Each year as part of my position in my professional life, we attend a week-long, highly intensive class to continue our education in our field. In 2020, the class I was to take was called Minister as Person taught by John Evans, MFT. Everyone in our organization raved about this class and how life changing it would be! Most people learned more about themselves, their childhoods, their reaction responses, their new goals to become healthier, and more. Usually, everyone ended their raving reviews of this class with “and then you’ll want and need to see a counselor or therapist” and every time I heard that, I would internally respond “been there; done that.” See, after losing my dad to cancer almost ten years ago now, I spent five years in a downward spiral. I wouldn’t have claimed that then, but I was. I was overly coping with busyness and alcohol, had moved into a caretaking role of my mom’s cancer because she was diagnosed just nine months after losing my dad, and I was unhealthy. But inside, I thought I was doing everything I could to hold it together. After five years, I hit rock bottom of trying to do and be everything to everyone (a very common theme in my life) and couldn’t do it anymore. I started to see a therapist.
Fast forward, it’s January of 2020 and I’m still reeling from the death of my mom in December of 2019. But again, falling back into my theme of life, I decided to attend our international conference and then take this class the following week. Everything was fine until this one day in class when John began by explaining that we needed to acknowledge the hurt and loss and grieve that in order to be healthier individuals in our personal and professional life. “Grief?” I thought, “Great.” And then he had us do something that I never would have expected. He had us write a loss journal. He turned on some peaceful music and gave us what felt like an eternity. Slowly you could start to hear the sniffles as others recounted some of the ways that they experienced loss over the years. In all vulnerability, here are some of mine that I began to hone in on:
- 10 years ago my dad died of Stage 4 lung cancer a month after being diagnosed
- 9 months later my mom was diagnosed with Stage 3 ovarian cancer
- Year after year I fluctuated from joy to grief as she went through surgery after surgery, new treatments, new side affects, almost died twice, remission, and more
- Took on a ministry that was behind financially; was asked to step off staff for 4 months without a paycheck due to the lack of finances
- Battled for my job and my ministry while being a full-time caretaker
- Lost my mom in December 2019 to her cancer
- The pandemic hit and increased my isolation, grief, anxiety, and deep depression
- Diagnosed with BRCA I gene mutation and had a double mastectomy and reconstruction in January 2021
- My boyfriend cheated on me during my surgery recovery and broke my heart
I don’t share this to be a long list of “woe is me”. This list represents the Hebrew word “po ani” meaning “here I am” similarly to how roll call is taken in middle school. I’m here; I showed up; let’s not push it kind of attitude. But the interesting thing is that the more formal expression of this phrase in Hebrew is “hineni” meaning “here am I”. This is not just the I’m barely here, but the belief that you are ready to take a stand. This word happens to be used over and over again in the Old and New Testament and usually before a crisis for that person is about to ensue. It was used with Abraham before he was told to murder his son, when Moses was called by God from the Burning Bush, when God called out to Samuel, when God called out to see who would go on behalf of Him and Isaiah answered, and more.
It’s easy to keep our eyes on our own problems and to focus on only that, but something I’ve learned about grieving is that you can still own your hurt and in that owning of your hurt, continue to move towards the hope of peace, comfort, and better days to come. When we change our mindset from one of just showing up to standing up, we can draw near to the hard for the sake of the hope to come.
When we change our mindset from one of just showing up to standing up, we can draw near to the hard for the sake of the hope to come.Lindsay Bridges, Building Bridges
Your hurts and losses will be part of your story and because of your story with your survival, your strength, and your perseverance, you will get to help someone find hope. My encouragement for you today is that rather than working so hard to get rid of the hard pieces of our lives, let’s change our way of thinking so that when we are called to the hard things in life, we can rise in hope knowing that your story is important and vital to our world and to your community. Don’t be afraid of the mess and instead share the mess with your tribe, your people, your community. Your story is important and your stand in the process is heroic. Stand on that today.