God said to Jonah, ‘ Is it right for you to be angry about the plant?’
‘It is,’ Jonah replied. ‘And I am so angry I wish I were dead.’
But the Lord said, ‘You have been concerned about this plant, though you did not tend it or make it grow. It sprang up overnight and died overnight.’
Here Just Yesterday
These last few weeks have been… interesting. A struggle to be sure. If I thought I was getting over my grief before, I was painfully mistaken. If I thought that the bulk of my hurt and anger had dissipated before, I was horribly wrong.
There’s something about the finality of planning a second birthday for Austyn without her daddy. There’s part of my heart that asks what happened to my first love as I begin to know what it is to really love another. There’s a lingering question of disbelief – ‘Was that really it? Are you really gone?’
I love learning. Like, L.O.V.E. learning. I’m one of those nerds that wishes I could go to school indefinitely. I’m one of those bookworms that wants to curl up in a library for days on end. I try to treat every day as an adventure and every minute as a teaching moment. Yeah… love learning. (I even asked learning to be my valentine this year. Smooch! JK. Oh, that was corny…)
So, like I said… I love learning. But…
Some of these recent lessons are heart lessons and all these lessons are hard lessons.
Let me do it
Just as much as I love learning, I love control. Some might call it “picky” but I call it “organized.” (It just sounds nicer, doesn’t it?) I like every thing to have a place and every thing to be in its place. I like schedules and planners and spreadsheets. I like matching my tissue box to the decor in the room. I like being able to look at where we’ve been and where we are going. I want to map it all out. I want to know every turn before I leave the driveway. (I know what you are thinking… Control freak!)
Over the years, I’ve learned (a lesson that I didn’t enjoy – not so much) that I/we don’t always have control. Maybe you’ve come to this conclusion as well? I mean, we have choices. We can decide which curtains we want for the Master bedroom. We can decide whether we make it to the gym today or not. We can choose to show love to our spouses and children for another hard day. We can decide whether to reach out to people. We can choose to follow Jesus.
But, as many of you probably already know, we simply cannot control everything.
Many things are simply not up to me. Many things are simply not up to you.
I’ve read the story of Jonah before… Probably, like, a billion times. (I’m really good at exaggerating. If you ever need an exaggerator, hire me. Pro-status!)
But, I never read that last bit of the story of Jonah the way I did today. Right before the end of the book. Right before we close on this story, this chapter. The Bible says something here that I didn’t think much of before. Something that was profound, for me, today.
As I read the end of Jonah 4, the words changed around on the page in front of me. It went from God speaking to Jonah to God saying something to me:
God: ‘Alyssa, do you have a right to be angry about losing Nick?’
Me: ‘I do! And, I am so freakin angry I wish I were dead!’
God: ‘You have been so upset over Nick, over his leaving you. Though, you did not create Nick… You did not make him grow. He was formed overnight and died overnight. His life was and always had been in my hands, before he was even born. His life was never in your hands.”
Me: ‘Uhhhhhhh…”(Mouth open…Dumbfounded.)
Cycles of Grief
As I enter my second year without Nick, I am experiencing whole new levels of grief. New levels of confusion and anger as the finality and reality of my life sinks in.
I am overjoyed at the blessings God has given me, don’t get me wrong. I have such an amazing life and great family and wonderful friends. I’ve got the sweetest daughter (two next month!) and an absolutely-amazing boyfriend that showers me with love and affection to share my life with. I am surrounded by love.
But, love has slowly turned into something sinister. It’s become a new fear of sorts. I have been able to choose it everyday (so far) nonetheless, but after loss… Holy smokes. Love is a particularly scary thought. The thought that every person you love… you can lose. At any moment, they could vanish, any one of them. Not just to death, but to life. They could choose to leave you or choose to move away. Or, by no-one’s choice, they could leave this world for the next.
Do you know what I found myself doing these last few weeks? Subconsciously I found myself pulling away from those that I love. Telling myself that it might be smart to not love quite so much. Pulling away so that I could protect this little heart of mine. After all, I told myself…. if I don’t depend on anyone, if I don’t love, then it won’t really hurt if they disappear. Right?
Then God plopped a little quote down in front of me that had a pretty awesome impact. (I needed this, dude. Seriously perfect timing, as usual. Thanks, God.)
“The only place outside Heaven where you can be perfectly safe from all the dangers and perturbations of love… is Hell.” – C.S. Lewis
Stop for a second. Read that again… Do you get it?
Whoa. I mean, I know “perturbations” is a big word. “Anxieties” is a synonym. Try it with that. “The only place… where you can be perfectly safe from the dangers and anxieties of love… is Hell.” And isn’t that just what this life becomes without love? A form of absolute Hell.
Loving another is some serious risky business (much riskier than Tom Cruise’s dance in a movie of the same name). It’s for-real serious. It can feel like life or death… and sometimes it is.
But, I do believe it’s what we are made for. We are made to live with one another and to love one another.
Greater love has no one than this, that one lay down his life for his friends. John 15:13
Truly loving another more than you love yourself is exactly that. It is laying down your life, your soul, for your loved one. God poured His very life and love into us so that we can do the same for others.
So, as I continue along in this 27 year (so far) long journey, I find myself fighting a new fear; the fear of feeling far too much. But, I am facing it now with determination, with a warrior’s heart. I’m gathering all my strength and I am hard bent to feel. For feeling is what makes up life. Not just the good stuff, but the sad stuff too. Feeling is what makes us human and I don’t want to shy away from my humanness. I want to embrace it.
Think the meaning of life is to be happy? Perhaps it is. But, I think the meaning of life is also to be sad. We are made to feel.
Let me challenge you (I’m speaking to myself here, too). When happiness arrives, be grateful for it! But, do not cling to it. When pain arrives, do the same. Be grateful for it because it is just a part of this life experience! But do not cling to it. Do not become a martyr or a victim.
When you are sad: have a good cry.
When you are joyful: please, please(!!) dance.
When you want to care for another: choose to love.
Sometimes life can start to look like Facebook. We condition ourselves to think of our stories and others stories on certain terms. Polishing them and cutting out the tough spots so that our stories look controlled: pretty and perfect. But, we must remember that real, true life IS. NOT. about creating a perfect, polished reality. Life is hard. And, we shouldn’t be afraid to dive in and to share in even the hard parts. We shouldn’t be afraid to lean on and love each other through the hardest of days as well as celebrate with each other on the happiest ones.
This beautiful life
Life is one big grand surprise. One huge-mongous adventure! No matter how hard we try, we won’t be able to predict what is coming. We can’t sit in the driveway and map out every turn.
All we can do is choose to put the car in drive. We can choose to work our way through our pain. We can choose to be kind. And we can choose to do our best to follow Jesus and His plan for us.
There is beauty in the unknown. And there is a peace in knowing that we are not in control of it all. Let your feelings come. Be grateful to be a part of all of this magic, this good and this bad, life. Be grateful that nothing is permanent. Be grateful for your ability to heal and help others.
Maybe like Jonah a few thousand years ago, we can all continue to walk through this life, trusting God with heart lessons and our hard lessons. Trusting Him to continue to gently lead us to trust Him with even our greatest loves.
Until next time, keep me in your prayers. And, I’ll do the same for you. Feel free to send me a private message (alyssa-dot-magnotti-at-gmail-dot-com) or comment below. What have you been struggling with? What do you feel? Are you overjoyed? Are you sad? A mix of both? Don’t worry. We can all share in this life together. Now, let’s be purposeful about it!