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When the Conflict Comes

I’m angry. Can I even admit that? It is not the fashionable answer. The fashionable answer would be fine. But this is not fine. It does not feel fine. And I am not fine. I am not good, or cheerful or happy. This is not how I planned my life to go. I never wanted this sickness, this pain, this medical debt I can’t seem to catch up on, the aches of memories past, the fear of what may never be, the recognition of what is, the loss of friends I loved so dearly. I am angry. And I am sad. And I am grieved. And I am exhausted. And when I have been all of those emotions I come home and sit in my chair and I am numb. I am so numb. I don’t think I’m supposed to tell you any of this. I think I’m supposed to say something inspirational. But I have sat in silence for four months because I had nothing inspirational to say. And I realized sometimes the inspirational is just in the vulnerable. Sometimes we can be encouraging just by being honest. And maybe I don’t have a lot of inspiration right now, but I do have a lot of vulnerability, and I do have a lot of honesty.

Lately I’ve been doing a lot of thinking. I’ve taken time away from people, retreated into a safe place as it were in my heart. And there, in that place, I’ve thought a lot about stories. Donald Miller talks a lot about story. Have I told you about him? He wrote an entire book about it. A Million Miles in a Thousand Years, that’s his book. And when he talks about story in his book, he also talks about conflict and how it is necessity to a good story. I am not even halfway through his book but I know he’s right. Every story- every good story- has conflict. There must be conflict. There has to be conflict. There has to be danger, and peril, and fire, and evil queens, and corruptions, and dragons, and death defying stunts. There has to be sickness, or failure, or bogs, or if we are lucky maybe a rodent or two of unusual size. Somehow, in some shape or another, conflict will come. And with it, comes a good story. The kind of story we write into books, and make into movies, and tell to our children and our children’s children and our children’s children’s children, over and over and over again. We don’t care about the easy stories. The one where Jack and Jill go up a hill and do nothing. We want the good stories, when Jack and Jill go up a hill and discover something they never expected, something that is so much more than just a pail of water. Because when they discover that thing, and they go through the danger, and the peril, and the fire to get it, then they discover the epic, and don’t we all just love a good, epic story?

But I’m angry. And the thing is, while I realize the goods to make an epic story I don’t know if it’s worth it. Or rather, I don’t know if I’m strong enough to get to it. I don’t know how much more conflict I can take. I don’t know how much more conflict I want to take. My body is tired, my spirit even more so. The trauma and change of years past has worn it thin. And thin muscles, no matter the kind, don’t lift well. I think about the spiritual adages that we give in moments like these. We say, “lean on Him”, “give it to Him”, “Let Him carry it for you”. And that is good, and that is true, and that is right. It is everything we are supposed to say. But I don’t want to say that anymore. I don’t want to say it anymore. Am I allowed to admit that? Is it OK to say these things out loud?  I ask the window I am standing in front of. I don’t want to say these things, these truths that I know are true, but I’m getting tired of saying, tired of doing. I don’t want to say it anymore. I want to say, “this is easy!”, “this is getting better”, “this is getting so much better”. I want to say, “it’s not so hard anymore”, “it isn’t a struggle anymore”. I want to say, “the worst is over”. Can I say that instead? Can that be my truth? Rather than the awful truth of “I’m angry.” Rather than the awful truth of “I’m angry because…” I am not ready to admit that.

I don’t like this truth. I don’t like feeling it. I don’t like admitting it. And I don’t like the grief that comes along with it. I splash water around in my sink, washing away the soap and suds that have caught randomly after a sink drained. I look up at my windowsill, I look past it out the window. I have so much to be thankful for. And I know it. Faces blur in and out of focus as I recount the years past. Those who took me in and took me out, all in the name of love. Those who cared for me in my most basic needs, those near and far away who stepped up when they had no inkling but a tug on their heart to do so. And as suds swirl in this steel sink, faces swirl in this mind of mine. I have not forgotten. I will not forget.

But how do I reconcile all of it? How do I reconcile the pain, and the anger and the gratitude? What does one do with a handful of beauty and a handful of ugly? Can those hands ever be joined together? Or does something have to drop? And if something does have to drop, what do we do when it’s easier to drop the beauty rather than the ugly? Am I making sense? Can I even ask these questions out loud? Again I ask the window. But no answer is given.
I wash away the suds in my sink, hoping to wash away some of the grief as well. It is a question I will have to answer eventually. What kind of story do I want? Am I willing to encounter the conflict in order to encounter the epic? Am I willing to surrender to the Author and let Him write a story worth telling? Or will free will buck the pen, and splatter my own ink across pages? 

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