The past few days have been difficult.
If I’m being honest, the past few years have been difficult.
The summer of 2011 is when my first marriage began to noticeably unravel. It was the fruit of several years of growing distance and inattentiveness, of course, but I failed to really see it until then.
The summer of 2012 was a time of healing. I was riding my bike nearly everyday, my heart was being pieced back together, and I was seeing – tangibly – how God was shaping in me a new hope and strength.
The summer of 2013 was a season of new love, confusion, sadness, perseverance, and the ups and downs of a relationship with a woman who struggled with depression and inner turmoil. Those ups and downs continued through our marriage in December, 2013, to our divorce in the autumn of 2015. It was a period of life where I prayed fervently, loved patiently, lost myself in concessions, and experienced both mountaintop elation and shattering pain.
The summer of 2016 finds me back in that haze of wanting something so deeply that I allow myself to look past obvious issues and construct an imagined potential reality. I have this pattern of trying to make things happen…of using my patience and my optimistic endurance in an attempt at engineering something beautiful.
But, I have to remind myself, that beauty can’t be forced. Happy endings can’t be fabricated. Love can’t be demanded. And recognizing this uncovers and adds to a woundedness deep inside me.
Early this morning, as I was looking at Instagram, I saw a post a friend of mine had made. The photo was – as all of her photos are – lovely. An excellent frame of color and form which immediately caught my eye. The real substance of the post, however, was the quote from John O’Donohue which accompanied the image:
The beauty that emerges from woundedness is a beauty infused with feeling; a beauty different from the beauty of landscape and the cold perfect form. This is a beauty that has suffered its way through the ache of desolation until the words or music emerged to equal the hunger and desperation at its heart. It must also be said that not all woundedness succeeds in finding its way through to beauty of form. Most woundedness remains hidden, lost inside forgotten silence. Indeed, in every life there is some wound that continues to weep secretly, even after years of attempted healing. Where woundedness can be refined into beauty a wonderful transfiguration takes place.
– John O’Donohue
This desire for wholeness…for beauty…for healed wounds… It is a universal thing. It is an ancient thing. We, as a people, have longed for restoration since we were first expelled from the Garden. It is a sorrowful hunger that ties together generations of souls who know pain and loss and desolation but dream of being made new. I love the text of Isaiah chapter 61:1-3…
The Spirit of the Sovereign Lord is upon me,
for the Lord has anointed me
to bring good news to the poor.
He has sent me to comfort the brokenhearted
and to proclaim that captives will be released
and prisoners will be freed.
He has sent me to tell those who mourn
that the time of the Lord’s favor has come,
and with it, the day of God’s anger against their enemies.
To all who mourn in Israel,
he will give a crown of beauty for ashes,
a joyous blessing instead of mourning,
festive praise instead of despair.
In their righteousness, they will be like great oaks
that the Lord has planted for his own glory.
Beauty instead of ashes…joy instead of mourning…festive praise instead of despair… These are the things I want. These are the things all of humanity wants. To be made right with God…to be reshaped and replanted for His glory…to taste what it is like to be whole and unbroken.
The conversation that my friend and I had in the comment section of her Instagram post moved me to tears. It reminded me that I am never alone in my brokenness. I am never alone in my uncertainty.
Me: Those words… #profound #needed
Her: I feel you, David. I truly do. Healing is a profoundly transformative process that is only available to those willing to face the deepest, darkest parts of themselves, drag them kicking and screaming to the surface for a cold, hard look straight into their faces, and send them away with love filling your heart and beaming from your soul.
Her: #notforthefaintofheart and you, dear one, are not faint of heart.
Me: I can’t possibly find sufficient breath to tell you how deeply I needed to hear those words right now. It is truly miraculous how God will speak to our hearts through the people He has placed in our lives.
Her: I absolutely believe that with all of me. And those words came straight to you from Him. I have just been through this myself, David. I know you can do this. I am living, breathing, proof. Love can heal all. Love is infinitely powerful and powerfully infinite. With love, ALL things are possible.
Those words…”you, dear one, are not faint of heart.” Those words felt as though God had spoken directly to me. I sat there and I cried. Not tears of brokenness, but tears of relief. Tears of recognition that everything that I experience…everything that YOU experience…is within the sovereignty of Christ. It isn’t some lost, wild card occurrence that He somehow misses in the tumult of global activity. I am God’s dear one. You are God’s dear one. And, through His patiently loving transformation, our ashes are reshaped for glory and our shambles are set right and our wounds “can be refined into beauty [so] a wonderful transfiguration takes place.”
The past few days have been difficult. In all honesty, I don’t have much clarity for how to proceed…but I know my Source. I know that He will strengthen my heart and that, in His time, He will do something beautiful.