring every glimpse of sunshine and warmth and longer nights. There’s an ebb and flow that reflects in the spaces and rhythms of our lives: a cycle that’s familiar and comforting somehow.
I promised myself last year that I’d always celebrate today - that I’d do something to mark this day just as I would have if he was here. I can’t call him. And I can’t skype. And I can’t mail him a silly card. And he was never one for days that focused their attention on him. But his life is something worth remembering. Something worth celebrating.
Someday. I’ll bake apple pie on this day and tell my kids funny stories about him and they may roll their eyes, but I’ll keep telling them nonetheless. I’ll point to pictures and tell them all that I can remember about this man who so tangibly shaped and influenced my life and I’ll cry because they’ll never know him and he’ll never read them stories and they’ll never know what it feels like to get a big strong hug from his tall, lanky frame or get to hear his laugh. I’ll watch Joe Sakic highlights and I’ll pick up one of the books that used to be on his shelf and I’ll flip through the pages and read all his notes and I’ll chuckle about how excited he always got about theology.
Today. I let myself sleep in and went for a walk in the rain and came home and and made a pot of tea (or 3) and put on the playlist I’ve listened to thousands of times in the space since he’s been gone. I pulled out pictures and I laughed and I cried and I wished that I could somehow transport myself back to countless campfire conversations or mountain hikes or nights watching hockey or kitchen table conversations where we’d dream and plan together and just hear his voice and his laugh and hear him call me Lider or hear him pray or make a corny joke. one.more.time.
This grieving thing, it’s a puzzling space. One moment overwhelmed with sadness. Another overcome with anger with how much I hate cancer and pain and loss. Some moments marked by intense gratitude and laughter. Others where life is so full and beautiful and I almost forget that he’s gone or that things are different now. And a lot of moments that mix and overlap across those spaces. Some days I can tell the story of how he died and it just blows me away with how near God was and how tangibly the grave holds no victory. Some days I can tell the stories of who he was and they’re not marked by pain or the loss, they’re just marked by how crazy thankful I am that he was ours for the time we had with him. And, sometimes I still cry myself to sleep and cling desperately to God’s promises to heal us and carry us and I wonder if this will ever not hurt.
He would have been 56 today. 56. A number that makes me cringe because everything about it feels too soon. too. freakin’. soon.
I’m keenly aware of how much this space has changed me and grown me and yet I also know how much I still hate it. It’s here where I’ve learned (a bit more at least) how to give myself grace for the process and for the pain and to let myself be weak. It’s here where God has expanded my understanding of compassion and opened my eyes to wounds in myself and in others I likely would have previously overlooked.
And yet I so often just wish all of it would just go away or that I could be stronger or that I could somehow turn off all these feelings. Brokenness and surrender are sexy catchphrases in the church, but in reality they’re pretty brutal.
Sometimes I wonder why we endeavour to step into brokenness at all.
Sometimes I want to embrace the survival mechanism of comfort and apathy and I want to close my eyes and my heart to the way that all of creation groans that things are broken and in desperate need of renewal and restoration and hope. I want to stop feeling so much. And I want to turn my brain off.
Build a life that seeks justice in places where it is lost? Creatively and proactively seek out ways to care for the poor, the marginalized, and the oppressed? Share my life with honestly and vulnerability and generosity? Follow this Jesus who asks us to live according to this Kingdom that asks us to give up our lives? No thank you. Lest I just turn into a weepy mess over here and buckle under the pressure.
Because sometimes, I don’t think I can handle the weight of it.
Scratch that. I know I can’t handle the weight of it.
Cancer. War. Loss. Corruption. Sickness. Poverty. Brokenness. Hurt.
It’s too much. too. much.
And then I take a step back - eyes swollen with tears - from of the birthday that would have been today, from how much cancer has stolen from us (and from too many dear friends of mine for whom this is also reality) and how death leaves you feeling a bit helpless in its aftermath.
And I take a step away from the systemic brokenness I study about and care (perhaps too much) about and (perhaps foolishly or idealistically) have chosen to build a career around and the pressure to do or say something - anything - meaningful in that space.
I take a step back and remember the seasons.
I remember the way that the sun always sets against these gorgeous mountain peaks and rises again against the horizon of the stunning Pacific Ocean. The way that the rising sun whispers boldly of his faithfulness and the morning shines as a promise that his mercy never runs dry. The way that the crisp air makes you pause and breathe deeply in the same space that it makes you shiver and want to run inside to warmth. The way that you sometimes wonder if winter will ever end - but it always does. The way that you can’t imagine a life without someone and yet, as moments turn into days and days turn into weeks and weeks turn into years, you find yourself living one - and it’s still beautiful. still really really beautiful.
And in the space of the tears and the pain and the nearly crippling feelings of inadequacy and weakness, I hear the promise of the God who has never left us. The God who never will. The One who goes before us. The One who weaves redemption and healing and renewal in tiny and miraculous ways and who never asks us to carry the weight of that on our own shoulders, but just says, Come to me. My yoke is easy and My burden is light.
The One who whispers that He is the one who will fight for us - we need only be still.
We need only be still.
Today: in the space of all my tears for what we’ve lost, I’m really really humbled by how far we’ve come. Of how I’ve so often just feel like a scared little girl nearly paralyzed with pain and fear, but a little girl with the best Father who keeps taking my hand and leading me forward with the encouragement of taking it just one step at a time and the promise that He’s not going anywhere in the process. A Father who has let me stop and let me rest and let me run and let me fall and let me cry and let me be angry and let me wrestle and who has carried me and never left me alone in any piece of it.
And how - somehow - in that space, despite all odds, we’ve covered a lot of ground.
I’m just really blown away with the Saviour who steps into the mess of our stories and the most painful parts of our lives and speaks of His sustaining presence and the enduring promise of hope. How I’m more in love with my Jesus than I have even been before, not because following him rescues us from the struggle, but because He walks with us through it. How He’s a God who can take all of our questions and our hurt and our anger.
He does heal and He does lead, but rarely do either look like the way we expect them to. He does sustain and He does speak. Hope does not disappoint and justice is attainable, but both most often unfold in the slow and subversive spaces of of quiet and faithful lives committed to both. Joy does resound louder and beauty does shine brighter - always.
This process of learning and walking in this space takes more bravery and courage than I expected. More bravery and courage than I thought I had. More bravery and courage than I do have on my own.
But, maybe that’s the whole point.
Because one shaky or strong step at a time, we cling to Jesus and we keep going. We keep dreaming. We keep choosing love. We keep giving ourselves grace to cry and to mourn. We throw our nets into the ocean even when we’ve been fishing all night and we’ve caught nothing. We keep building our homes in hope. We take risks and we fail.
And slowly - amidst the pain and the brokenness and the failures and the successes and the best moments and the worst moments and all the moments that overlap in between - we just might find that we’re building something beautiful here. Something that our hands couldn’t build on our own - something only He could build.