Yesterday, as I was walking down the street to my car after teaching class, I had a thought. The thought came as a migraine threatened, causing something behind my eye to pulse ominously. The thought came as the pulsing increased, forcing me to scowl at the world in an attempt to block out the light. It came as I passed a roaring construction site, crossed the street, told homeless George selling papers to have a good weekend, and noticed the brambles of dead vines in the dormant patch of trees to my left. The thought was this:
“Life is brutiful.”
I got that word from Glennon Melton over at Momastery.com. She uses it to describe the intertwined brutal and beautiful nature of life, and she argues that since it is impossible to separate those two sides, the best thing to do is to embrace them both. I could not agree more.
Take my headache, for example. Like I alluded to in the last post, my headache came after almost a month of feeling bad, and I realized firsthand how consistent fatigue and illness can really depress one’s mood and turn them inward. Take right now, I thought to myself. I don’t care about anybody right now; all I can think about is my pounding head. It is making me completely selfish.
Or, I thought, I can choose to let it teach me. I can let it give me a sense of humor. I mean, isn’t is just a little funny that I am walking past this incredibly loud construction site with a migraine? Isn’t there some black humor in there? I smiled to myself. Life is brutiful.
Or, I thought, I can use my headache as a reminder that people suffer all the time, that people suffer without us ever knowing, and to be gentle with people who might be suffering. I can let my pain awaken me to the suffering of others. That thought prompted me to be extra nice to George as I passed by. Life is brutiful.
Or, I thought, I can use my pain to help me find beauty in things that don’t normally seem beautiful. Take this tangle of dead vines and trees. They look so gray and ugly. But are they really? I looked more closely, and saw the intricacy in brambles, the delicacy of each individual vine…and I saw the promise of spring coming soon. Life is brutiful.
You really can’t separate the brutal and the beautiful. Even those moments that seem sublime get at least some of their joyous power from the black depths.
For example, yesterday at preschool, I was sitting outside in the van with Anna. She requested that I roll down the window, because, in her words, “I just love feeling the breeze and the sunlight.”
The reason I obsessively record such moments, the reason I cherish each drop of heaven that comes from raising my two children is largely because of my precious brother’s untimely death almost three years ago. The seismic shift that that event caused in my soul rocked me to my core. It caused immense pain…but it also forever changed the way I view life and, particularly, motherhood. It taught me, in a way far more profound than mere intellectual understanding, to savor every beautiful moment with my kids, to drink them up, to record them and revisit them often. Now, would I trade that understanding in a second to have my brother back? Heck yes–you bet I would. But I don’t have that choice. My only option is to embrace the brutiful.
This morning, I read over my 2012 prayer journal and was just about moved to tears over my January. Reading over it, I realized how I really did spend most of it battling fatigue, illness, stress and even mild depression as a result of it all. I really had no idea until I saw my daily entries, each pleading with God to help me feel better, to give me the energy to get through this day, to equip my inadequate soul to be a good teacher, a good minister’s wife, a good mother. Besides the health issues, I realized what a big adjustment this year has been. Less than a year ago, my son went to preschool eight hours a week, and my daughter was home full-time. Just a few short months later, and my son is in kindergarten eight hours a day, and my daughter is in preschool three days a week. Add to that a new house, a new state, a new church, and my first true job since my kids have been born…and it becomes obvious that I’m experiencing some growing pains.
But January was not simply hard; it was brutiful. Because of the challenges, I also experienced some true spiritual highs. I had healing and therapeutic talks with old friends, including a life-giving visit with my best bud from South Carolina. I bonded with some wonderful sisters at my new church over some particularly transparent and open class discussions. I was blessed by some of the most transcendent experiences with God’s nature, particularly His amazing sunrises, which He regularly used to pour peace and hope into my weary soul. I had some incredible days with my children, since our greater separation compelled me to cherish every sweet second that they were at home. My bond with my husband grew even deeper, as we once again teamed up through a tough time and established that we are not only spouses, we are BFF for life.
It was truly a brutiful month.
And now my mama is in town. She regularly spoils us, and sometimes I admit I take it for granted. But this visit, I am ready to kiss her feet. My gratitude for her generosity, her love, and her thoughtfulness is overwhelming, in a way that it probably would not have been if my life had been sailing along smoothly.
One day, when I live in the fullness of God’s kingdom for eternity, life will be simply beautiful. But for now, I thank Him for the brutiful. I thank Him for bringing beauty out of the brutal, for working all things for good, even as they cause us pain. I thank Him for using our brutiful lives to draw us closer and closer to Him, so that finally, when the brutiful gives way to the beautiful, we will be right at home…
How has your life been brutiful?