“Occasionally, weep deeply over the life you hoped would be. Grieve the losses. Then wash your face. Trust God. And embrace the life you have.” – John Piper
We dedicate this post to those of you who are waiting on God and wondering if He hears and sees you. When I ran across this quote earlier today, it touched my heart – specifically because of where I saw it – posted on a dear friend’s Facebook wall. It reminded me of the heartaches we have been through together, of the long talks over coffee where we voiced our hurts, questions, and disappointments, and of the times she nursed me through my sickness and vice versa.
We dedicate this post to anyone whose life has not turned out the way you expected – the way you dreamed it would unfold. We dedicate this post to most of you.
Occasionally, weep deeply over the life you hoped would be.
When I was young, I dreamed of growing up, meeting the man of my dreams, getting married, and having children. The dating was going to be magical like every romantic movie I had ever watched. The wedding was going to be spectacular and my husband was going to love me like Christ loves the Church every single day of his life. ~smile~ Children would come three to five years later and we would raise them to love God and love others. Yes, life was going to be amazing.
Not surprisingly, my life’s plan did not go quite as expected. Considering I planned for perfection, I was surely going to be disappointed. Before I met Eric, I met with my share of broken hearts – some were my fault; others, simply because we live in a fallen world. Once Eric and I met, grew to love each other, and married, I thought, “Now it is going to be great. I get to live with the man I love.” And, it was great for a little while. Then, the weight of working full-time and going to graduate school began to weigh on us. Eric was the stellar student and I was the newlywed wife who wanted to skip the school work and spend time with my new husband. He felt frustrated with my lack of effort and I felt left behind as he put his heart and soul into learning.
And, like many newlyweds, I thought, “When we finish school, it will get better! We will have all the time in the world to spend together.” But, life is not like that. With adulthood came more responsibilities and more distractions. Graduate school ended, but more time-consuming projects rose to the surface and that is when I realized the life I expected was not going to happen.
As the years passed, the babies I longed to hold did not come, and as I continued to struggle with our busy lives, I would occasionally weep. Sometimes, I had to run – out of Bible studies, out of church – run to keep people from seeing the tears forcing their way down my face. And, weirdly enough, those tears made me feel guilty and petty. The whispers in my mind said, “You have so much to be thankful for and here you are sobbing because you do not have what you want. You’re a brat.”
Perhaps that is why the beginning of this quote drew me. It was like permission from a man of God. It was as if he was saying to me, “Heather, the tears are good. God gave you the tears. Use them. Cry until you cannot cry anymore. But, when you finish crying, get up. Do not wallow.”
Grieve the losses.
Years ago, a young woman said to a group of ladies I was in, “You cannot miss what you never had.” She was referring to children and suggesting that if she never had children, she would not be able to miss them. Oh, how she was mistaken. I did not realize how much you could love someone you have never met. A dream. A hope.
Though I have never gone through the anguish of losing a child, I still grieve over the babies who have not come. I grieve the dream of motherhood, feeling my child grow inside me, and holding him or her in my arms.
Though I have a wonderful husband who I love, our life has not been what either of us imagined when we walked down that aisle hand-in-hand.
It is okay to grieve the losses – even if the rest of the world does not acknowledge them as losses. In fact, I would say it is necessary to grieve the losses.
Then wash your face.
And, this is where I get stuck. I naturally want to linger in my grief longer than I should stay. This step is where I am tempted to question, “Did I hear the Holy Spirit’s voice? Did I miss something along the way? Should I have taken another path in life?” My mind wants to replay what got me to where I am and take me down different paths. What if I had gone to another school? What if I had taken better care of my body? What if? What if? What if?
But, this step is important. After cleansing the heart through tears and acknowledging the losses we have experienced, we need to breathe deeply, splash our face with cool water, and start walking towards our future. Washing our face is the ritual which separates our past from what is to come. We are saying, “My past is gone. I have cried. Life has not been what I thought, but my future is still before me. God is good.”
When I am tempted to question God and my decisions, I almost always end up thinking about my dear friend who posted this quote on her page today. Had my life gone the way I thought it should, I would never have met her. If God had given me every single desire of my teenage and twenty-something heart, she would not be with me now. Life’s pain and twists and turns led me to some amazing people and amazing places – people and places I would have missed if my life had gone as I had planned.
All along, God knew where I would struggle. Before He formed me in my mother’s womb, he knew I would be thirty-five and still waiting for motherhood. He knew I would be a heartsick twenty-four-year-old wondering why married life had to be so hard. As another friend recently reminded me, what we are going through is no surprise to God.
My life is not what I thought it would be, but I have also received so many blessings I never expected. God is worthy of our trust. He is a good, good Father. Even when He does not give us exactly what we want when we want it, He has our good and His glory in mind.
And embrace the life you have.
As I write this, I think of so many people I love who are waiting. They are waiting for husbands, wives, children, better jobs, desired doctor’s reports, and reconciliation. Sometimes the thought of embracing a life over which we have little control and a mysterious future seems impossible. Just let me get to the next rung on this ladder. Let me feel some success. Give me one win, Lord, and then I will embrace my life and stop questioning you.
Embracing is tough because it requires us to let go of what we thought our life should be. To be happy where we are, we cannot keep a death grip on dreams which did not come true. But, once we do, there is such joy. Once we give up the control we never had in the first place, there is freedom to look forward to what God has for our future and to thank Him for what He has already given us.
As believers, we may not know what is coming down the pike, but we can trust that our Heavenly Father will never leave us nor forsake us. We can expect peace which passes understanding. We know He is good and He gives good gifts to his children.
If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give good things to those who ask him! (Matthew 7:11, ESV)
Few of us will get through life and say, “It was what I expected,” but many of us will get to the end and say, “God blessed me in ways I would never have dreamed of when I was planning my course.”
The heart of man plans his way, but the Lord establishes his steps. (Proverbs 16:9, ESV)
I am thankful for the reminders God gives us, like this quote today, that we are not alone, that we are all grieving something, and that He is a trustworthy Father.
If you are struggling today, let me encourage you. It is okay to cry. It is healthy to acknowledge your losses and to grieve. Permit yourself to do both. Then, wash the warm salty tears away, look up to Heaven and say, “God, I want to trust you. Help me to trust you more.” And, when you have done all that, thank God for the life you have and look for all the subtle ways He has blessed you. He showers us with many blessings every day.
Much love to you all.
How did this quote by John Piper impact you?
Leave a Reply