On mourning what was [and on walking towards the promises of God]

I lean in to his scrubs, dark blue and strong with the smell of that lilac detergent he bought on sale at the local grocery store. My face rests in that spot between his chest and his shoulder. The place you put your ear when you want to be reminded that somewhere out there a heart is still beating.

You may never get to be who you were before. You may never feel like that girl again.”

He whispers it to me gently, weeks before I walk down the aisle. I lay in bed at night thinking about it.

Before.

Before the disappointment. Before the diagnosis. Before the broken relationship. Before the lost job. Before the betrayal or the cried out prayers you feel were never heard.

We all have a ‘before.’ We all mourn something. Someone.

Maybe we mourn a crushed dream. A loved one. A moment in time we wish we could get back. But often, I think we mourn for who we used to be.

The mourning—sometimes it washed over me out of nowhere. I’d see ghosts of myself in other people. I’d turn away and try to forget that I was some new version of myself that I really didn’t like.

I mourned the girl who never had to watch her brother cry out in pain. The girl who never hid in closets, hands over her ears hoping that the lies and the anxiety would run away if she hid from them long enough. The girl who couldn’t get out of bed.

The girl who had not yet known what it was like to cry out to God and feel the silence.

I wanted back the days and the months and the years I felt I had been robbed of because they hadn’t turned out the way I had hoped.

I sat. Wallowing in sorrow and lament. Bitter and Stagnant.

Wright-58

She stood there, her wild, dark hair falling across her shoulders. Tall. Confident—like her eyes and her hands and her heart had seen enough to understand what it’s like to have life throw you some punches. Her eyes peered off in to the distance, remembering a part of herself she had once let go of.

You can’t go back to Egypt,” she said.

Tears filled her eyes and the words slipped off her tongue and my heart ached because oh, sometimes I want to.

Even though the desert sand and the ache in my feet is ultimately leading me to the Promised Land.

And I remember what I read once—that the only two things we are ever promised are pain and peace. But there cannot be one without the other. And there cannot be newness of life without burying it sometimes. There cannot be re-birth without brokenness.

It takes courage to rise up and keep trudging towards the land of milk and honey. To trust that the manna will keep appearing.

Because sometimes, even though we see the pillar of fire in the night, we don’t know where it’s leading us.

Sometimes it feels easier to sit in our disappointment. Our diagnosis. Our lament. Even in our bitterness. It feels easier to sit in what we knew to be true than to stand up and bravely walk ahead in our new skin. We can’t quite see where who we were before and who we are now begin and end.

I can’t go back to Egypt.”

I repeat the phrase out loud and the words sink in to my spirit.

Forget the former things.
Do not dwell on the past.
I am doing a new thing.

I look at myself in the mirror and study the lines of my face. I look the same.

Yet, I know my heart has been transformed. I’ve sat here in a pile of ashes wearing a sackcloth and mourning for days and months and years, wishing that the pain we are all inevitably promised had never happened.

I’ve been mourning what I was before, not realizing that the journey through the desert was making me stronger. More compassionate. More tender. More holy and sanctified. That this new skin I have covering my weathered bones feels braver and more confident than any skin I once wore.

And the things you mourn, friend? They have changed you for the better too. It may just take time for you to perceive them. But we cannot perceive the plans of our gracious father if we do not first put to bed our own version of how we thought the story ought to be. How it ought to end.

We bury. And new life grows. We mourn and then accept how the mourning has shaped us. We feel pain and then are washed in His peace.

We rise up from the ashes and trudge on towards the Promised Land. Surely goodness and mercy follow us.

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