I walk with tears in my eyes down to my favorite viewpoint, and I pray. “God, it’s been a year and a half. I should be over this by now. I shouldn’t still be weeping about it.” But I am. I’m just tired, I tell myself. And that is true. Or maybe I’m PMSing. That may be true, too. But both of these statements serve only to minimize my tears and the feelings that are prompting them. I know better. But I still do it.

As I walk along the sidewalk with tears falling, a quiet voice stirs inside my mind. You’re weeping less often than you used to. Yes, that is true. Grief takes time. I expel a breath of frustration. I’m tired of grieving. I’m tired of being tired. And I’m tired of learning the same old lessons over and over again. I want to be done with it all already. I want to have arrived. Instead, literally and metaphorically, I’m walking the same old ground to the same old viewpoint.

When I get there, I plop down on a bench and look out over the Sound. The water is calm today. The sun seems to be playing hide-and-seek with the clouds. I stare out over the steely gray water and breathe, deeply. This view never fails to restore me, to calm me, to reorient me. 

woman sitting_GT

A falcon flies overhead, its huge wings flapping slowly, rhythmically. Later, a hummingbird darts into view, soars up into the sky, and disappears only to pop up again a few moments later beside a holly tree growing out of the hillside. I watch him soar, disappear, reappear half a dozen times, a smile tugging at my lips.

Nothing has changed, not externally. But I am calmer now. I still feel sad, but I am able to see that I feel happy, too. This has been one of my deepening convictions these past five years: that you can feel more than one emotion at a time. For years I had thought in terms of either/or: either you’re happy or you’re sad. Either you’re grieving or you’re rejoicing. Either you’re sorrowing or you’re celebrating. Now I know otherwise.

It is Easter, the Great Fifty Days in which we remember Resurrection. Jesus is risen, and He has trampled death underfoot, and we can, should, and must celebrate that reality. But it is a proleptic reality: it is already and also not yet. We still live this side of death, and so long as we do, we live in the shadowlands, where there is still mourning and crying and pain. Easter promises that it will not always be so, that indeed for those on the other side of death, it is no longer so, and that in a very real way the life of joy is ours right here, right now.

But—and this is a big but—it is not fully here. We live in the land of not-yet, and in this land there is trouble. There is grief and loss. There is pain and suffering. There is sorrow and injustice. In this as in so many things, Christian belief rests on paradox, and we must hold both these truths together: we are already living our eternal life of salvation and joy in Christ, and we are not yet living it fully.

Because Christianity is so chock full of paradoxes, of course we will live in the tension between these poles of reality, between the already fullness of joy and the not-yet experience of sorrow. So it makes perfect sense that we can feel sad and happy at the same time, that we can be grateful and grieve at the same time, that we can know the goodness of our lives and still long for more at the same time.

We like neat, tidy boxes where everything fits perfectly. But life is messy. Life is constantly breaking out of the boxes of our little categories. I am grateful for my life, as grateful as I have ever been. And I am still grieving the loss of my little house and that I am no longer the mother of young children. Those life stages are behind me, and I can never go back to them, not in this life anyway. And while there are days I am grateful I will never have to relive, there are so many other days that press an ache of longing against my chest, days I would love to relive—snuggles on the sofa, all the picture books we shared on that sofa we no longer own, walks to the park where I pushed my kids on the merry-go-round or the swings, picnics on the living room floor, a small child asleep in my arms or holding up trusting arms for a hug.

I grieve that these things are lost except to memory. I grieve that the house in which they took place is no longer mine. At the same time I rejoice that my babies are growing into lovely children. And I am grateful for this new house with more space for my growing children. It’s both. For some of us, it’s always both. Grief and joy, gladness and sorrow.

I think it’s important that we be hospitable to our whole selves. We ignore or suppress our grief or pain at our peril. It’s still there, and it will come out sometime or other, and not always in ways we can control. This is why confession is so important. It’s not simply confessing our sins (though that’s essential, too). It’s also confessing the truth about who and how we are. “Lord, I am struggling with anxiety.” Or, “I feel angry right now.” Or, “I am still grieving the loss of that friendship.” Or whatever it is that rises in us at times, choking us with unshed tears or unfelt feelings. Those things aren’t sins, and we needn’t feel any shame or guilt about them. But sometimes we do, so we shove them away. Or maybe they’re just too painful to look at, so we shove them away. Unacknowledged they fester and can hinder our relationship with God and with others.

sailboat_GT

If we acknowledge our pain, in whatever form it takes, and turn it over to God (a thousand times a day if we have to), we honor that pain, and ourselves. We say to our pain, “I see you, I know you are a part of me, and however much I want you to go away, I know you can be a means of grace.” And we say to ourselves, “I cannot control this feeling, but I know what I can do with it. I can give it to God.”

There is incredible power in this practice of acknowledging and surrendering. It integrates us. It allows us to be whole people—ones who grieve and give thanks, who rejoice and sorrow, who trust God with all that we are.

Back on the bench looking over the Sound, I take my own medicine. I give my grief and frustration to God, again. I give my longing and desire to God, again. I give thanks for the falcon and the hummingbird and the hide-and-seek sun. I know I will come here again, and do this all over again. I am a slow learner apparently. But God is patient and kind, abounding in steadfast love, and both He and this view of the Sound that I love will be here when I come again.

K. C. Ireton / Posts / Blog
K.C. Ireton is the author of two books and the mother of four children. An avid reader, she believes that a day without books is a day without meaning or joy. She also likes food, especially when her husband prepares it. Vive le weekend!
  • Sue Donaldson
    http://www.welcomeheart.com

    “we need to be hospitable to our whole selves…” so true. i forget about my soul in the midst of setting the table for others. and i minimize my little losses, so thanks.
    and so many are grieving now – and need this (so i posted on fb just now) Thank you for your encouragement.

    April 13th, 2016 10:43
    Reply
    01
    • Kimberlee Conway Ireton
      http://kimberleeconwayireton.net

      Thank you, Sue. It is easy in the hustle and bustle of living to forget to be present to God-with-us, or to ourselves, isn’t it? And always so easy to brush things off that we don’t have time for. If they’re really unimportant, the brushing off won’t matter, but some things won’t let themselves be brushed away; they cry out for our attention, and if we will listen and attend, they will become means of grace and growth. May we both make space somehow to listen to those still small voices that long for our attention.

      April 14th, 2016 17:17
      Reply
      02
  • SimplyDarlene
    SimplyDarlene
    http://www.SimplyDarlene.com

    Kimberlee,

    Both the timeliness and content of this piece bless me today. During what I refer to as our “Relocation Saga,” my family and I moved four times in three years. And my son’s littleness? Well, it is scattered across two states.

    I don’t know if you have other griefs not mentioned in this piece, but I pray God’s peace for you.

    April 13th, 2016 11:45
    Reply
    03
    • Kimberlee Conway Ireton
      http://kimberleeconwayireton.net

      Thank you for your prayers, Darlene. I believe God holds all our most precious memories, and that someday we will receive them back, somehow, however scattered they now seem. Bless you for reading, for responding. I am grateful.

      April 14th, 2016 17:19
      Reply
      04
  • Leah Adams
    http://www.leahadams.org

    Kimberlee, life led me to an acquaintance with grief that I would never have wished. Yet, in the middle of it all I had to make a decision to steward my grief well. Did I always succeed? No, yet there was always grace and the loving arms of my Heavenly Father in which to fall. The trauma of that grief, a year plus removed, has left me a different woman, in many ways. Thank you for the reminder that we can feel both immense grief and wonderful happiness all at once. Bless you!

    April 13th, 2016 13:30
    Reply
    05
    • Kimberlee Conway Ireton
      http://kimberleeconwayireton.net

      Dear Leah, we never wholly succeed–or never feel we’ve wholly succeeded–in stewarding our grief well. But as you say, God’s loving arms are wrapped round us, and He honors our intentions and aids us in upholding them. Thank you for taking a moment to respond: I appreciate your words of affirmation.

      April 14th, 2016 17:23
      Reply
      06
  • Melissa Baird

    Thank you for sharing your words. Paradox continues to be a challenge for me, but the more I embrace it, the more I know that it is actually what is real. I need reminders like this that my grief does not mean that I am not thankful, and that my gratefulness does not mean I cannot grieve. Thank you.

    April 13th, 2016 13:44
    Reply
    07
    • Kimberlee Conway Ireton
      http://kimberleeconwayireton.net

      Dear Melissa, I need those reminders, too, which is why I wrote this post! May we both learn to live in uncomfortable tensions, let them be what they are, and rest in God’s everlasting arms, which are large enough to hold both grief and gratitude, joy and sorrow.

      April 14th, 2016 17:27
      Reply
      08
  • Diana Trautwein
    http://Www.dianatrautwein.com

    Lovely, Kimberlee. Thank you.

    April 15th, 2016 11:12
    Reply
    09

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *