We made it. Barely.
Truth be told I slid into March 1st with bloodied fingernails, a bruised ego, and a garbage can full of emotions that need to go to the dump. (Figuratively speaking of course.)
Despite my best efforts it's inevitable it seems that February gets the best of me. Maybe it's just February.
It seems unfair in a way, to blame February. It's not really February, after all. As I type this, on March 2nd, it seems almost silly now how utterly upset I was last week at the season. As if the weather singlehandedly was out to insult me. We took a huge dip into single digits again and the sun didn't visit for (what felt like) weeks. Was it days? Why did it seem so horribly long? So dark? So cold? So miserable?
I arrived at my gym on Friday with tears in my eyes. After a solid workout, my head felt better and slightly-less-implody. But it didn't take long for the “seasonal devastation” to wiggle back in.
How do I make this go away?
Do I need more Vitamin D?
More walks in the fresh air?
More exercise? Less exercise?
Was I getting enough sleep? Too much? Would getting up earlier help so that I can have some quiet time?
Does my monthly cycle affect this? How much? When?
Should we go out? Try to do something fun with the kids? I don't want to go anywhere.
Why am I feeling so hopeless about everything?
I arrived at church on Sunday with tears in my eyes. Before service, I greeted my dear friend Audrey. This past year has been indescribably difficult for her and I knew she was a safe soul to confide in about my struggles. Providentially, Audrey was the exact person I needed to talk to right at that moment. I asked her how she made it through her deeply difficult days – the days when the stuff that should bring you joy isn't. When the depth of life swallows you up. How do you turn it around? How do you prevent this from happening?
(I've been through these emotional surges enough to know they pass. I know that. But when you're in the middle of them, you feel helpless. Like you're lost at sea forever.)
Audrey shared with me a quote from a mutually favorite theologian, John Calvin himself, that helped her to make it through those hard days: “It is as if the Lord has assigned us a post, which we must maintain til he recalls us.”
One more time for those in the back.
“It is as if the Lord has assigned us a post, which we must maintain til he recalls us.”
Audrey has been called to a hard post. She lost her young (and positively wonderful) daughter to brain cancer March 11th of last year. She's had to make it through 356 days without her. 356 days of a job assignment she didn't want. 356 days of having to get up, put in her time, and simply be at the post. Audrey explained to me that this concept was deeply comforting to her – to know that it wasn't some grand journey she was on. There wasn't a path out of her pain. There wasn't anything for her to “do” to fix the depth of her grief. It wasn't a problem to solve. There wasn't a missing piece – something she could or couldn't do. It was, instead, a call to be faithful for the post she'd been given. (We'd be silly to think that a God who created the heavens and earth would allow time spent manning a post to return void – that is to say, we are profoundly changed by our act of manning the post – but that's for another day).
I cannot comprehend the pain of what Audrey feels at her post. I'm at mine – I know what that feels like. And you, well, you my friend know yours. We have been called to our own.
The idea that I could simply be at the post. Just there. This lifted the burden I'd been carrying around on my heart these past few weeks unnecessarily almost instantly. Audrey further went on to explain that on her hard days, her job is simply to make it through – to get through the shift. God has called her to man the post of a mother who has lost a child, while simultaneously being a mother who has other children to care for. This is her work. Some days can cut so deeply, the work is just getting through the next five minutes. I don't get to the five-minute-marker very often, but I've been there before. Maybe you have too.
I was given such great comfort from this simple perspective shift: I'm not conquering my ___________, I'm acknowledging what my post is and baring that hard work faithfully.
But first, does this mean we can just sleep on the job and do nothing? Surely not. There's work to be done at our post. It's our assignment, our task.
What does baring that hard work faithfully look like?
For me, minimizing the collateral damage. That means, given my assigned post, I'm not allowed to thrash those around me as if this their fault. That doesn't mean I can't (or don't) share with those around me. My husband is strong and skilled at helping me carry my heavy load. Sharing is one thing. But lashing out is unfaithful to the work at hand. We all know how easily our husbands and kids and friends can get caught in the cross fire. We should not allow any harm to innocent bystanders.
It also means manning the post without grumbling. Without a complaining heart. Don't like the post you've been given? Tell me someone who does. As Stuart often says: it's not that you're not where you should be, it's that you're not who you should be where you are.There is no life without grief, no love without loss, no story without challenge, no gain without burden, no glory without sacrifice. Someone's post is harder than yours, someone's is easier. Yours is harder than someones and simultaneously easier than others. Comparison is unnecessary – your post is yours. You can have no one else's and no one else can have yours. As Jerry Seinfeld hates to say: it is what it is. We should all expect to be changed by our assignments – we cannot man our posts and remain unchanged anymore than a soldier can return from a deployment as the same man who left.
I realize (especially since I sat down originally to right a hopeful post about spring) this may come across as a bit, well, depressing? My apologies if it's so. But I find this understanding of our work to actually be a huge relief.
I don't have to fix my post. Hard as it is, it isn't broken.
Be relieved of the burden, my friend. Of solving it. Fixing it. Changing it.
We can stop fighting it. This is the post where we are meant to be. Your job is simply to be there.
And you're there.