The Greatest Showman: The Power and Peril of Story

I went to see The Greatest Showman the other day with my daughter.  It was an amazing film-I was drawn into the story and my heart longed to see where it was going and how it would end.

greatest showman movie wide

I highly recommend it for two hours of uplifting entertainment.

But I’ve been thinking about it since.

So I did a little digging into P.T. Barnum’s REAL life story.

As you might imagine, several liberties were taken with actual history in order to create what I saw on the screen.  That’s really just fine.  I knew what I was getting into when I plunked my money down for the ticket.  I had no illusion that I was walking into a history lecture- I understood I was there to be entertained.

When I compared the actual Barnum life story to the tidy, beautiful, uplifting and wonderfully scored musical I had seen in the theater, I found gaping holes.

And most of the holes involved the hard and ugly parts of his story-the parts people don’t like to talk about, much less live through.

While leaving them out or glossing them over with a moment or two of wistful glances for the movie is exactly what I expect from Hollywood, it can condition hearts to expect the same kind of thing in real life.

But real life stories don’t skip over the hard parts.

Real people have to live through the ugly and the painful and the devastating and the doubt and the sorrow.  We don’t get to hop right to the happy ending (if there even IS a happy ending) nor do we get to whitewash the dark truths that inform our experience.

And because we prefer tidy (and happy) endings, bright and sunny days, encouraging and uplifting stories, when we are face to face with a challenging and difficult reality, we often turn away.

If we don’t hear it, it doesn’t matter. 

If we don’t look, it didn’t happen. 

If we wait long enough in our safe cocoon, someone else will deal with it.

Sometimes those of us in the middle of hard stories try to ignore it.  But busyness and distraction do not make bad times better.  Maybe for a moment, but not in the long run.

We’ve got to learn to experience it all, tell it all, be honest about how dark the path, how difficult the journey.

And those who are on the sunny side of the street need to learn to lean into friendship, cross over and offer compassionate companionship to those who are struggling.

Because sooner or later, it will be all of us.

we will all struggle and fall brene brown

Repost: Trust After Loss: Admit the Pain

Child loss is Unnatural-no way around it.

Out of order death is devastating.

When my perfectly healthy, strong and gifted son was killed instantly in a motorcycle accident on April 12. 2014 my world fell apart.  My heart shattered into a million pieces.  And after three and a half years, I’ve yet to even FINDall of those pieces much less put them back together.

So what does a heart do when that happens? 

Read the rest here:  Trust After Loss: Admit the Pain

Too Scared to Stay

How many reading this enjoy roller coasters?  Or scary movies? Or action films?

My guess is that most like one or the other or all three.

Why?  Because it’s fun to dip our emotional toe into deep water when we know we can take it out at any moment.

We experience a sort of “high” when the “fight or flight” adrenaline pumps through our veins but our minds know full well that we are in no real danger.

What’s much more difficult is to commit to experience in real time with real people the real emotional roller coaster of hard situations and unending sorrow or pain.

Then people tend to withdraw because they are too scared to stay.

I am so sorry that broken hearts are wounded further when friends or family just can’t bear the pain of watching us hurt and run away instead of walking with us.

leaf heart

They are afraid.  I used to be afraid too.  But I’m not afraid now.

My new bravery was purchased at great cost.  And I don’t want to waste it.

This Valley is teaching my heart to reach out further, quicker, more often and to stick around longer than I was willing to before.

hands-passing-heart

I want to stand with and speak courage to wounded hearts.  

I want to help healed hearts that choose to be brave and commit to walk with those in pain. 

And I am learning to extend grace to the hearts who choose to run away.   

Fear is powerful and I can’t blame them.

But for those who remain, I am so, so grateful.  

always leave people better than you found them

 

 

 

Transforming Pain

I have had my share of pain in life-physical, emotional and psychological. 

Some of it I’ve brought on myself and some of it has been thrust upon me.  

None of it was pleasant.

But by far the most excruciating pain I have endured is the death of my son.  If someone could have induced this pain for five minutes as a preview before Dominic ran ahead to heaven, I would have sworn I couldn’t have withstood it for five minutes more.

Yet here I am not just minutes or months but years later.  Still standing.

How?  By the grace of God and by choosing to transform that pain into something besides just pain.

I cannot ignore the pain.  It has changed me. But I won’t let it dominate me. 

Instead I let is goad me into being a better me than I might have been if my heart were whole and unbroken.

I am gentler, more eager to listen to hurting hearts.  I am less likely to judge others and more likely to lend a helping hand.  I am committed to walk gently through this life and to cause as little harm as possible and bring as much joy as is mine to give.

I definitely walk with a limp. 

But I won’t let it stop me from walking. 

 

 

 

Learning To Trust God Again After Loss

I am sharing from the perspective of child loss but the things God is teaching me have much broader application. If you are struggling because you feel like God has let you down, please read on.  And please read the posts that follow this one.

God welcomes us to the divine dinner table to talk things out.

Join us.

If you’ve read the blog for very long, you’ve learned two things about me:  (1) I am up front and honest about my feelings, my doubts, my faith and my heart; and (2) I’m not afraid to explore topics that often make the church uncomfortable. 

So here I am again.

A few months ago I was asked to speak at a conference for bereaved parents and to take the topic of “Learning to Trust God Again After Loss”.  I agreed, thinking that since I had already written extensively about this very thing, organizing my previously published musings would be easy enough to gather into a presentation.

through this valley conference photo

But when I began trying to do that, I realized the bits and pieces needed an overarching narrative and theme to tie them together.  I knew that LISTENING is very different than READING where you can go back and access the information over and over to make sure you understand what’s being said.

And I was operating on thin margins.

The weeks I planned on using to prepare were overtaken by a family emergency.  So just two days before I was to leave home for Arkansas I was nearly paralyzed by panic-how in the world could I present a coherent message on such an important topic when I was having trouble stringing sentences together in everyday conversation?

But God…

Two words that are worth holding on to.  

He gave me the framework.  He gave me the words.  He gave me the examples and the courage and the strength.

flesh-and-heart-may-failSo for the next few days I’ll be sharing from my notes-putting into writing what I shared at the conference.  Here I have the luxury of time and editing.

If you were there, I hope these posts can remind your heart of truth. 

If you weren’t, I hope these posts can introduce your heart to truth.

It’s OK to doubt.  It’s OK to ask questions.  It’s OK to wonder if God sees you, hears you and cares about you.

That is part of the work we must do in grief.  

It cannot be ignored and it cannot be rushed. 

Come with me as we walk this Valley together, learning to trust our Shepherd again. 

shepherd 2

Reality Check

I’ve struggled since the beginning of this journey to convey others the ongoing open-ended emptiness of burying a child.  

There is simply no way to fill the void left by my son’s leaving.  

No job, no hobby, no ministry, no person, no exercise regimen, dietary discipline or medical intervention can fix this pain.  

So when people think I will

“get over”,

or

“move past”

my son’s death,

they profoundly misunderstand my experience.  

cant-fix-it-my-family-is-always-achingly-incomplete

What Does Faith Really Look Like?

Is faith always a never-faltering, wild “Hallelujah!”?

I don’t think so.

I think faith is essentially this:  turning my face toward the God I love even when (especially when!) I’ve stopped expecting an answer and maybe even when my heart has despaired of help.

I would argue that faith is precisely that step forward into the dark unknown, onto the broken road, lifting  the unbearable heaviness as an offering and trusting that

God sees,

that He hears

and that He will not abandon me.

We’re all encouraged when we read through Psalms. But what did David endure to experience the depth of love he has for God? What kind of heart-shredding pain did he go through before understanding how real and present God was and just how much God loved him regardless of his brokenness?

Understanding the whole story of the Bible, it’s much easier to see that my brokenness has a purpose.”

~Laura Story, When God Doesn’t Fix It

faith-deliberate-trust