The Necessity of Holding All the Feelings | The Lesson in the Challenge

Three years ago, our mama was dying on Good Friday. The weeks leading up to the holiday, the same ones we’re living right now, were burdened by her pain, our fears, so much hurt, and the inescapable truth that this would be her last Easter. Despite that unspoken truth, our mama fought hard to get up and get ready, to smile for the camera as we took our first complete family picture. Surrounded by all of her girls, all of her son in laws, and all of her grand babies, she held a tiny precious granddaughter in her tired arms and smiled. That picture, it would be our first and our only.

If you celebrate Easter as the Christian denomination does, then you know that it is supposed to be a victorious holiday. It is a day to remember that death was defeated, that this life is far bigger and greater than the days we live here on Earth. It is not a season to be dying. 

This week, nearly three painful years later, we again march towards the Easter holiday. It is a weekend that, again, is going to look nothing like we want it to. There will be no church, no community Easter egg hunts, no brunch shared with family and friends. There will be no piano music rolling across church sanctuaries, no sunshine pouring across families collectively gathered around tables, no tiny new lives nestled in the arms of their grandparents.

After weeks of quarantine, fear, and very real uncertainty about the country(s) we all call home and the lives and health of the people we love, it’d be easy to again feel the way I felt three years ago. It’d be easy to think that sadness or grief or fear is all there is – that there is no reason to celebrate Easter, or birthdays, or anniversaries, because people are dying and people are hurting and this is not the way any of it was supposed to be. 

But I think there is something to be learned in all of this. That there was something to be learned three years ago. That there will be something to be learned when we again (because we all will) stand in a place we don’t want to be standing.

Really, I think every hard season, every night you lay awake, every child you cry desperate tears over, is meant to teach us something. And right now, and really throughout the last five or so years, it has become (and remains) very clear to me that we are allowed to hold contradictory feelings at the same time. That really, this may be one of the most lovely parts of being human – that we are both equipped and permitted to feel joy and grief, victory and death, anger and gratitude at the same time.

I told my mama I was pregnant while she lay in an ICU bed fighting to stay off a ventilator. Joy and fear, together.

I spent an Easter watching my mama die while she stood and sang about a victorious savior. Victory and death, together. 

I sat in the dark holding my newborn baby when my mama breathed her last breath. Gratitude and grief, together. 

A shared birthday between my daughter and my mama, never celebrated side by side. Thankfulness and anger, together. 

So, what are we supposed to DO with all of this? I’m not sure. I’m really not. But I have learned that trying to ignore these dichotomies, trying to wrap things up in a tidy bow, trying to ignore the anger, or the grief, or the anxiety, none of those are good choices. None of those are the right choices.

I think that ultimately, I just want to encourage you to feel all of it. I want to give you the freedom to sit in grief, or lament, or frustration. I want you to know that acknowledging your pain, your struggle, or your anger does not mean you are ungrateful for your blessings. That you can feel anger and gratitude in the same breath, even right this very minute, as you muddle your way through quarantine, pandemic, Good Friday, or the very sobering reality that you’d prefer things to be a very different way.

You don’t get to stay in those places. You don’t get to sit in lament and grief for you whole life. No one gets permission for that. But we desperately need to experience and feel those seasons in order to feel the fullness of joy too.

Our world, our communities –  sometimes they can work very hard to put us in boxes. Black or white. Blue or red. Male or female. Blessed or broken. But the griefs we feel, the angers, the pains, the frustrations, the joys, the hopes – they don’t fit in boxes. We don’t fit in boxes. What you are feeling, right now, doesn’t fit tidily in a box. And that’s okay. It really is. 

In fact, I think it’s exactly the way it is supposed to be.  



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