Sunday, 29 March 2015

Why I celebrate

I officially hit a quarter of a century - 25 years on the earth - later this week.

I've always loved birthdays, my own and other people's (more on this here). Making it a special day, marking it with something different. I never understood people who said they didn't celebrate their birthdays: why wouldn't you?

And yet this year, I've anticipated my birthday with nothing close to joy or excitement. Having a birthday and - specifically - turning such an undeniably 'adult' age means I can no longer hide behind the guise of being a 'Young Person' or '21 plus a few'. My Peter Pan-like self is forced to come face-to-face with the truth that I am, to all intents and purposes, an adult.

When I was younger and I dealt with these 'worries', I always expected that it would be a passing phase, something I'd grow out of; that by the time I was 'grown up' (whatever that means) I'd be a fully-fledged, fully-functioning adult and these fears would be a distant memory of adolescence. Marking my birthday means facing the painful reality that right now I'm kind of in a place I hoped I'd never be again.

So many people must feel similarly when their day rolls around. I can see why marking 'special' days after the loss of a loved one, a terminal diagnosis, or a relationship breakup is too painful to face.

And Yet. I'm still going to celebrate on that day. Not because life is perfect or particularly happy right now, not because I've achieved what I hoped to by 25 or that I'm where I hoped I'd be, but simply that I have LIFE. Joy may be somewhat eclipsed at the moment, but I still have family and friends who love me and a God who gave me life.

While I have breath in me, I have a reason to thank God for it. While I have life, there is reason to celebrate.
(Heck, there's even more reason after this life, but that's for another time).

When I'm coping okay, I can see the point of all of the above. But when I'm struggling, it feels far from what I want to do. Despite this, I choose to see my birthday as an archetype of the way I wish I lived every day. Not as a day where we pretend life isn't difficult and the world isn't broken, but a celebration of what we have, with a hope for what the future could hold.

Sunday, 15 March 2015

Painfully / Honest

I sat in the bar, chatting with my sister. Being able to lay my heart and mind open without self-censorship was healing in itself. We were discussing how to go about talking honestly with people about our struggles.

My take on it is this: I have absolutely no desire to make people uncomfortable, and I know that there are appropriate and less appropriate times and ways to share stuff. But I cannot be part of communities where we are obliged to hide our brokenness. Maybe it was possible for me at other times, but it’s not right now. Pretending that everything’s fine is a lie, and one that’s too painful to carry on top of the other stuff. I would rather be without community than be part of one that is not real. 

During our conversation, we also talked about my frustrations with being ‘that person’ again, the one who’s not okay yet again, the one who’s still crying despite the fact that we prayed for her the last three weeks. 

The imposition. 

My sister said a hundred wise things that evening, and my memory is too poor to remember many of them. But one thing she said spoke to me so deeply. 

‘We are all broken. And that is okay’.

And it wasn’t said like, ‘that’s okay for now, but you should probably sort yourself out sometime soon’. It was from a place of complete acceptance and peace with all of our broken bits.

Some of you reading will, I imagine, feel mega-uncomfortable with all of this kind of talk. Emotions and vulnerability and being exposed etc.  But whether it’s a relative’s death or depression or a broken relationship or a secret regret, we all have our little broken bits.  Yes, mine are more obvious at the moment. They feel more like gaping sores than little scars. But that is okay. I’m still alive; I’m still valuable and loved. I still have worth and can still contribute, in the midst of and despite of my brokenness.

I’m not saying I want to be allowed to wail loudly during sermons. I don’t need people to ask me in-depth questions about the things I am struggling with. I’m just suggesting that there are things we can all do to make our communities places which welcome people who are not ‘sorted’, a space for people who are hurting as well as those who rejoice.  The Christian faith sums up perfectly the bittersweet paradox where sorrow and joy sit alongside one another. I would love for our communities to be the same.

With thanks to my little communities who accept me as I am :-) x