He loves me.
He loves me not.
He loves me.
He loves me not.
Small moments of being young flashed before my mind. I remembered my friends picking apart flowers in the hot Florida sun to determine the affection of their crush of the week. I was never a ‘boy crazy’ girl, but the image still stuck. I caught myself muddling these lines through my head as I left work and tallied up my day.
My suitemates at work are wonderful. He loves me.
I’m starting to feel more connected to my small group. He loves me.
I lost my job. He loves me not.
And then the landslide:
A break up.
Losing my job.
Possibly losing my wonderful roommate.
He loves me not. He loves me not. He loves me not. He loves me not.
I couldn’t stop my mind. Recounting my day suddenly became a crash course of lamenting my semester. When I review my life (something turning 30 is making me nostalgic) the He Loves Me Nots seem to be more significant and stack up faster. Being homeless and jobless was not how I was planning to celebrate 30. The rest of my friends are getting married, having babies, or buying homes. My mind continued its churning.
I know people claim that 40 is the year for a mid life crisis but I’m convinced it’s 30. I’ve also convinced myself at this rate I won’t make it to 80, so 30 seems like a much more do-able mid-life crisis age; making it to 60 seems feasible. Maybe.
I paused as I unlocked my car. Yes, Jesus. I knew He was amused (a bit) about my ranting about not making it to 80. Sigh. I also knew we were going to have another conversation about his goodness, suffering and grief.
I am already an incredibly pragmatic person– most of the important (big) decisions of my life have come from a place of necessity and/or survival. Choices and decisions made on one’s own time table and having multiple viable options have been a distant luxury.
The temptation of loss and grief is that sometimes it’s easier to give up. It’s easy to let grief alter my desires. My narrative so readily becomes: “If I don’t desire at all, or desire lesser things then I won’t get hurt”.
If I’m not careful, hope becomes a luxury, too. Sometimes it seems foolish to hope, even for small things because in the midst of big disappointment after big disappointment, if the little things fall through they hurt more than they should.
Counting blessings of small things doesn’t always add up like people say they will. When it’s the big things that hurt, the small things just don’t stack up. It’s easy to let grief swallow my soul in an unproductive way, rather than a transformative one. I find myself checking into this space often, when the disappointment is too much.
Yes, I’m here. I get into my car. Thankfully, my honesty (read: lamenting) to Jesus makes room for what is true. That’s when the Holy Spirit comes back around and reminds me He loves you and brings me back to our centering question:
“What does it mean that God is good?”
I want to hope in something that doesn’t disappoint (this verse has always been hard for me). I think about Romans 5 saying His love is too full and He puts the Spirit in us to fill us with that love so we can dare to hope. I’m learning that having hope in the midst of grief and loss is warfare. I want to hope even when that hope is lonely, confusing and insecure. I want to hope even if it seems foolish.
I want to believe that my small act of hope is transforming my soul… like the faith of a mustard seed, it’s enough. Even though my hope is small, it is no small thing. It’s standing on the goodness that my pain is transformative and has value. Even though it may be really shitty hard, it’s not meaningless. God’s goodness declares there are no meaningless things. Rather, this place of suffering is still within His love. His love, his goodness and his suffering are not mutually exclusive, regardless of how much my heart may wish they were.
He loves me.
I’m reminded that God did not spare his own son from suffering, rather he used it as the means of transformation and redemption. My suffering, too, is this journey of seeking Shalom, a heavenly renewal of not just this world but also my own soul. Suffering leads me to a more fully-formed self; it’s a pursuit of wholeness. Suffering holds up a mirror to my innerself and makes me analyze my desires and motivations. I’m beginning to understand the gift and the good of suffering.
Like Jesus crying “take this cup” in the garden, suffering does not push me away from God’s fullness, but brings me to it. These moments of honesty, when I argue with God about what is going on…and emotionally dumptruck all my anger, insecurity, hurt and frustration…He welcomes it. And that’s part of his goodness, too. He is big enough to handle my suffering.
When I approach God with honesty about what I desire and what’s been hurtful it helps me undo the dichotomies that tangle my soul. He challenges my compartmentalized thinking with the fullness of love. He doesn’t shame my desire. He also doesn’t deny my hurt. It doesn’t change what is hard. But it’s no longer a game of He loves me/He loves me not. It’s a hope that doesn’t disappoint because it sits with me in my disappointment. He doesn’t excuse my emotion or circumstance. He is present. When I don’t understand, when it’s unjust, exhausting and there seems to be no “right” way, Hope still tells me:
He loves me.