The photo from my friend in Lebanon came with text bubbles that said, “This family lost their 18 yr old son in a bombing just before they fled their home in Syria. 😢 4 yrs in the camp here and now they're being forced to leave. They have 2 days to pack and move. Don't have anywhere to go. Sooooo much sadness, and loss of hope for tomorrow. They just want to go home.....to nothing.”
I sat staring at the photo and her words. I replied back, “Don’t we all, just want to go home, return to the place we knew goodness and rest.”
Not to minimize the horrifically desperate circumstances of that family, because I cannot imagine the trauma, the loss and the hopelessness they have known. And, there are shared places where as human beings our souls can connect even in the most drastic of circumstances.
My pondering was interrupted by my husband’s invitation to come watch something. He’d been scrolling through old pictures and videos. I sat down next to him as he hit play on a video slide show we’d put together when our oldest daughter turned 18 and graduated from high school, a decade ago now. The music began to play and photos of her life cycled across the screen. Of course, the songs were predictably emotional and tugged at the ragged places in my heart. You know, how something ragged only needs a bit of a tug to unravel.
The journey forward hasn’t looked like I dreamed it would that April evening in 2007 as we celebrated her 18th birthday and impending graduation.
Between then and now we have tasted sweetness and joy that has exceeded what we felt that day, and we have been pierced by betrayal, loss and disappointment that is beyond what we had known up to that point as well.
As I sat watching the pictures in that video I had another set of pictures running alongside it in my head, the scenes that make up the past decade. There are scenes I want to cut, ones that don’t make sense, scenes that haven’t resolved into something picturesque and beautiful.
Generally, I think most of us have strong propensity to stop any suffering we are experiencing. We look for the cause of the suffering and seek to eradicate or fix it. We judge what is happening in hopes of blunting the pain by making sense of it in some way. In essence we say, “this story is terrible and I want it to end.”
But reality is that once a story begins to unfold in our lives we can never be the same, it becomes part of the fabric of our lives. Trying to eradicate it or minimize it takes a great deal of energy that in the end creates denial or deceit as we seek to hide it or squeeze it down to something small, manageable and barely noticed.
I texted back to my friend this morning,
She sent back, “That’s a big statement.”
I believe shalom is actually the place where every story belongs. Shalom is not peace in the absence of pain or chaos, shalom is the place where the opposites belong and the resulting wholeness brings peace.
Most recently for me this has meant considering, again, where Jesus is absent in some of my narratives as I talk with my counselor. If I believe that my heart and soul belong to the Lord than I am only whole when I am with Him and He is with me. When my stories reflect a lack of His presence then there is an absence of shalom.
I have found that I can only hold the “both/and” of my life’s unfolding stories with the help of Jesus and the wholeness that He brings.
So, here’s to the stories belonging, all of them. Shalom.