“If we can learn to trust God, the next movement of our soul is to trust ourselves.” -Richard Rohr
“Don’t hurt no more, but you don’t forget the pain.” -Adam Doleac, “Faded”
I’ve watched many a sunset in my life, and all have somehow been different. Some more colorful, some more subdued, but all beautiful in their own way. It’s the end of the day that displays itself so magically, almost as if the sun gives its own snapshot of its 12-hour journey through a short display of clouds and color. Then, in just a few short minutes, it sinks. It abandons its spotlight for night, a time without much light or color. But somehow, the moon still reflects the sun’s work in its own. In fact, that’s all it does– reflects something bigger and brighter than itself. Until a few hours later, when the sun re-emerges with a new set of colors. Except, this time it’s not displaying an end, but a beginning. It’s distinctly beautiful and different than a “setting”– the colors are more golden, painted with promise instead of memory, life instead of death. And as it makes its way over the tree tops, it shares that light with everything around it. And it rises.
There are hundreds of thousands of people that have written on the mystery of suffering. Different people have defined it in different ways according to their own experiences, and none are less true than another. But my personal favorite definition that I’ve found is perhaps the simplest: the deep realization of the fact that you are not in control. Death, loss, pain– the suffering experienced from all of the above is summed up in that simple statement. It hurts, and you can’t do anything about it. Dealing with that is suffering.
“Pain, man it’s something, sent from God above.” I remember writing that years ago in some song lyrics I was playing around with at the time. I also remember people having issues with that statement– that is, the idea of seeing pain as something sent from God. As something that can, in fact, be good. Not because of the nature of it, but because of what it requires and produces. I see suffering as a forced retreat into the depths of yourself– the basement of yourself, if you will. It makes you go into places you won’t otherwise go. It forces your hand, shows you what you’re made of. Sunset-endings beg to be overcome by sunrise-beginnings. One can’t happen without the other. We are reminded daily that colors of pain eventually resurrect the colors of promise.
No matter where you are in life, there is always a higher level at which to arrive. Sometimes, perhaps it’s the lack of option to do otherwise that propels us upward, that shoves us into an ascension of our circumstances, no matter how deep the pain of it goes. There is a pivotal moment in every suffering state that feels like you are at the end of yourself… that you cannot rise. And in that moment, it is very possible to fall backwards, downwards, and assume a powerless position to the hurt and pain inflicted. Or… you can choose to use the end of yourself as the beginning of something so much more. The beginning of something out of your own scope, out of your own control and merit. You accept your wounds as lessons learned, bandage them accordingly and let them scab over. Watch them harden, as they protect themselves. Trace the scars left behind as an initiation into what lies ahead. And when you look in the mirror to start your day, your eyes meet someone stronger, someone that has learned in the most effective way. And someone that won’t forget any of it.
And then, you find your riser.
Whatever your wreckage looks like, I believe the entire point is to emerge from it. And to do so by yourself, for yourself. Because once you choose to rise, there is proof that you are not the same. You have found a newness that cannot be given to you by someone else. You have understood that the people around you don’t hold the answers you’re looking for. Rather, your answer, your newness, is learned and chosen within. Experienced in its fullest. And in that process, you are able to let the messes be messes… and simply walk away better because of them.
It’s that collision of embracing where you are and letting go of where you’ve been that eclipses into a deep moment of trust– both in God and yourself. Mainly, because you’ve developed a new understanding of resurrection that’s more real to you than the stories we’re taught in Sunday School. It’s more real because it has happened personally. You have encountered a God that goes after you at your lowest point to remind you that you have a choice in who you will be. And once you’ve made your decision, He fills your cracks and brokenness with newness and grace to rebuild you into someone you can trust again, constantly reminding you that you cannot trust Him without also trusting who He’s made you to be.
One thing is for certain… people, places, environments, situations, etc. can break and disappoint you if you let them. It can feel cold, abrupt, and artificial– almost unreal in many cases. But the beautiful thing about being broken is that you are put back together in a way to avoid breaking the same way again. Your joints are more supported. Your chips and scratches can more-or-less be repaired. And you are able to see a piece of the bigger picture instead of nothing but the moment. To quote a lyric from my big bro, “it don’t hurt no more, but you don’t forget the pain.” And man… is there a power in that.
So, for those of you who are in the midst of a struggle– you should know that you have a choice in the stance you’re taking against it. You can let doubt, indecision, and insecurity take the reigns of your life or you can choose to silence those lies with the sobering truth that you are made for more than that. Embrace the challenge, and refuse to be in the backseat of your emotional roller coaster. Don’t let others change what you know to be true. Feel everything, as you work towards rising to your next level–above your circumstances, situations, friends, colleagues, failures, insecurities… We are called to rise from the wreckage into something bigger. You are capable of finding newness in your next steps, but you must choose to find it. Once you truly do, you’ll find your riser. It’s what we’re made for–to rise, to ascend, to overcome.
From my ride to yours, here’s to the sunset-endings that paint our lives with what has been. And here’s to the sunrise-beginnings that hold promise because of them.