Just yesterday I met a dear friend, who also happens to be a counselor, for lunch to catch up. As we ate she asked me how I was doing. I almost gave her my standard answer, “it’s hard, but I’m good.” Then I remembered who I was talking to and tried to offer a little more depth to my answer.
“I think I am doing great considering. I even asked Marshall how he thought I was doing and He thinks I am hurting, but doing well,” I said to her.
This conversation went on, and she was probing me.
“How do you know you are doing well?” and “What does well mean?”
“Gosh. I don’t know.” I admitted.
As I began to verbalize why I thought I was doing well. My measuring stick for “well” is that I am able to hold it together most of the time, and only really lose it or cry once in a while. Most of the time I am able to be present. But is that really what “well” means? Is that what “well” means to God? Is that all that God has for me through this is just to hold it together and be “well”?
This friend knows my tendency to be performance driven so she went on to ask me this question, “why did you ask Marshall how you were doing? Did you need his approval?”
At first it irritated me a little, and I started to get defensive. “No, I don’t need his approval I thought!” But as I paused for a moment to collect the swirling thoughts, it occurred to me that she was right. I was seeking his approval on how well I was grieving – or yet how well I was holding it together.
“I guess I asked him because I wanted to feel normal. I wanted to be reassured that how I am handling grief is acceptable. I don’t want to lose it. I don’t want to fall apart. I guess I do want his approval to make sure I am grieving appropriately.” I sat in shock of what I heard come out of my mouth.
“So,” she said, “would you say you believe your grief has to fit within the confines of a certain box or look a certain way in order to be acceptable?”
And then she said one of the most freeing things I have heard in a long time.
“Stephanie, you have permission to fall apart.”
I have permission to fall apart. It is okay to fall apart. There is freedom in falling apart. There is freedom in being able to say I don’t have it together because my heart is shattered. Grief is appropriate when we lose who we love.
To lighten the conversation a little we joked that my performance mentality was flaring up and strove to be the best griever. I suppose there is no reward for being the best grieve-er, but if there was….! Ha!
I walked out of lunch that day wondering, what does falling apart look like? In my performance based, hold it all together, look perfect facade I operate out of sometimes, I am not even sure I know what it means or how it looks to fall apart. How do I let go so God can rescue me here and now?
Later that evening after I had some time to further process this conversation, it dawned on me. God can’t put back together the broken pieces if I don’t let the pieces fall. My heart is shattered. But here I am holding on to each piece of my broken heart, clenching on to it, to hold it in place so I don’t fall apart and look crazy to the world.
It dawned on me that if I don’t allow myself to be fully broken, I likely can’t experience the complete healing that is available. In my effort to walk quickly through grief, to feel it but not feel it too much, I was robbing God of an opportunity to bless me, and I was robbing myself of an opportunity to be healed.
Psalm 119:107 says, “Everything’s falling apart on me, God; put me together again with your word.”
It is God’s word that puts me back together again. Remembering his promises of hope and peace give me a refreshed spirit and hunger for more of Him. Hurrying through it doesn’t give me the time or focus on Him to let him put me together, so I move forward still broken.
Through this conversation, and then time alone with God on the subject, I have come to learn some things.
- Grief doesn’t look a certain way. It doesn’t fit into a tidy box. It doesn’t look pretty. There is no “best grieve-er” award. Wink!
- There is no fast-track version of moving through grief.
- Allowing myself permission to fall apart enables me to trust God to put me back together.
- Grieving with friends who walk closely with Jesus is an incredible blessing.
Psalm 119:114 (MSG) says, “You’re my quiet place of retreat. I wait for your word to renew me.”
As I become open to the fact that it’s okay to all apart, I will lean on God as my quiet retreat. Grieving doesn’t end in a week or month. It doesn’t just shut off. There is no on/off switch. But if I am patient, if I am willing to fall apart in the loving arms of my heavenly father, if I am willing to meditate on the truth of word THEN I will be renewed. Then He will put me back together piece by piece.
So Hope Seeker, if in your effort to move through the grief and hurt in your life you have been clinging onto each hurting part, trying to hold it all together, to be the strong one, to feel but not fall apart, you are not alone. If this is you, God’s got you. Will you, like my sweet friend challenged me, give yourself permission to fall apart?
He knows your hurting heart. He wants to be your quiet retreat. His words will renew your spirit. As you dig into his word, His word will wrap each hurt and each heartache with the healing balm of his hope filled words. Be patient. Wait on Him. Don’t try to rush through these hard seasons. Allow Him the time to take each broken piece and put it back together into a beautiful mosaic to reflect His glory.