There are days. They often come in waves. I wake up and I feel a heaviness on my chest. Nothing tragic, just the wear of the day to day. The loneliness, the weariness, I am tired.
I put on the song “Worn” by Tenth Avenue North (video and lyrics here) and lift my tear-filled eyes. The lyrics mirror my heart. I have been thinking a lot about this. Why the weariness? Maybe it comes with age. Maybe it comes with the barrage of social media posts of other’s lives from which I just can’t seem to look away. Maybe it is this long season of strife and pain in our communities which creates a heaviness. For some, this heaviness has been not just seasonal but generational. I feel the weight of that for my friends as well. But I don’t like it and I can’t seem to shake it.
Yesterday I sat myself down, put on my big girl panties and confronted myself with the choices I have made to get here. Not the choices of adoption as a single mom or working multiple jobs while homeschooling, but the choices to isolate myself, the choices to manage it on my own. This thinking was precipitated by the posting of a woman on social media who is going through an unanticipated divorce and is wearing her pain publicly. With that, she shared stories of hordes of friends coming to her “rescue” to feed, to clothe, to bring gifts, to surround – and I found myself envious of her. Envious…..of someone going through a life-shattering event. Oh, I went through my own divorce, but I isolated, I put on a brave face, I pushed through. This is the way I move through hard things. Choosing to move through in my own strength. Maybe years of this have just worn me out.
I have been reading a lot lately and a few things I have read recently made me think more introspectively about this. In her book Becoming Brave, Dr. Brenda Salter McNeil[i] quotes Glennon Doyle from Love Warrior, “…every time a child gets sick or a man leaves or a parent dies or a community crumbles, the women are the ones who carry on, who do what must be done for their people in the midst of their own pain”[ii]. Some of this “worn” is just fulfilling the role of a woman. But here also, Dr. McNeil goes on to write about community, and specifically the practice of eating together. This chapter is focused on the reconciling power of women, predominantly in regard to racial justice, but I can’t help but think about the power of coming together. It is something I am missing and something I have created with my choices.
Maybe this is also a sin of pride. I recognize that I came from privilege. Life was not perfect but I did not lack for food or shelter, I was able to attend college, I can walk through the world without fear of retribution because of the color of my skin. This, I think, created a mindset that I can do whatever it takes, in my own power. I am smart enough to figure things out. I am strong enough to muscle through. But the extreme outcome of all that smart and strong is isolation. The extreme of that is taking it all on. The extreme of that is thinking (whether I say it out loud or not) that I don’t need people…or God.
The truth is, that all this perceived strength creates a lack of intimacy in my life and in my relationships. By trying to look good, to push through, to prove how strong I am then I am never being my authentic self and I am never allowing people to love me, to care for me, to help carry my burdens on the rough days. If I am honest with my heart, I believe that community won’t be there, because they will see that I am weak. I am the one who holds others up, not the other way around. And if I am not always the encourager, the joyful, the positive, the helpful one then I am pretty certain that people will have no need for me.
There are hundreds of verses in the Bible about weakness. It is not a vice, it is not a sin. The Bible shares the overwhelming story of God’s grace and God’s power (2 Cor. 12:9), of His deliverance (Psalm 34: 17-20), of his supplication (Phil. 4:19), of His intercession (Romans 8:26) all made perfect in my weakness. I grew up with the Bible, but I struggle to really take it in for myself. Sometimes I struggle to believe that He means this all for me and not just for other people. Because I am strong.
You know what else the Bible talks about? Community. God created us to be in community, in relationship and not just in the good times. The Bible talks about meeting together and encouraging one another (Heb. 10:24-25), bearing one another’s burdens (Gal 6:2), suffering and rejoicing together (I Cor. 12:25-27). Do I believe that this is also for me? I don’t know what your community looks like, but I am struck by the pulling together of people when things get tough. Certain communities do this well. And what could be an entire blog post in and of itself, I look at history from Biblical times to modern day and find that cultures of people who have been persecuted or oppressed are better at pulling together, are better at community. It was a means to survival.
With my writing I feel less worn. I open my heart a little to let you in. But this is safe, this is controlled, this allows me the ability to shut down my computer, to ignore my phone and to stay in isolation. And sometimes that seems like the easier choice, to live the way I am currently choosing to live or to be brave and choose the unknown. This is a cross-roads. I can choose worn, or I can choose intimacy and community. I can choose safety or I can choose vulnerability. The Bible is clear on this, so I get to choose, do I believe myself or do I believe God? The choice seems simple.
[i] McNeil, Brenda Salter, Becoming Brave: Finding the Courage to Pursue Racial Justice Now (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Publishing Group, 2020)
[ii] Glennon, Doyle Melton, Love Warrior: A Memoir (New York: Flatiron Books, 2016), 222-23.