Living in the "in between"
Fall is a special time for me. I’ve been taking a little extra time out of my day to sit out on my porch and just soak in all the colors of the leaves as they change a little each day. Certainly, I’m captivated by the bright and stunning colors, but I think what mesmerizes me the most is knowing that soon each of these vibrantly colored leaves will be gone. I remember the spring when they first came out as buds and now, they’ll soon die and fall away. It reminds me of how temporary and fleeting life can be. One moment life is one way. The next it’s all changed.
I can’t help but be reminded of how this reflects the chapters of life. I’m drawn to seasons and chapters. This is probably because I’m in a chapter of life that I’m desperately hoping will pass, and I’m just waiting for the next. I think if you live life long enough, you’ll find these particularly difficult and painful seasons in your own life as well. Sometimes they’re incredibly hard, sometimes it’s a long and dull season. For me it’s still about the loss of my son. Time goes on, coming up on two years this Sunday since we lost him. And this chapter has been a tough one for me and my wife. The hard thing to remember in these kinds of seasons is that our story isn’t finished. There are more chapters of life to be written. Some will be wonderful. And though I don’t wish for it, I know some may be as painful as the one I’m in now.
But there are two lessons that stand out to me as I’m here in this chapter of life; two that I’d like to share with anyone interested enough to read this. First is a message of hope. A reminder for those of you who find yourself in a particularly hard and barren chapter, that there are more chapters to come. And if you’re like me, you might have a hard time trusting that there can ever be good chapters again. Ones filled with joy and redemption. But I know for me, my temptation is to withhold hope because I don’t want to be disappointed again. I don’t want to set my hopes up only to have them crushed. But I know deep down inside that’s no way to live. To do so would be to live in half-measures, constantly hedging, not trusting, and robbing myself of joy.
Which leads me to the second lesson that stands out to me so vividly as I observe the beautiful fall foliage. There is joy in the moment even when, or perhaps especially when, you know it will end. The fall leaves are more beautiful when you know you’re capturing something that will be gone shortly. And if you blink too long, if you withhold hope and joy in your heart, you’ll miss it all. I think of that often when I see my daughters play and giggle. They are sweet and beautiful in this moment. One, because I know they’ll grow up so fast and I want to hold on to each little memory and detail. And two, because I know what it is to not have a child to watch grow anymore. The pain of this chapter in life gives me a moment of pause and opportunity. It almost forces me to also observe the joy and beauty that lives within it as well.
What season of life are you in right now? Is it full of blessings and gifts? Perhaps it’s filled with heartache and suffering. I wish there was something I could say or do to make that hurt go away. Something in the words I write that could be the salve for your suffering. But I don’t think the answer is in making the pain stop. I think to know that others are in tough seasons too, that you’re not alone in the hard stuff of life is where we find our healing and comfort. And if there weren’t such seasons, if there were no barren winter, would we know to cherish and behold the beauty of all the other seasons as well?
I’ll end this piece with a reflection on the observance of Christmas as it’s fast approaching. For centuries the nation of Israel suffered in waiting for the Messiah to come. Another chapter among many for them in which things looked and felt hopeless. But one day, a Child was born that brought hope for God’s people. A new chapter had come, a reason to rejoice. And yet there would also come a time when this Child would die to save humanity. We call it Good Friday, the day Christ died upon a cross. A reason to remember all that was lost. And for Easter Sunday we celebrate His resurrection, a reason to rejoice and be glad for all that was gained.
But I’m also very much interested in that Saturday in between. I’m drawn to that space in between because it would seem to me a very dark and hopeless day. A day when it seems like all hope would be lost. And the waiting would seem excruciating and endless. It seems God’s story is constantly unfolding, with some chapters filled with victory and others it would seem like defeat. And through it all, it’s clear His ways are known only to Him. For some reason that gives me so much comfort. I don’t have to make sense of things that feel painful and senseless. As I celebrate this Christmas, I’ll be reminded that to remember the birth of Christ is to observe a moment, a chapter in time that changed everything. But also, that His story is unfinished.
Written by Ly Tran, LPC-Supervisor
Photo Credit: autumn mott rodeheaver 15013 on unsplash