From my limited viewpoint, I have observed that pockets of the church have accepted and even embraced lament and authenticity. I may have felt as a child that I had to enter into worship with a beaming face and contentment written all over my being, but I no longer feel the pressure to maintain an impossibly unsustainable bubbly character. I no longer feel the need to “never complain.” I see others weep in my congregation and find comfort, love, and acceptance. I even see them encouraged and applauded for their transparency, and I see the church doing what we are called to do, to be a hospital for the sick at heart (every human on the planet, in some way or another). I am thankful for the ministry of the body of Christ for the sad, broken, and hurting. This is not an “us and them” concept. This broken and hurting state is universal, and until we can lament the hurt, we will struggle to grasp the joy and contentment of true, authentic living.
With this being said, allow me to enter into a lament of my own.
Mother’s day has come and gone. Before children, through pregnancies, and during my children’ s stages of infancy, I dreamt about motherhood. Planning to be a stay-at-home-momma, I researched parenting methods, fun activities for kids, homeschool curriculums if we decided to go that route. I couldn’t believe that I could spend days taking my kids to the park, the zoo, museums, botanical gardens, playgroups and playdates. I imagined the days that I would walk them up to their first day of school, with their little hands in mine. I looked at the sidewalks in our neighborhood and thought how perfect they were for mid-morning walks. I dreamt of running through sprinklers with them, splashing in the ocean on beach trips, fun road trips, and dancing around the house with them in my arms. My dreams weren’t exquisite. They weren’t pie-in-the-sky dreams. They didn’t involve great achievement or massive amounts of money. They were simple. They seemed entirely attainable.
I could never nail down a career goal. I could never settle on a type of work that seemed to call me and drive me forward. When I finally held my first baby and realized that I wanted mainly to be a mommy, my heart leapt with delight: I had found what I was created for. I had recovered from my eating disorder, and it was beyond worth it. I began to really live. Life infused my once dry bones, and they became animated and mobilized for the first time. I had a dream that I could live into.
This dream, however, has been put on hold, possibly indefinitely. And I am crushed. I am devastated. I am too sick to drive, wheel-chair bound, with tubes coming out of my body. Every waking hour, I am hooked up to a feeding tube, and for four hours a day, I am tethered to an IV-infusion. Some days, I am too sick to think. Some days, I am too dizzy and out of breath to read stories to my children. Many days, I am too sick to even be wheeled around the zoo. I have so many allergies that I have to avoid many seemingly benign environments, including indoor pools. I cannot even sit at the side of the pool to watch my family swim. Homeschool is out the window. Super-duper-awesome-soccer-dance-gymnastic-hero mommy dreams careen into oblivion as I lie in bed, in too much pain to move.
I am told that most people in my condition would be in a nursing home. WAIT! Away from their families? Never to sleep under the same roof as their husband and babies? Who will wake me from this nightmare? Adulthood is being stripped away from me long before I even had a chance at a mid-life crisis! This nightmare of never being able to look anyone in the eye because my face is at waist-level as I sit in a wheelchair. The nightmare of being scolded for trying to pick up my two-year-old son who just wants to be in his mommy’s arms. The nightmare of having to have home-health nurses come to our home, medical supply companies make frequent visits, bags of fluids and tube-feed becoming my sustenance as I watch my family eat spaghetti and garlic toast.
I DID NOT SIGN UP FOR THIS. NOT EVER.
And my heart is broken. It is broken for me, that after overcoming a childhood of suffering and abuse, followed by an 18-year crippling eating disorder, I would recover only to be nearly suffocated by not one, but four chronic illnesses. My heart is broken for my husband, who also did not sign up for a life of care-taking a sickly wife, watching her brush shoulders with death, trying to love her while her body is wasted and riddled with holes and tubes, while also shepherding a church and caring for two children under the age of four. My heart is broken for my babies, who have to ask every day, “mommy, how sick are you today? Can you play with me? Can you eat with me today? Who will be coming over to take care of all of us today?”. These babies who have to grow up too early with the knowledge of illness, pain, and suffering, and with the awareness that mommy is not able to care for them as well as they want and need. THIS SUCKS.
But you know what? I’m not alone. We all carry dreams that have been unrealized. We all nurse broken hearts and deep disappointments. We all sometimes sing songs in a minor key that sound a bit like our hearts are being ripped open and drained before our very eyes. And somehow, that song rises to the ears of a loving Father, the song that was once sung by His Son on the cross. The lyrics sound something like: “Father, why have you forsaken me?”
We wail with the Son in lament and betrayal for a while. As long as we need. God doesn’t rush us. Sometimes it is for five minutes a day. Sometimes it is lament that lasts for five months straight. There is no formula. And then our Father, with tears streaming down His face in deep sorrow for our finally spoken broken, gently bends down and beckons us to rise. He infuses our spirits with the joy that comes only after what seems like ages of weeping, and we lift our chins to give Him a weak smile. And we take the next breath.