The beginning of a new year often brings a renewed sense of hope for the year ahead. We look back at the previous year of loss and joy and usually decide that we are grateful for the year that we lived or grateful that it is over. Sometimes we wrap a ribbon around the box that we’ve placed the year in and tie it up in a big bow. The ribbon can be sparkly and beautiful or dark and tattered, but it still gets the job done as it closes the box, bringing a sense of closure as we look forward.
My ribbon for 2015 didn’t do a very good job of closing up my box, and I feel as if I spilled over into this fresh new year carrying more than I had hoped. As I silently pondered on New Years Eve, I considered resolving or choosing a word to pray into this year, but my mind only spun thinking about the previous twelve months.
The end of the year culminated with a highly anticipated trip back to my hometown to visit family and friends. As we flew out that Saturday, I was aware that I held a fair amount of anxiety for the week ahead. I had prepared, prepped and requested in an attempt to reduce the chaos that would naturally be present for our crew outside the safety of our own home.
Each moment that week seemed to hold both beauty and sadness, which is often the case when living in the tension of life.
My introspective soul was not quite prepared for all that there was to feel that week and as I sat on the plane to return home I reached for my headphones to help drown out the flood of thoughts racing through my mind.
I jumped around through my songs hoping to land on something that would touch the ache in my heart. I stopped when I got to “No Longer Slaves” by Bethel.
The bridge began to build with melodious woahs and my tears started rolling down my face. If you would have looked to the last row on the plane, you might have seen a slightly crazed woman with closed eyes, punching the air and silently shouting the lyrics, “You split the sea so I could walk right through it. You drown my fears in perfect love. You rescued me so I can stand and say I am a child of God.”
Remembering these truths encouraged me for a short while, but I as began to enter back into life with the challenges of parenting and work coupled with the mixed emotions from the previous week I found myself extremely broken.
I began looking for affirmation from those that were close to me but as I sat on the couch one night, talking to my husband, I admitted that no one’s words seemed to be touching the spaces in my heart that were feeling vulnerable. In my brokeness I cried out, recognizing that I really needed to hear from God, but I wasn’t even sure how.
A friend recently shared with me a message on lament. I have begun to name that there is loss when it comes to the “dreamed of” life that I once imagined. In that, there is a stream of grieving and loss that runs through my day to day life. But what am I supposed to do with that?
I decided to listen to the message recommended on lament. As the pastor spoke, his words started to quiet my anxious heart. He talked about lament being the cry of a hurting, confused, pain-filled, and yet believing heart. He spoke of the tension between God’s beautiful promises in comparison to real life. Lament is an expression of one’s faith voiced in the cries of “where are you God? Why is this happening? How long O Lord?” He reminded me that there is still hope in lament. We can struggle and question in our lament. We can be fruitful and happy and still lament.
Sometimes, I am more in touch with my unbelief. The places where I have grown silent in my requests, where despair is overwhelming. I’ve questioned my cries of lament. Questioned my faith. Wondered what God must feel about me asking why He had forsaken me. In the places where life hasn’t turned out like I had imagined I can lament, knowing that God longs to hear my heart. A heart that although confused and hurting can still be happy and hopeful.
A hope-filled heart is one that still believes in one day. One day I will…have another dream come true. I still have dreams. Dreams that require my creativity. Dreams that require my tenderness and my strength. Dreams that demand my lament and my faith.
Bethany Cabell is a Texas transplant, residing in Michigan with her husband and their two young boys. A lover of beauty, she lives life chasing after wide-open spaces: sharing her heart with others, in relationship with Jesus, and through music and photography. She tells her story here.