It’s been awhile since I’ve let myself really ponder the depths of life, and it’s taken quite a trial to bring me here.
After five long years of battling cancer, my beloved grandma left this earth a few days ago. In addition to my grief, I’m dealing with the anger of not seeing her healed in this life, as she and my family prayed so desperately for.
Growing up, I was somewhat of a grandma’s girl. I lived next door to her until I was 18, so I stayed over at her house countless nights and she spoiled me just like any grandma does. Our relationship began in a very vulnerable place for me though. Right after I unexpectedly lost my daddy in a car accident when I was four years old and my little world had shattered, her home and her love served as such a safe haven to me. I’ll never be able to describe what she (and other members of my family) was for me at that time.
Even though I’m not exactly a stranger to seemingly unfair deaths of close family members, I still wrestle with the same questions. The heart breaks just as deeply as before. The pain and the injustice you feel can never get old. It’s something you have to sift through, throughout the years. You have to ultimately be ok with not knowing all the answers.
I’ve come to find that one key explanation for why bad things happen is simply the fact that there is opposition. There are free wills within people that often clash with God’s heart for humanity, and there are evil spirits who are capable of influencing people in this tangible realm. There are choices people make. God didn’t create us to be robots. (C.S. Lewis beautifully describes this concept of choice, free will and real love. Essentially, God—wanting to experience true love with us—allows us to choose Him or whatever else we wish, because love without choice [i.e., forced love] is not love at all.)
But what I have trouble grasping is why bad things happen that seem completely out of reach of human will. And this is where I have to stop thinking and analyzing and simply remember what I do know: We don’t always know why something happens or what’s working behind the scenes, but we can recognize the fact that things do happen behind the scenes (that is, in realms we might be incapable of physically seeing.) There’s a reason that everything happens. (I don’t believe that everything happens for a reason. That kind of logic explains nothing to anyone. This life operates on cause and effect.) And we’re capable of recognizing this, even if we aren’t capable of identifying the reason. Attempting to identify the reasons ‘why’ can lead us to dangerous conclusions or leave us an exhausted, fearful mess.
While my grandma’s last days were some of the most difficult, emotional days I’ve experienced, they were also probably the most beautiful two days I think I may have lived thus far in my life.
To fully explain the beauty I saw in those two days, I must remind you of the most profound truth regarding humanity and this life:
We’re a broken people.
We’ve been hurt. Disappointed. Abandoned. Neglected. Rejected. Abused.
This list never ends. But the pain can. And beauty can surface. It’s like mining for diamonds—something so pure, unique and stunning that we couldn’t unearth any other way.
I witnessed God extracting a diamond before my very eyes in the words, tears and hugs of my family when we all needed it most. For a family who only sees each other three times a year for holidays, we loved each other well in our darkest hours. My grandma, the heart of our family, pulled us together in a way I can’t really describe. Despite the common, life-long family dysfunctions, emotional baggage and unspoken hurts of the past, I watched my family selflessly pull together to make my grandma—and each other—as comfortable and comforted as possible. My heart was overwhelmed. I’d never felt so much love in one tiny house before. It will stay with me forever.
My heart has been heavy with gratitude that I was able to be with my grandma in her last days, despite the painful circumstances. Throughout this experience, I’ve decided that braving the trenches of pain, suffering and grief is worth it. I’ve decided that it’s just the kind of person I’m going to be. I think I have to.
While I firmly believe we should embrace pain and grief, I know it’s never God’s heart for us to stay there, of course. It’s His heart to take us through the pain and show us how to find what’s really beautiful and true—to find true love and life, to know what life really is and to know what makes a heart pure and alive. We don’t find this in the blue skies and sunrays. We find it in the valleys and in the darkest of nights. We find it in the diamond mines.
Sure, this is where we’re made stronger. But I think it’s more than that. (What would a God—who desires us to make the conscious choice to love Him—want with mere muscles and a steel chest void of a heart?) It’s where we deepen. It’s where we’re shaped. It’s where we become.
Understand that recognizing all of this and trying to live it out daily is not a walk in the park for me. It’s easier for me to believe that God isn’t there and doesn’t hear my cries. Much easier. But, it’s when I dare to believe that He’s holding my heart through it all that I finally feel like I don’t have to be so strong. I don’t feel like I have to have it all together when I let myself believe He’s holding me together. Call me weak, but it’s the one place where I feel as solid and secure as I ever have and ever will—and I wouldn’t trade that feeling for anything.
And I think this is where we win and evil loses its power—where we stare darkness and death in the face and tell it that we’re still going to love, believe and live, no matter what. That’s where my grandma found herself with her unanswered prayers for healing. And that’s where you’ll find me right now.
The darkness is there. It’s undeniably there. And it will often seem like it’s prevailing. The pain is inevitable. But it’s when we’re willing to dig a little deeper where we realize that the seemingly never-ending dark tunnel is really just a diamond mine we’re meant to search out.
Maybe I’m a little naïve to believe there’s always a precious stone to be found in the depths of pain, but I don’t think I am. We just have to choose to mine for the diamond. I refuse to believe that there will always just be brokenness when it’s all said and done. From watching my family pull together to witnessing my grandpa kiss my grandma’s bald head, dry her tears and and say “I didn’t marry you for your hair” (amongst other life experiences)—I’ve simply seen too much beauty come from brokenness to let my heart wither in such a lie.
One day, after I’ve gathered all the precious stones that I let myself dig for in this life, He’ll make something really beautiful out of it. And that’s what I can’t wait to see. It could be a one-of-a-kind crown or a castle that glimmers by a sea. All I really know is that He’ll intricately craft it for me—my favorite kind of gift.