I don’t think there is any doubt 2020 has been a tough one and certainly a crazy one. I still can’t get my head round how the world can be bought to its knees so quickly. It messes with my head a lot!
It has put pressure on us all in different ways. I have watched friends lose loved ones, battle with illness, and struggle with relationships. And one of the hardest bits has been not being able to be together properly in the midst of it all. It’s been hard.
For me personally this year started off with so much hope and expectation, excited about what was ahead. It is ending very differently to how it started. Sandwiched in the middle has been loss and heartbreak – this year has taken from me something incredibly precious.
Yet in the midst of all the tears and sadness I can feel something rising, something more – hope and anticipation. Maybe 2020 might just be one of the most significant years yet.
This summer I knew God was cementing in me what my passion was. I think I have always been someone who has wondered what my passions were and what my calling was, never quite sure what it is all about for me. I am a lawyer, and some days I feel like I do pretty well at that, other days definitely less so, but am I passionate about that? In all honesty most of the time I enjoy it, but it doesn’t set me on fire. It pays the bills and I have met brilliant people through it over the years but it’s a job. For a while now there has been a more in me but I haven’t been sure what that more was.
Early on in my adult life I knew I wanted to be intentional about loving well. Now often I get that wrong, and sometimes that is easier said than done, but I knew that I wanted to get to the end of my life having loved well. And so in part that is part of my passion but I knew there was still more.
So as my heart broke this summer, we did a road trip through Scotland, and as I drove through beautiful landscapes the tears flowed. I didn’t want to lose again, I wanted to fight to hold on to it, I didn’t want to have to let go. Deep down I knew it was right but it didn’t stop it hurting. I also knew that if I didn’t lean into God I was going to lose hope and the thought of losing hope felt even more painful than the broken heart.
I stumbled across a website called “Nothing is Wasted” and if you have faith, and even if you don’t, I would recommend checking it out. It is a ministry started by a pastor in the US, called Davey Blackburn, whose pregnant wife was murdered in 2015 leaving him a sole parent to a one year little boy. From the outset he was determined not to let any of the pain be wasted and the choices he made were incredible and have impacted many.
On that website I found tens and tens of stories of heartbreak, loss, tragedy, illness, abuse, infidelity, infertility, addiction, abortion, racial prejudice, rejection. The hardest of stories, all so different, but one common thread running through them, that those hard stories were never the end of the story. That God heals, he redeems, he reconciles, he restores and he transforms. Those stories were the hope my battered heart needed but I also felt something stirring.
God reminded me of so many lessons already learnt, but this summer he bedded them down.
- He gently and kindly reminded me that it is ok to feel sad, to lament.
Lament – to express sorrow, mourning or regret.
It is ok to say this is hard and this hurts, to wrestle with God as to where he is in it all. I know without doubt he is big enough to take it and wants to hear it. I think it is a really important part of the process of processing the hard stuff, the disappointments and the losses. I think it is an essential part of the healing.
But I also think it one of those tension places. The more I go through life the more I see those tension places. I am convinced that the healthy place is to grieve, to allow the pain to exist but at the same time to voice that it doesn’t get to have the final say. And don’t get me wrong I know there are many moments where you can’t declare those things, when the pain is all consuming. I don’t say these things lightly I spent many years letting that pain dictate, for me it became my home and my identity – there was almost something comforting about being known as the girl whose husband had died when she was pregnant. One of the most powerful moments in my life was when I realised that I was stuck in that place of lament because it had actually become a familiar and safe place to stay. In that moment I knew that I didn’t want to spend another moment there and everything changed. It was an incredibly powerful and transforming moment.
We need to acknowledge the hard stuff that has gone, to feel it but at the same time to not get stuck there.
2. This summer also reminded me how powerful and important telling our stories is. There is a big part of me that hates sharing like this, it feels uncomfortable and vulnerable. I wonder what people will think of me. Always I have to remind myself that the only person whose opinion really matters is His, and if I feel like I am responding in obedience then it is ok. And what if in that moment of discomfort and vulnerability someone else hears words that they need to hear in their hard moments, then surely it is all worth it.
I want the pain of my story to have a purpose. I have lost my two big loves, my lovely Dad is no longer here, my career has been a bumpy ride at times – it has been a hard road to walk at times but that isn’t what defines me, it is not the only part of my story and it certainly isn’t the end of my story
3. Pain, struggle and suffering are part of all of our stories, there is no way of getting around that – not one of us is exempt from it. God never promised an easy life. If this year has taught us anything I don’t think we can deny that we live in a really broken world. But I have learnt I think what will be one of the most important lessons of my life through it all, another tension, that pain and beauty sit closely alongside each other. I wouldn’t trade the pain for the beauty, or the lessons learnt.
The hard places, the heartbreak, the losses, those times when it feels like the bottom has fallen out of your world are never the end of the story. I believe that passionately and whilst I know it is not easy to hold on to that when the pain is great I know it is the truth. Grief and loss are never going to be our final story.
God is absolutely about restoration and redemption.
I hate the brokenness in me, but at the same time I have grown to be incredibly thankful for it. I know in this season when all I thought was going to be my future has gone I have no choice but to surrender the mess to my Heavenly Father. In fact I think surrender will be the word for this year for me. The other day I heard someone say that the other side of surrender is the miraculous. Bring it on Lord – I am so ready for the miraculous, in my own life, but in the lives of those I love, in the city I love, in this nation.
I am though very aware that I also have to surrender what my expectation of the miraculous might look like. He works differently to us, his thoughts are not our thoughts and his ways are not our ways. I know that the miraculous doesn’t always look like healing, it doesn’t always look like happy ever after, in fact it rarely does but there will always be His beauty. I really don’t say these things easily. The longest night of my life was in a hospital room crying out with all I had asking God to save my love but that was not his plan.
4. We always have a choice in our response. I have definitely chosen the victim role in the past and I have certainly had moments in this season but I can see the lessons I have learnt showing a different response to me to what went before. This time rather than saying “Why me?” “This isn’t fair” I can hear a louder narrative of “Come on Lord, if not that, then what have you got for me.”
God is writing a redemptive story in our lives. He is a restorer of the broken places in our lives. He is all about filling the empty places. God has a beautiful plan waiting for every single person that has walked through tragedy, disappointment and devastation – but we have a responsibility in that to pick up those broken pieces and give them to Him to create something beautiful. We have work to do in those places, not avoiding them, not fighting against them but embracing them, the pain and the process. We need to do the hard work.
5. Our healing, in part, comes from both gratitude and blessing other people.
Refusing to be stuck in the loss and the pain but to look up and around at all we do have. This year I can see so much to be thankful for – for closer relationships with my neighbours, for nature, a slower pace, time to read, endless boxsets, for beautiful friendships. Through thankfulness He can usher in the new things. Gratitude is one of the most powerful tools we have.
And in looking outwards and looking to others I am convinced God changes us, that he brings healing. Whilst I don’t know why we go through the things we go through I know God uses our pain to bring healing to other people, that our stories can release power and authority for other people. We aren’t meant to do any of this alone.
So this year I finally know what my passion is. I am passionate about brokenness. I am passionate about the hope of a divine story being written in each and every one of us. I am passionate about seeing healing and freedom in people’s lives, whatever that may look like, knowing that in the mess are the miracles.
So 2020 you have been a bag of **** on many levels but a little something tells me I might just look back and be incredibly grateful to you.