Sometimes There’s No Happy Endings
I have serious issues with unhappy endings, especially those based on real events. I never even watched the Titanic because I knew it was just going to make me like characters that would all be killed off at the end. I couldn’t bear it. Maybe because I’ve always struggled with depression and that type of movie doesn’t exactly add to my perkiness factor.
I did, unfortunately, watch A Perfect Storm because my mother-in-law raved about how wonderful it was and that it was based on true events. My husband I watched it after the kids had gone to bed and we could pop in a movie from Blockbuster. By the time I realized (spoiler alert) that all the main characters were going to die, it was near ending and too late to just turn it off. Tears welled up and I kept hysterically crying out and yelling at my husband, “No! They can’t all die! How could your mother say this was a good movie – this is a horrible movie! Why did she say it was good! They can’t all die! I HATE this movie!!!”
Yeah, I have issues.
It’s hard for me to write for this blog when my life is messy and it takes heroic courage just to trudge through the muck of each day. So I haven’t been writing. For months I haven’t been writing. My life isn’t packaged up into a good-news-gospel-Jesus-makes-life-perfect package. My life is messy. And I hate sharing my messy when I don’t have a happy ending to share, too. I hate inviting people into my messy. It’s so much safer to retreat and hide the vulnerability.
I’d like to wait until I’ve got a happy ending, or a bit of happy and hope and encouragement to share. Butterflies and flowers fluttering around. But the fact is – sometimes life is messy, and sometimes it’s really, really hard to hang onto the hope. Sometimes we have to remember that as Catholic Christians our most real happy ending is heaven. And that’s easy to forget when we’re in the trenches and it’s hand to hand combat for our souls.
You Can Run…But You Can’t Hide!
Sometimes I want to run away and hide from God. I’m like the little bunny in Margaret Wise Brown’s great philosophical classic “The Runaway Bunny.” I read it many times over the years when my children were young.
“Once there was a little bunny who wanted to run away.
So he said to his mother, “I am running away.”
“If you run away,” said his mother, “then I will run after you. For you are my little bunny.”
Sometimes I want to run away. I put my hands on my hips, jut out my big pouty lip, and stomp my foot at God and tell Him, ” I am running away!” Sometimes I just want to be alone, even alone from God.
Sometimes I feel like I am alone in the darkness, fumbling, falling, flailing as I struggle to drag myself along the way.
Sometimes Feelings Lie
Now we turn away from classical children’s literature to the profound truths in the Bible, where the psalmist seems to always have words that match up to my feelings: laments, praise, grief, rejoicing. The Psalms offer the hope that sometimes is failing me. I can steal the psalmist’s words and hold onto them as I make his words into my prayer, into the words that repeat the truth to me when my feelings keep whispering (or shouting) lies.
“Where can I hide from your spirit? From your presence, where can I flee?
If I ascend to the heavens, you are there; if I lie down in Sheol, you are there too.
If I fly with the winds of dawn and alight beyond the sea,
Even there your hand will guide me, your right hand hold me fast.
If i say, “Surely darkness shall hide me, and night shall be my light” –
Darkness is not dark for you and night shines as the day.
Darkness and light are but one. ” Psalm 139 7-12
Sometimes I try to hide, like a young child who thinks that by covering her eyes she can no longer be seen. God of course still sees me and loves me and doesn’t let go of my hand, even when I wriggle and squirm. I’ve prayed so many times for Him to not let go even when I let go of His hand – and He has always, always answered that prayer.
Psalm Sung Blue: A Musical Interlude with Frank Sinatra
So…Where’s God When We Need Him?
God’s love is the greatest mercy and beyond what we can understand. It is beyond our faults and failings and anxiety and depression; it’s beyond our weakness and retreats and anger and grief. God’s mercy and love are beyond our understanding and really and truly within our faults and failings and anxiety and depression and weakness and retreats and anger and grief.
During all our feelings and emotions and experiences – God isn’t “out there” somewhere. He is in the midst of them with us; cradling us, cherishing us, crying with us, willing to make all things work together for good. It’s not always a good of the moment and it’s hard to trust that the promised good is coming, but we hold on to the knowledge that we see so little of the very big picture and “working together for good” doesn’t end at death.
Jesus redeemed death by His passion, death and resurrection. Heaven is the ultimate “good” and what we live and long for as we fight with as much courage as we can muster. And it does take great courage to live as a Christian, a Catholic. There is no resurrection without the cross. The way of the cross is not a day at the beach with a frosty Pina Colada as the waves lap at our toes. The cross is messy. Our lives our messy. Even with dark chocolate and cheetos for consolation.
Sometimes it doesn’t feel like all things pass through the hands of a Good God or that things are “working together for good”(Romans 8:8), but I know that it’s true and I use every bit of courage I can muster hold onto that truth when the depths of the darkness and despair of severe depression suffocates me.
Messy Middles, Happy Endings, Laments and a Bit of Hope
I need the Old Testament Psalms because my own psalms would have a uniquely whiney eloquence something like this…
My Psalm: A Lament in a Time of Wretchedness
To be sung by the smallest and weakest.
Lord, my life really sucks right now.
It’s been pretty lousy the last eight years.
So I declared a Jubilee Year for myself two years ago.
I thought we were in that Jubilee thing together;
the year to be set free from an array of issues,
to take on new projects, reconnect with neglected friends.
In celebration I hit my head twice and got a concussion,
and post-concussion syndrome,
which made my speech and my brain not quite right,
and opened the floodgates of anxiety,
and unleashed the darkness of depression so deep that it often disables me.
And ended any thoughts of starting a new “career.”
And it wasn’t the Jubilee year that I thought it would be,
but instead it brought reconciliation in a broken relationship.
Which was good.
But I’m getting tired here, Lord.
Why don’t you fix me already?
Why is it still such a daily struggle?
Maybe we can just take a break from each other for awhile, Lord;
just leave me alone with my dark chocolate and Netflix,
which are for me the “wide-leafed plant” that you provided Jonah for comfort,
when he was filled with self-pity and whining about the Ninevites whom you forgave.
(Although if I recall you did cause that plant to wither up rather quickly.)
I join my friend Job to sit in the ashes, and like him I will not curse you Lord.
And like him, “I have no peace nor ease; I have no rest, for trouble comes!”
And I read his complaints, and I know that Job understands my mess.
He would not be a friend sitting and condemning me for a lack of faith or secret sins
as his friends sat, offering no comfort but only condemnation.
Job would be a supportive friend, reminding me that
“…the Lord gave and the Lord has taken away; blessed be the name of the Lord.”
Reminding me that God is still good even in the midst of despair.
And I remember the courage of Job as he spoke those words after losing everything.
And I want to be courageous in my love for God, too. Like Job.
But sometimes I’m too weak and I don’t have enough courage or strength
and I don’t want to be reminded of God’s goodness.
Job would remind me,
“We accept good things from God; and should we not accept evil?”
And he would remind me that we deal with great things that we do not understand,
“…things to wonderful for me, which I cannot know.”
And Job would remind me that although my life is messy right now
this is not the end of my story,
and it’s okay not to jump for joy every day.
And he might even tell me that when I run away like the little bunny,
God will always run after me because He loves me.
*Biblical quotes from Noah Chapter 4; Job 2:21 and 2:10; Job 42:3 from my St Joseph Edition of the New American Bible published by Catholic Book Publishing Co, Copyright 1992
A “hat tip” to John Janoro of “Never Give Up” for setting an example that gave me the courage to speak out more personally out my struggle with chronic physical and mental illness. Read his spiritual inspirations at John Janaro’s blog Never Give Up. He’s also the author of Never Give Up available at Amazon and other bookstores.
And a shout out to the Bloggess who can make me smile even when I’m having an anxiety attack. If your life is crazy because you’re struggling with anxiety, etc and can use a good laugh now and a new perspective on life, head on over or grab her latest best selling book Furiously Happy and check out her taxidermy collection. No, she’s not weird, why would you think that??? (Not reading for anyone easily offended by bad words.)
And I’d be grateful if you shared this article on your favorite social media so others who stumble along the Little Way will find a place where they’ll know they’re not alone in their struggles, successes and joys.