I’ve been reflecting lately on my children’s growing-up years. How I longed to be the “perfect” mother, something I eventually learned was an illusion. I tried to keep my children from harm, but they have been hurt. I hoped they would enjoy life, but they have suffered. I wanted to kiss their “boo-boos” away, watch the children play, and hear them say life was great. As a mother, I tried to protect them from the pain of real life.
But the authentic truth is that accepting life as it is—embracing reality—is foundational to how we experience life. Notice I didn’t say that reality is easy-breezy. It can be awfully painful at times. However, as you choose to face the truth and embrace it, God gives you back what your soul is seeking: freedom, wisdom, knowledge, peace, understanding, and hope. Again, it’s a daunting task. Here are the words of one author who finally decided to give up addictions, denial, idealism, and running from grief. Finally, she accepted life as it was. She wrote:
Whatever you use to keep the pain at bay robs you of the flecks and nuggets of gold that feeling grief will give you. A fixation can keep you nicely defined and give you the illusion that your life has not fallen apart. But since your life may indeed have fallen apart, the illusion won’t hold up forever, and if you are . . . brave, you will be willing to bear disillusion. You begin to cry and writhe and yell and then keep on crying; and then, finally, grief ends up giving you the two best things: softness and illumination.1
I would assume your experiences have been similar to mine: a mixed milieu of difficulties and delights, hurting and healing, indifference and acceptance, hopelessness and hope, frustration and freedom, and much more. Notice in the quote above that accepting reality and experiencing our grief result in softness and illumination. I take softness to mean a humbled soul at peace and illumination to mean clarity of strength and purpose. Born from real pain and real healing, those two qualities are priceless.
But two character flaws also come to light during times of suffering and grief: pride and selfishness. The following verses address our humble position before Christ and His work of restoration in us.
Humble yourselves, therefore, under God’s mighty hand, that he may lift you up in due time. . . . And the God of all grace, who called you to His eternal glory in Christ, after you have suffered a little while, will himself restore you and make you strong, firm and steadfast. (1 Peter 5:6, 10, NIV)
- Anne Lamott, Traveling Mercies: Some Thoughts on Faith (New York: Pantheon, 1999), 72–73.