I'm the first one up today. A rarity in our house. Not because I'm not a morning person - I am; it's just that I usually wake to the sounds of cereal scavenging and cartoon network. But this morning....peace. Which is good because I really needed the solitude today; a slice of quiet carved out for a few moments to process the thoughts in my head. I thought about calling a couple of friends who would totally get where I am right now and I know they'd be there for me but I wanted to just sit here and type before I get muddled down in the intricacies of conversation.
Several years ago, shortly after Michael and I were married, we found ourselves in the middle of a full blown crisis involving accusations, detectives, mistrust, lie detector tests...it wasn't pretty. The pastor we sat under at that time counseled me to, "keep my joy" which was not the advice I was hoping for. I sat there with the phone to my ear and listened in disbelief. Pissed off. Was that seriously the best he could do? Hadn't he just heard what I'd told him? deTECtive! LIE detector! YELLing! Where the F does keeping my joy fit in? He had no idea what I'd been living with.
It reminded me of my best friend telling me not to lose hope when Jeff was dying of cancer. I'd never been more angry with her. What did she know? She didn't have to see him fall and never get up again or feel new tumors under his skin practically every day or receive test results that mocked everyone's best efforts.
Last night, I found out that the husband of a dear family friend was diagnosed with a rare malignant abdominal tumor. He starts chemo today. They're both young with two small children...like we were. She said it's going to be a difficult time and she's right. Difficult and scary and precious and happy and uncertain and lonely and incredible and fucked up and surreal and hollow and beautiful. They will feel small and enormous at the same time; pulled and stretched in ways they never dreamed of; tested and refined over and over and over again.
I totally understand what they're getting ready to face and while I may not know a lot I do know this....when someone is living in an abusive marriage, or facing the uncertainty of health issues, or staring at the lid of the coffin that contains a child, or wondering how they're going to feed their family of five with their last $10...hope and joy are barely a blip on the radar and it's easy to stay in the darkest and blackest of places.
This is life. This is marriage. Messy. At times it sucks and you just want to get in your car and start driving in the opposite direction and still....it's always amazing. If Michael and I hadn't been on the brink of divorce we may never have gotten involved in marriage ministry and if Jeff hadn't gotten sick he (and others) may never have accepted Christ. Jeramiah 29:11 says that God has a plan and a purpose in our lives; to prosper us and not to harm us. Were these things part of God's plan? I believe so - not at the time I didn't...I so didn't. Now I know that hope and joy are part and parcel with hurt and sorrow. You can separate the two but will never feel the fullness of either without them being together.
It's a paradox, a conundrum, an oxymoron.
Keeping my joy and not losing hope? I get it now. I really do.