I’m flawed, that’s for sure. I’m often weak. I’m often distracted. I’m often judgmental, harsh, and need to have much, much more grace for people than I do. I sometimes make stupid decisions and do things I know I shouldn’t. I sometimes get a little reckless. I sometimes prefer to busy myself with distractions than face the difficult reality that some days are. Some days distractions are what numb me enough so I don’t emotionally collapse through the day.
It’s probably all of these things of which I am most ashamed. I don’t have a concrete resolution. I can’t tie it up in a neat, little bow, and present it to you as a challenge that was once faced and is now conquered, because the truth is that life is still difficult some days, and the harder truth is that it probably always will be.
But the truth is also that real people don’t want pretty packages dressed in bows. They don’t want trite answers, and they don’t want surface level platitudes. They want the real. They want the raw. They want to know that they are not alone, and that it’s okay to be honest, and that it’s okay to not always be strong enough to be perfect or even okay somedays.
In a conversation with a new friend, they asked me questions, and quickly, the cliff note version of my life story spilled out. It’s not a pretty story; it’s a hard one, but it’s mine, nevertheless. Knowing I was a Christian, after I shared, he looked at me and said, “And you still love Jesus?”
Faith. Never has my faith been more muted than it has been this year. Never has faith been more at my core than it has in the past year. I struggle to feel God near me. I have for a while, but that hasn’t changed the truth I know so intrinsically— that He is near to me and that He will never leave. After spending nearly seven months crying out for God to save my son, to heal his sick little lungs, to let me keep him in my arms, even just for a little while longer— after spending those seven months and having my son leave my arms, forever— faith is different now.
When Charlie was in the hospital at two months old, on life support and headed in to his second open heart surgery, I knew that he may not come out alive. When they wheeled him away, my stomach hit the floor. Nothing was in my control, and I knew that no matter how hard I prayed, it still may not bring him back to me.
I sat in that waiting room, silent. And it was there that I told God that I needed him to heal Charlie. God was Charlie’s only hope. And if He didn’t heal him? He’d have to keep me breathing. Because if I had to live life on without my son, I sure as hell wasn’t going to be able to live it without Him.
Faith is hard. But it’s more than that. Relationship is hard. I’ve spent the last year since Charlie’s death ducking for cover, still wincing, and still bracing myself, because I could not take one more thing. It’s as if I told God that I’m still here, and I’m never going to leave, but please— give me a break, please. I can’t take it anymore. I can’t be any more brave than I am. I can’t stand tall if it all falls. And yet, the pieces kept falling, and the rain did not stop, and I slowly shut my heart off a little more and more, so that the pain would not be as searing.
I haven’t been angry, at least, not that I know of. I’ve just been protecting. Walls up, afraid to let them fall down, because after you’ve been hurt, trusting can sometimes feel like the worst case scenario. But even when it all falls, some things have been wired to my core, branded on my soul.
In the face of pain and loss and worst case scenarios, there are some things I could never turn my back on. I could never turn my back on the one who carried me through, the one who held me close, the one who saw me through each and every step. I could never turn my back on the one who holds my son when I cannot. I could never turn my back on the only one who has collected every tear. Who has gently picked up my broken pieces and is placing them together again, creating a heart more full of grace and love than I ever had before. I could never. I will never. To do so would be to deny myself in so many ways, as I am no longer my own, but His.
“And you still love Jesus?” he asked.
And from my flawed and broken self, without a second thought, I replied, “I still do.”
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