I'm living on a question mark.

I'm living on a question mark. 

I don't think I'll ever forget that day, that dreadful first of March. I'd just returned home from a job interview when I received the news that struck down my family. There's hardly (if any) preparation for such things, is there? A longstanding nightmare turns reality, then what? You try to make sense of it but you can't. In words taken from Hamilton, this has been a "suffering too terrible to name."

A bold line distinguishes life before crisis and after. I'm living in the eleventh week following and each week since has been sad, intense, and exhausting. My heart still bleeds out. I've heard life after trauma shapes into a new kind of normal, or something like that. The alterations are significant.

So now, I'm living on a question mark. The surety has faded. I'm less willing to face the pain straight on. Each step on the bridge to healing is a timid one. These feet are dragging and the days are too. Who talks about this?

It's hard to find someone who won't try to fix and direct your pain with hopeful platitudes. And it's even harder to find someone who won't avoid you or your suffering. Lately, I'm uninterested in any of the Christian clichés. Do we toss them around to convince each other we still love and trust Jesus? Is it okay to confess: I'm broken, I'm grieved, I'm struggling? And to say back: I'm broken for you, I'm without words, I'm sorry?

Oddly, I want to push everyone away and hold everyone close. I want to keep myself shielded from further misunderstanding, betrayal, disappointment, so I isolate. I want to be remembered, looked after, supported, so I overshare. I'm not at all graceful in this process.

Trauma changes people on both ends of relationships. It's hard, I know—for both the griever and the griever's friend. Pain is a complex, giant web and we're never the only ones caught in it. How do we choose to stay when leaving looks so easy? 

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I'm afraid to write publicly because I'm afraid of accumulating more hurt. This suffering is shared, a pain not just my own. Several hearts have been twisted and turned, deceived and diced. To honor them, I can't use details. When is it better to stay off the screen and keep words only for yourself? And when is sharing worth the possible gossip, rejection, or silence?

Along with that, I fear people can sniff out self-pity. I certainly have no use for collecting pity from anyone, including myself. But it's obvious, I do hurt a whole lot. I'm still shocked, not ready to forgive, and only beginning to grieve. What if it's too early to write and I regret it?

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Just now, I read this paragraph by Rainer Maria Rilke, the poet and novelist:

"Be patient toward all that is unsolved in your heart and try to love the questions themselves, like locked rooms and like books that are now written in a very foreign tongue. Do not now seek the answers, which cannot be given you because you would not be able to live them. And the point is, to live everything. Live the questions now. Perhaps you will then gradually, without noticing it, live along some distant day into the answer.”

Maybe I'll stop trying so hard to understand. Maybe we don't need reasons for a March first kind of news. Maybe those things will come, but maybe instead there will be God's peace and a certainty of His presence. Could that be enough for all our bleeding hearts? 

Answers are few in fragile times.

Answers are few in fragile times.

I walk up to the register with four sympathy cards in hand, each meant for a different person and loss. The cashier asks me what all good cashiers ask—did you find everything you were looking for? I tell him yes (does anyone answer otherwise?) as he totals the purchase. He hands me the receipt and plastic bag, finishing his routine with a warm "come again." I know I will because bookstores are my oxygen, but I hope for a return under other circumstances. Not one involving death.

But pain is pummeling into those I love. All at once? I don't get it. I speak with a friend this morning who has experienced another tragedy. These are fragile times. Treading in pools of sorrow suddenly turns familiar, and it hurts.

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There's another problem with my health, so before bed, I scour Google's results for answers. The quest for healing resembles an addiction and before you know it, it's 5 am and I'm exhausted from riding on fear through the night. I close both the laptop and my eyes at last, unable to find what I was searching for.

Counselors say there are multiple stages of grief, with denial being one of the first. Each addition to my list of symptoms is a loss. I make good movement emotionally, then I'll notice another ailment and end up in denial all over again. I have a disease (several, actually), and sometimes loss will come quicker than progress. Strength and hair and memory are not promises. Can I not accept this reality in bulk? Will I have to unravel with every change? 

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I've been asking God lots of questions. Partly because I'm curious, mainly because I'm disappointed. The last 14 months in my life have appeared small and inconsequential. I used to be useful—what happened? Why is He keeping this disease in my body? Doesn't He know what I would do if I was healthy and whole?

There are families hurting, and I want to help. I hope to serve children who have special needs. I hope to work hard, giving money and resources away. I hope to move to Japan and help plant churches. I hope to do this and that for a greater good, but I fear I can't unless I'm well.

So if I'm never healed, then what? 

The splinters in my theology and identity are being exposed. I'm in this new place, a low place, where I see sprawled before me my failed attempts and crumbled relationships and unbiblical perspectives and storage of pride, and, and—I'm not at all who I thought I was. It's terrifying to be made aware of my shortcomings like this. I made myself the savior of the narrative and now I'm here, pressed to the ground and empty-handed.

I'm shocked by how little I've trusted Jesus, the God-man who knows suffering best. How does He respond to the tragedies we face? 

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I have an afternoon to myself, and I'm tempted to numb with Netflix but I cry out to God instead. I wonder why He would still want to love me and love others through me. I've lost sight so many times and I know so little. In my foolishness, doubt, brokenness, and disease, why does God remain? I don't know what He's shaping through the losses in my life or those around me, but this is my prayer:

God, may You be all we ever go searching for.
And let us weep with those who weep today, just as You do for us. 
Amen.