Happy New Year to all of you! I want to level with you. I am so glad to see 2018 go. It was a tough one! My son recently said, “2018 sucked! We lost Pawpaw and we lost Stan Lee!!!” I’m sure you get the Stan Lee reference but let me explain the other one. We recently had to say goodbye to my step dad Jay Towns after a series of long health struggles. Jay had been in and out of the hospital for many years now and just when we thought we had the solution to one problem, another issue would surface. It was a cruel see saw of emotions which resulted in wearing us all down over a long period of time. We simultaneously felt terrible for Jay and what he was going through and felt the stress of trying to figure out what the best course of action was for him.
I had no idea how much pressure it had put on me personally until I hit our Christmas break. At first I had trouble relaxing and letting myself enjoy the season. Of course we felt the loss of not having Jay with us during a joyous season but at the same time, it felt like I hadn’t let go of the stress and angst of trying to help my mom make the best decisions for my step dad. It resulted in a few sleepless nights and a general feeling of anxiety. It was as if all of the many weeks of panic and confusion had culminated in this event and now there was…nothing.
However, a few days after Christmas I finally felt refreshed for the first time. Quite honestly, it was the first chance I had to mourn the loss of someone who was really important in my life. I was finally able to exhale and recoup. My time with my family was more enjoyable, my attitude was less critical and a strange sensation washed over me. It was one of hope.
As I look back over the past few years, there were at least four things that kept me going. I’d like to share them with you.
- Being okay with not being okay – Being a pastor comes with a lot of baggage. You often feel like you have to provide comfort and refuge for others as well as those closest to you during times of grief. If you are not careful, it will result in you putting up a facade around others so that you can appear to have it all together. Transparency is a necessity when you are facing gut wrenching circumstances. It is only when you are open with others about your grief that they will know how to help you. However, if you refuse to tell others that you need help, the situation you are facing might crush you under its weight. Go ahead and read through the Psalms. Do you think David had trouble being transparent? In Psalm 9 he is singing “I will give thanks to the Lord with all my heart; I will tell of all Your wonders.” and in Psalm 10 he cries out “Why do You stand afar off, O Lord?
Why do You hide Yourself in times of trouble?” It is okay to not be okay around the right people.
- I didn’t isolate myself – For some reason, our gut reaction to hurt and especially sadness is to retreat from those closest to us. We’ll say things like, “I just don’t want them to see me like this.” or worse “I’m fine, don’t worry about me.” God never intended us to isolate ourselves during difficult times but to make ourselves vulnerable and allow others to come along side of us and lift us up. Galatians 6:2 tells us to “bear one another’s burdens”. We are usually okay with bearing other people’s burdens because in that scenario, we are the white knight, the hero who has come to save the day. When you hit tough times, you have to admit to being the damsel in distress. It feels like weakness, but the most courageous and strong decision you can make is to be vulnerable.
- Meditation and Prayer – I have to admit something. On average, I am very disciplined when it comes to spending time reading my Bible. I know, you’re thinking “What kind of confession is that?” It’s like answering a potential employer when they ask, “What are some of your weaknesses?” with “I guess I’m just too ambitious and don’t know when to stop working.” Here’s where this becomes a confession: my time reading the Bible sometimes lacks vitality and it becomes just something else that I do like brushing my teeth, taking the dog out and washing the dishes. During this difficult time, I began to meditate more on God’s word and really seek its meaning in my current situation. It became my lifeline versus good guidelines. It also made my time with God less academic and more relational.
- Healthy Distractions – There are plenty of distractions that are destructive like drinking, porn addiction and impulse buying. However, there are a myriad of distractions that aren’t. Things like working out, reading a good book, watching a good Netflix series and spending quality time with family. I took up a few hobbies like blogging about nerd stuff (Marvel, DC, Sci Fi) and found healing in that. Maybe it is as simple as having coffee with a friend or going on a road trip. Whatever the distraction is, there is power in not being hyper focused on your problems.
I hope this is helpful to you if you are going through, coming out of or entering into some really difficult times. My prayer for you is that this would bring healing to your soul and some refuge so that you can recoup. Blessings to you all and here’s to a better 2019!