24 Mar even when the answer is no
There are moments in life that will send you to your knees, reeling with disbelief, begging for divine intervention.
There are moments that will deliver a gut punch so powerful and so precise, that you will struggle to breathe for the rest of your life.
There are moments so unbearably cruel, so unfair, so impossible to understand that your faith will be rocked to its core and your every belief challenged and your dreams shredded. These moments slam into your life with such force that they threaten to destroy the very foundation you’ve built your whole life upon.
And while that sounds like a bad thing, and oftentimes feels like a bad thing, and undoubtedly IS a very bad thing, hindsight sometimes reveals it was in that exact moment that your real life began.
I’m in Houston for work right now. Three flights in three days, two hotel rooms, less water than I should take in and definitely more carbs… and I’m feeling it. Traveling like this and working on the road consumes a lot of energy and can leave me a bit frayed around the edges. I’m not complaining, just painting the picture here. After a week like this one, I start to feel a little fragile. More ‘feely’ and less resilient. Last night, I couldn’t sleep. I was tired and had been blinking at the wall with sandpaper eyelids for hours when it hit. The wave.
The apologies and the tears. The regrets and shame. The blame. The deep, untouchable sadness. Waves after brutal wave, but last night was different. There was a subtle shift in tone. I couldn’t put my finger on it – I just couldn’t name what was different but I sensed it. I finally had to force myself to get a grip. You know, suck it up. Toughen up. Harden up. Straighten up. Wipe the incessant tears and forcefully shut my brain (and heart) down for the night. It was almost impossible.
So I begged. I pleaded. I asked for a dream of Mase. I rarely do that. Last night, I let myself hope for a visit from Mase. In my dreams. “Dear God, let my dreams be sweet and Mason-filled”… and with that, my tired, sad mama heart drifted off into lala land. With a little flicker of hope, I fell asleep. Finally.
And you know what? He didn’t show up. I didn’t dream of Mase. I didn’t receive the teeny tiny gift I had begged for. How incredibly cruel the night was to me. Why not? Why can’t I see him? I travel soooo much… I’ve even tried to make deals like “If he visits me when I travel, I promise to never tell a soul that you broke the laws of the universe and time and space and life and death for me.” I negotiate a whole secret life just to have my boy back. I vow to enter witness protection and never speak to a single soul again just to have one more day with my son. As I make these deals, I am talking to God, but he never talks back. He does, but he doesn’t.
God does answer. Not audibly, mind you. But he answers. It’s funny actually (ironic-funny not amusing-funny) because it is the NO that I hear that loudest. His yeses are subtle and gentle and blend in with sweet moments of life. The sun shines a little brighter on days God says yes. The birds chirp, and my heels match my dress, and my smile is quicker to appear. Everything feels lighter and freer. Ohhhhh but when he says no, it’s deeply felt. It ain’t subtle or quiet or gentle. It’s abrupt and final. It’s dark. And it really, really hurts.
This isn’t a Christian blog, but I happen to be a Christian. If you’ve read my posts, you know I’m sooo deeply in love with relationship and viscerally opposed to religion. I have been asked very directly about my faith since the loss of my son and I have answered honestly, in the moment, every single time. I have never excelled at candy coating anything. The God I believe in is the same yesterday, today, and forever… but my God concept is ever changing. My understanding. My faith. My relationship.
Sometimes the human/god relationship is likened to the bond between a parent and child. I remember being a mother and wish so much that I still could be. I loved my son more than life itself. I said no to him a lot, as most parents do. He was like a Tonka truck that was designed to break down barriers… he did a great job mowing me down many times on many issues. Mason was so very strong. Saying no to him was difficult and yet it was part of my job as his mama. When I said no, it never meant I loved him less. Obviously! One had nothing to do with the other. My denial of his request-of-the-moment was never evidence of a lack of love. Rather, my ability to say no to certain things was fueled by a powerful parental love, my desire to raise him right and create the best life for him, to guide him to the right path, to help him learn boundaries and self reliance.
So is it possible for me to imagine that when God says ‘no’ it doesn’t mean he loves me any less?
Is it possible that God loves me powerfully, eternally, and relentlessly… even when the answer is no?
Last night I asked for a dream, a visit from Mase, a quick sign (yes, another one) that everything will be okay. I went to sleep troubled and woke up the same. Apparently, the answer was no. (Rude.) I remember other moments, bigger moments, where I asked for the impossible. The answer was no then too. I remember times in my own life when I felt God must hate me because he never helped me. He wouldn’t show up, wouldn’t fix things, wouldn’t protect me. You know those moments, the faith rocking kind. The foundation crumbling kind. I’ve had to reconcile every single one of those moments with the idea that God loves me senselessly, passionately, viscerally, and soulfully… even when the answer is no. His answer doesn’t have anything to do with the amount of love in his heart. Or maybe it does. Maybe it has everything to do with the amount of love he has for me.
Today I heard some news that made me so incredibly sad and I felt like it was confirmation of the restlessness I experienced all last night. The wave of grief was different, remember? News was coming and the universe was shifting although I couldn’t have known it last night. News of another person’s life changing moment. News of another ‘no’ that sent an entire community to its knees. All I wanted last night was a dream, but I remember so vividly when I wanted a life saving intervention and didn’t get one. That was the hard hitting blow that stole my breath and made it difficult for me to breathe every single day since. I ache for the family whose news I heard today. There is a wrecking ball poised and ready, yet every single person who loves them is hoping against all hope it never hits.
I am thinking of my friend now, the one who is facing a moment that will threaten to obliterate her faith. Her beautiful faith that has inspired so many people around her has already been stretched and challenged. Her journey isn’t over and her troubles certainly aren’t either. I’m holding her in my heart as I imagine the hurdles she will face. I know she knows God loves her… even when the answer is no.
It’s Just Me…
The blog, It’s Just Me, is written by Holly Chamberlain who makes a living as a sales manager for a global pharmaceutical company but who makes a life by working with teenagers, teachers, and parents to redefine the criteria for self-harm and suicide. She is the Founder of the aMasongrace project and shares these core messages with students to help build resilience, offer hope, and improve self-esteem: Moments Pass, Please Stay, & You Matter. To subscribe to the blog, please visit the website and enter your email address, www.aMasongraceproject.com. Follow the aMasongrace project on Twitter and Instagram @aMgYouMatter. To invite the aMasongrace project to speak at a youth group or school, please contact Holly via aMasongraceproject@gmail.com.