We are a culture of moving forward. When tragedy strikes, you ask for prayers and nights out and oversized glasses of wine. You sob and wail and girl, you let that mascara run. But then, after the shockwave hits, you want to be that person who picks herself up and dusts herself off, bopping and smiling into the future. You don’t want to be that number who shows up on caller ID and people think “Oh no. There she goes again with the same sob story. Move on, already.”
But you can’t. You need to repeat the hurt and say the same lines over again and hear words of affirmation. You are strong. It will be okay. This too shall pass. It may take months of re-living the same hurt over and over again just to purge it from your system. It just takes as long as it takes, and not one day less.
The bottom line is that you are strong. You are healing. Your future is bright. But all of a sudden out of freaking nowhere you catch yourself moving backwards, or spinning in circles, and dwelling on some stupid tiny detail over and over. You just want to crawl in a hole and hide, or put on a good face and shut the hell up. And yet deep down, you know you need to get the ugly out.
Get it out, friend. Pick a few very close confidants and a therapist you trust and just keep repeating yourself. It’s 2 steps forward, 1.75 steps back. But you’re still moving forward. It’s just slower than you expected. Like the tortoise, one day you’ll cross that finish line and not have a clue how you made it so far.
Setbacks are discouraging. You want to think you’re tough and all that pain is helping establish perseverance. And yet we all relapse. We have moments that we need to vent and monopolize the conversation and suck the energy out of a phone call. There are times we just need to relive the hurt and lock ourselves in our closets for three minutes for a best friend to tell us we are going to be okay. I recently had such a conversation. It went like this:
“Talk to me,” my friend said. We’re so over hellos these days, because when I call at dinner time there must be a problem.
“Oh man. The kids’ show is almost over and they need to get in the bath and I’m such a wreck,” I say before inhaling a large anguish-filled breath. “The pain, it just won’t stop.” I don’t wait for an answer, like respectful people do. I just launch into a tirade and wait for words of affirmation to come out like a vending machine on the other end. Which is completely selfish. And so totally vain. And yet I need it like a drug fix so I long ago quit apologizing. Because if the tables were turned I would do the same for her.
“You are strong,” she says. “And you will get through this.” And she means it. She tells me I deserve more than I actually do, and that I’m more incredible that I actually am, and that God’s got this, and I nod and wipe my face and smile through the tears when my son comes busting in the closet. I sing a bath song and we hold hands and I somehow make it through the next three hours with a half-smile on my face. It’s a victory when I walk into the kitchen after the kids are down. I’m miraculously still alive.
Everyone has setbacks. I’m told they are normal, albeit annoying as hell, but each time they are a tiny bit easier to get over and I can rebound a little faster. And in the end, I think I am developing perseverance. I think God is working in the silence. But being refined by His fire is hot, and it sometimes hurts, and it’s never easy.
Stay in the heat. Grit your teeth and read the Word and keep burning. Talk to God when he doesn’t seem to be listening. Because someday the impurities will be gone, and God will restore, and you’ll find yourself thankful for the process. Like down-on-your knees-in-praise thankful. That’s what I’m telling myself, anyway.
Setbacks happen. Keep moving forward.