[I wrote this post last week when walking through my own remnants of December-pain. I shudder to think of that mother who is standing over her child's grave today. Though my own pain is nowhere near hers, it seemed fitting to still run as planned.]
The first time December broke was when I managed to fit all twenty-one years of myself back into my parents’ bed, right between them — in the middle of the night after that horrid phone call.
“Sara, Renee’s dead,” she’d said, on the other end of my parents’ phone-line, at one o’clock in the morning. My body shook.
Gone? Like that? Hours before, we’d told stories around her kitchen table with Bibles cracked and gifts to share. And, just like that, she was home, this child who had said “yes” to Him in her adolescent-ese that same year. He let me share in His love for her and live life, beside but just a few steps ahead of her — all before she saw Him on the other side and I never saw her again.
Oh, the pain. And I wasn’t even her mother. What about that gaping hole, for her? And for her best friend, a witness of her greatest moments … and her very last one?
Ten years later, nearly to the day, witnessed another sleepless night of its kind. December had quickly become as sterile as the waiting room which held my dad’s diagnosis. We rounded the hospital corner, after a day of last-minute traveling, to see the faces that said it all.
It’s not good, said my brother. Phrases like brain cancer and rapid growth and stage 4 and 12-18 months of life left were my acclimation to what I’d believed (up until this point) was easily resolvable. Like scampering from the hot tub to the pool, my system was traumatized. By all physical accounts, my daddy was dying; words for which no amount of preparation can prepare you.
The night that followed is still, to date, the worst night of my life. We had just come out of a succession of wow-that-sure-was-hard events, only to come up for air and face this. My body went into a fit that my mind and heart could not grip. As my siblings gathered their belongings and ushered my mom to another sterile waiting room in the hospital – I crumbled.
I folded myself up on the floor and wept on its cold, hard December tile.
What is it about this month of great expectation? I thought, as I sat under that same rush of emotions I’ve felt nearly every December for a decade and a half. (Because there were other December-like moments — too personal to share or too elusive to put my finger on — that have threatened darkness over this specific month.)
When I’ve seen Him come near-full-circle with restoration in a moment, like that night we went to Messiah or the day we surprised her with a party, I love my December story. But what about when my worst moments still linger, unanswered, and He’s given a cyclical call back to that same place — to that same old month — all over again? (What about that year when we sowed fervent prayer into my dad’s healing, because we believe in a God who heals, only to have him go home?) What about those times I tuck deeply into my pocket, slow to share even with Him because of their ache or how much they confound me or just how numb my heart is at that time?
This December, He’s been speaking one word over this grief which still lingers: Behold.
It’s my only answer. It’s all I’ve got this year, when some of those aches, tucked deep, keep creeping up and out.
Against the backdrop of the world this simple instruction seems trite, as if He might really be saying forget or ignore. But God doesn’t cast a distant light on the shadows of our life, He defines them with Himself.
A long-look anywhere else — into the pain, or the loss, or the scars my skins wears from the years that bore down on me — leaves me hopeless. I’ve done it enough, large chunks of my life have found a home there. And it’s not jumping to the other end of the spectrum — a Pollyanna-esque response to the black holes in life — that lifts me out either.
Trying to force-fit Him into a simpler world becomes my awkward attempt to normalize something that was always intended to be unfathomable-to-flesh. My life wasn’t created so that I could make sense of it.
I am here to behold. Him.
In even the darkest of my nights.
There are pieces of Him that will only be found when I make space to behold Him right there in the center of that pitch-black night.
He came to field more than just my questions from that hour, He came to wrap His flesh around all of my perplexity-fraught self. He came to hold my crumpled frame and give me a look at His face, in that moment.
Every season beckons the same response: behold this Man.
And each season holds a different side of Him for me to discover, not just with my eyes or my mind, but with my whole heart and my life. The kind of beholding that forges deep change. Because: we become like what we behold.
He isn’t a stranger to the grave. It doesn’t threaten Him like it does me.
Yes, I can climb into the lap of the one who is Life when the world around me reeks of death.
And I can find Life here, now, by beholding Him.
For Your Continued Pursuit: Revelation 21:5 | Psalm 27:4 | Matthew 4:16 | John 1:4-5 | Isaiah 45:3 | Isaiah 45:22 | Isaiah 55:8-9 | Psalm 5:3
For More On The Subject of Beholding:
Photos compliments of Mandie Joy.