Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted.
– Matthew 5:4 (NRSV)
Things are very much not okay right now. There’s so much crap going down all over the world (see: wars, hurricanes, political shams, etc.) that it’s hard to tell if I just notice all the bad in the world now that I’m older, or if things really are getting worse. It’s become very hard to hold onto hope amidst all this chaos.
And then there’s my wreck of a personal life. These past few years have been the most growing I’ve ever experienced, but they’ve also been the most trying. This year in particular has wounded me the deepest, and I’ve never felt closer to the brink of falling apart. In the span of the last 12 months, I:
- publicly came out to the Christian church
- grappled with a racial/national/ethnic identity crisis
- mourned a nationwide tragedy among the LGBT+ community
- changed my theological stance on human sexuality and began my first serious relationship, which subsequently ended
- lost my father
- am now struggling with crippling self-doubt about my future while juggling an inane number of responsibilities
I might as well buy a t-shirt that says “emotionally unstable” on the front. Living under the weight of everything above, plus generalized depression and anxiety, has taken its toll on me. I am an expert at pretending to be okay, but I can’t continue to do that every time someone asks me how I’m doing. Because the truth is this:
I am broken.
There is, unfortunately, no script for grieving. It looks different in every situation, with every person, and different types of grief all intermingle with each other. Everyone keeps saying that it takes time, that it needs to happen on its own, that I’ll find my new normal soon — and I’ve been trying to let it happen organically, yet nothing ever seems to change. Each day is still fresh with heartbreak, and no matter what I do or don’t do, it is there: palpable, dull, heavy. At this point, I have no idea what progress even looks like.
A friend recently reminded me that I have a habit of avoiding or overrationalizing my problems, and I want to be able to move forward. But the problem with moving forward is that you have to know where you’re headed.
I keep thinking about the future that could have been: the graduation my father would be at, the realty advice I’d ask him for, the argument we’d have before I got married. But I can only dwell on the moments that were: sobbing on his chest as he lied in the hospital, listening to him hum along to Andrea Bocelli, holding his shoulder as he stopped breathing. Despite coming to terms with my dad’s past, I’m still acutely aware of the absence that will only grow with the passage of time.
The same is true of my failed relationship — though it ended five months ago (due entirely to an unsustainable distance), nothing I do seems to help me fall out of love. Against my better judgment to move on, a part of me wants to hold onto what could have been, and I’m stuck replaying every late night conversation we had about the mysteries of life. Now that it’s over, there’s another profound absence that aches far more than if I’d never experienced romance to begin with.
This is the part of the blog post where I’d normally say something encouraging about Jesus making everything nice and happy again. But in my personal experience, a hopeful platitude is the last thing I want to hear. Yes, everything will be okay in the end, but we still have to deal with the brokenness of today while we are living in it. The truth of the matter is quietly tucked into one of the shortest verses in the Bible:
– John 11:35 (ESV)
God Almighty, Creator of the Universe, the Resurrection and the Life. Crying for the death of his friend. The only reason this is shocking is because it’s so indisputably human. Jesus knew full well that in just a few moments Lazarus would be alive again, yet he took the time to mourn nonetheless. The fact that John included this in his Gospel is powerful — a clear example that to grieve in the present is to embrace humanity. It didn’t matter that things were going to be okay in the future; he wept because things were not okay right then and there.
The world we live in is imperfect. Bad things happen, and people get hurt. Inevitably we will be broken, and the only thing we can do is learn how to break better the next time. This is what I call the art of being broken: to learn from the brokenness of the past, to properly mourn the brokenness of the present, yet to not give up hope for a future finally made whole.
I don’t have answers to everything going wrong right now. I doubt anyone ever will. But there isn’t a whole lot we can do other than mourn our current circumstances, and perhaps that’s worth something. A lot of the time, grieving feels like lying down and doing absolutely nothing, but maybe that’s exactly what prepares us to move forward. I don’t know.
All I know is that we’re broken, but next time, hopefully we can break better.