Acknowledge the Pain
The little homeschool academy that I taught at last fall held its first day of the spring semester today. I'm very, VERY sad that I'm not teaching there this spring. I had so much fun teaching music appreciation to the little ones and a basic Bible class to the bigger ones last semester. It was completely satisfying. Like hitting the wave at exactly the right moment on a surfboard. It was just right for my soul. A smooth and exhilarating ride.
Today, I showed up to teach ONE class before my replacement could take over the Bible class. I thought I'd just slip in and out and not run into anyone. But instead, I met a mom of one of my favorite students the second I got out of my van. Literally, the very second I got out. Of course, she asked me how I am doing. She had heard that I wasn't teaching this semester "for medical reasons." So, I gave her the very abbreviated version. I'm getting better at that. "I'm okay." "Still have more to go." "Please keep praying for me." As we said goodbye, I turned and ran into my other favorite student. Ugh. It made me so sad. All over again. I want to be there. But instead, I am here.
Today, I feel sad. Discontent with my situation. Not angry, but stirred up. Unsatisfied. I let God know. I have learned that it is totally ok to do that. To let out my feelings to someone safe. It helps me to put words to them. To acknowledge them in the moment. I'm not afraid God can't handle them. He created them in me, for goodness sake. He can definitely handle them.
Chris is out of town this week. On a work trip. Usually, he's my sounding board. He's really good at listening to me process all my messy emotions. But he's not here, and that's probably a good thing. I really need to take these things to God first anyhow.
So, that's what I did today. And it's funny because acknowledging messy feelings came up today in my Bible study. (There are no coincidences.)
I'm studying David in 1 Samuel and in Psalms. I love David because he's messy, so messy, and yet God calls him, "a man after God's own heart." Can't you just feel the peace flow over your heart when you hear that? If that messy man can be a man after God's own heart, then there's hope for this messy woman too.
In 1 Samuel 21 and 22, David was running from Saul. Saul wanted to kill him so, of course, David went into hiding. And he did a messy job of it, lying to a priest, taking holy bread, acting insane, and on and on. Finally, he ran to a cave in Adullam. It's a really big cave, big enough for 40 men. You can actually visit it today but it's hard to get to. You'll need a jeep and a guide with GPS. Seriously. So, it was a good hiding place.
But.... not good enough. Word quickly spread about David's hiding place and suddenly all kinds of misfits and outcasts showed up. 400 of them! They may have come because they assumed David would "get" them as an outcast himself. Maybe they needed to be taken care of and thought David could handle the job. I don't know. I just know they came, and he let them stay.
He let them come and more than that, he became their leader. He acknowledged their pain. With his actions, he said, "I'm in it with you." And THAT built community.
David may have been the only one with a death sentence, but he wasn't alone in his suffering. Others were suffering too. They may have come to Adullam for different reasons but they were there together. They formed a rough community of outcasts, a community knit together by a common season of hard. They suffered together and that made all the difference.
We can suffer together too. We can find a safe place to hunker down, be it with family or with a friend. In your home or at a retreat. We can share our burden and let others carry it with us, even just by listening. Shedding new light on our hard circumstances. When a friend acknowledges our pain, it legitimizes our feelings. In the moment, we may just need our feelings to be heard and understood.
We can experience this with God too. Hear me: you can share your hurt with him, or scream it at him. It's ok. He will listen. And he will acknowledge you. Have you ever done that? Yelled at God. If you have, did you stop to listen when you were done venting? If you did, I'm betting you felt heard. Maybe nothing changed in your circumstances, but maybe, just maybe, you felt a little better. Maybe you felt understood.
Today, I shared my messy feelings with God and, yes, I felt understood. Chris isn't here to put his arms around me, but God is. And his peace wrapped itself around my heart. Like a warm fuzzy blanket, I felt comfort infuse my soul.
If you aren't feeling messy today, yay for you!! :) But look around you. Chances are that you have a friend who needs some comfort. A friend who needs a safe person to share their hurt with. You can be that safe person. Will you do that? Will you be God's warm arms for your friend? That's community. That's being a man or woman after God's own heart.