It's easy to forget how much our eyes betray about our souls. Just a moment ago I stood in the bathroom at my workplace. Staring at myself in the mirror, I plastered on the biggest "say cheese" smile I could muster. It was woefully unconvincing.
No matter how big my grin, how deep my dimples, there was no light in my eyes...just some moisture and hints of redness. I'd just hung up the phone after talking with my best friend and learning that in just 7 days she and her husband will be moving 5 hours northwest of here. I've known their move was coming for a couple months now, and had even been surprised at my own emotionally even acceptance of the fact, but learning the precise date and seeing it there in my calendar in black and white, a week away, caused my heart to clench, pushing tears to the surface and shooting me back to the parallel moment our sophomore year of high school.
Any composure I achieved in the bathroom was lost in the course of writing the last paragraph, and so here I am at my desk with tears running down my cheeks, ruminating on love and loss and pain. And about how curious it is that those who have hope are not confined to the natural assumption that anything that hurts, that causes pain, is therefore bad. There are myriad examples of good things that cause pain (babies screaming at getting their tiny rumps pumped with vaccine shots comes first to mind), but how quickly we forget when next we hurt.
Last night I read the chapter on Dr. Paul Brand in Yancey's Soul Survivor. Though he dealt more with physical pain than emotional, in Dr. Brand's estimation, pain is a gift. "I thank God for pain," Brand told Yancey. "Virtually every response of our bodies that we view with disgust--blister, callus, swelling, fever, sneeze, cough, vomiting, and especially pain--demonstrates a reflex toward health. In all these things normally considered enemies, we can find a reason to be grateful."
And in these tears and heartache, I do have so many reasons to be grateful. One reason is the realization of how the Lord has grown me since the first time Wisconsin swallowed up my best friend. That time, back in high school, I took it personally. I was angry at God for taking (really just relocating) from me something--someone--I was convinced was mine; from somewhere I'd adopted the notion that as an American teenager I had the right to life, liberty, and a best friend who's just a short drive across town. I now praise God for crushing that sense of entitlement before it worked more ugliness in my soul; for enlarging my sense of the world; for deeping my trust in Him; and for the many, many blessings that came from an event that at first caused so much pain.
Now that I'm at the end of this post and my eyes are dry once more, I am utterly sheepish at these musings on loss and pain. Over the past couple weeks, hundreds of thousands have lost everything they owned, and in some cases those they loved, and the pain in their hearts is beyond my imagination. Large-scale tragedy does not negate small-scale loss, but it certainly does lend perspective. And it causes me to wonder, with adoration, at the God who hears their cries and mine and has compassion on us both.