Beauty In Struggle
Struggle is the root of human existence…too gloomy? The unprejudiced destruction of struggle is an experience that is felt by all. It’s also the basis of every good story. I had a college professor who once said that a story without struggle and redemption is not a very good one.
I'm a sucker for a good story, whether it's an epic adventure, a mystery or romance (it’s why the Scriptures are so beautiful to me). As a kid, I used to imagine how my story would be written when it was all over. I tried to imagine what my career would be, where I'd live, what my love story would be. Similar to many, I wanted a great love story and admittedly, there were times that my imaginings were an unrealistic mixture of Disney, Alias, and Psych, but even at a young age was simply a desire to live on mission for God while having the blessing of sharing it with another.
As you have probably guessed, that has not been my story. I'm what you'd call chronically single, not because I've never been asked, but often by choice. There are many fantastic things about singleness—my seminary thesis was on singleness in the church and I’m a big advocate for singleness—but for many who are single (me included), it is a struggle. Being single, especially a single woman, in church is painful and the older one gets the more painful it can become. “You don't have a family?”, “just be thankful, marriage is hard” ”you're not ready otherwise God would give you the desires of your heart” are just a few gems I've been told. But in December 2015, I met someone! The story of how we met was like a good romance movie and I thought that God had put him in my life as an answer to 30+ years of prayer and faithful waiting.
I was wrong.
Rather than a beautiful love story, it turned out to be a year of subtle mental abuse that left me twisted and scarred. It has been a year since he walked out of my life and it has been a journey that has felt like stepping on shards of glass, bleeding through the memories, desires, shame and shattered dreams.
So where's the beauty? Where's the beauty in any form of struggle? For many, it get's lost in the excruciating pain, and that’s ok! But what I've come to realize this year is that the beauty comes from the struggle itself. It’s not pretty; it’s one of the ugliest parts of life, yet there’s a beauty that grows in us as we go through struggle, it morphs and grows as we journey through the pain, if we let it. We don’t have to “accept” struggle with a smile, even if we believe that God uses it for good, the pain often leaves you short of breath and it’s ok to detest it. BUT let God use it. Through it all God is calling us forth from the struggle, our “souls 'begin to enter' the dark night when God draws them forth...to the end that, after passing through it, they may arrive at the state of the perfect, which is that Divine union of the soul with God” (St John of the Cross - Dark Night of the Soul). He is purifying us, communing with us, chipping away the decay in order to let his image shine brighter through us, and that is a beautiful thing.
Mmmm….any food is a good option (unless it’s seafood, that’s never a good choice)! I’d say regardless of where you are at in the struggle, take time to unwind and enjoy something ridiculous. Invite a few friends over, eat pizza, ice cream and Cheetos and watch the Bachelor—or any other ludicrous show—while making fun of it the whole time. ENJOY THE MOMENT
Abba, mercy please! I am unable to withstand the storm alone and I am in need of you grace. I may only see glimpses of beauty in the midst of this struggle, but help me to hold on to those glimpses as proof of your goodness and for hope in the future. (Isaiah 43)
I’m not one to journal; I find it obnoxiously redundant if done often. However, I’d encourage you to take actual notes every couple of months; bullet point, write a poem, write a narrative, whichever form suits you best. Cry while you write, scream and yell in anger while you write about the struggle and where you are in the midst of it. Write about the good and the bad of the struggle—the good is in there and you’d be surprised how the good list changes and grows over time.
Colony House – Moving Forward