I met my sweet off-to-college daughter for dinner recently and she tossed out the question, “What’s your happy and crappy?”
Loved that. Just another way to say high and low, but it made me smile. And I loved that it was her idea. And so we both answered. (And then when I was together with my couple-friends, I made them all answer it too.)
But here’s something I’ve been thinking about lately. I’ve known for quite a while now – as in, many years – that I tend to have a melancholy bent. I’m not known for being happy-happy all the time. Yes, I can laugh hard and long, and I can dance in my kitchen, and I can sing with the windows rolled down in my car, and I am grateful for my life every single day.
But who I really am, for the most part, is introspective. And quiet. And fine with being on my own a good deal of the time, in my house. Or going for a low-key walk. Or sitting on my couch with a book. I don’t lead a big, loud, happy-happy life.
And now, even more so, walking through this season of sadness that I can’t quite shake on my own, telling my doctor that a month into my new medication, I just can’t get my happy back, I am even more acutely aware of my bent towards despondency, that I tend to find this life extraordinarily hard to live sometimes.
And I so struggle with this. Culture with its “life is good” t-shirts and my sweet father whose life motto ever since surviving throat cancer is “every day is a good day” and my sweet husband’s belief that “everything’s going to be okay” can leave me feeling like I’m not trying hard enough, or as if I’m not grateful enough, or too weak, or not cut out to be a human being…or something. (How I wish I could view life like that every day.)
I shared with a close friend recently that as someone who loves and is trying to follow Jesus, I feel shame for being in a depression right now. That my faith isn’t bouncy enough to bounce me back (or more to the point, that I guess I don’t have enough faith to bounce myself back). That my reserves of joy aren’t enough to put a smile on my face and just keep it on there.
And how that must make my faith (or me) look weak, or incompetent, or not enough.
Because, sure, it’s been a tough stretch. But shouldn’t I have just been able to get over all of it? And aren’t I supposed to be joyful all the time? And aren’t I supposed to give my burdens to God? And don’t I believe he’s faithful to take care of me?
So why all the sighing and frowns and worrying and headaches and upset tummies and need for pills??? (Why so downcast, o my soul?)
I told my friend I feel like I’m letting God and the cause down by not being happy on my own. (She said she totally got it, which helped.)
And then I began listening to a new album by one of my favorite singer/songwriters, Sara Groves, called Floodplain. And she penned these gorgeous lyrics that I have wrapped around myself like a blanket lately.
Late nights, long hours / Questions are drawn like a thin red line / No comfort left over / No safe harbor in sight / Really we don’t need much / Just strength to believe / There’s honey in the rock, there’s more than we see / In these patches of joy / These stretches of sorrow / There’s enough for today / There’ll be enough tomorrow
…in these patches of joy…these stretches of sorrow…
She sings these words as if joy and sorrow hold equal weight and time and space in her life, something that I thought was only poor little me, and something that I thought I had to keep to myself because it made me look incapable, because it maybe even made Jesus look weak. Or not enough for me or what-have-you.
I have been called weak before, when going through my divorce, so perhaps that’s why those thoughts are lingering in the back of my head. And it wasn’t a compliment, as in, you’re so weak, I can see God shining through you. No, it was a slam. As in, you should be stronger…you should be as strong as so-and-so would be right now (read: what’s wrong with you that you’re not?)
But here’s what I know today. I’m pretty sure I’m not the only person who feels the way I feel. I believe God made me to feel deeply, and when someone feels as deeply as I do, the bouncing back from pain takes a bit longer than the average gal. Some people may not like this about me, but I think I don’t care. Because, when I strip away the fear of letting others down, and I remember that I’m not letting God down (you know, because he just crazy-loves me) and that it’s not my job to care what others think, than all that’s underneath is me really being okay with how I’m wired up. And I truly am. Even in the yuckiest, rawest, crying-est moments, I’d rather see life the way I see life than the way any other person sees life. (Even if it makes life hard to see and take in sometimes.)
I will have both more patches of joy and stretches of sorrow, over and over again, cycling in and out of my life, for the rest of my life. And they will each hit me with varying levels of pain and hope, all intermingled. And as long as I’m bringing them all to Jesus, that’s all I really need to care about.
The LORD is close to the brokenhearted; he rescues those whose spirits are crushed. – Psalm 34:18
If this holidays are daunting to you this year, as they are again to me, consider ordering your copy of Holidays for the Hurting: 25 Devotions to Help You Heal and join me in a private Facebook discussion group during the month of December. (Email me to join the group.)