Lessons in Loss and Good Things

Life here as I see it, as I leave it, is beautiful, but it has come to me broken and has often been hard to receive. It has taken a long time to experience this love and belonging. Time, mistakes, curve balls. Getting here hasn’t been quick and it hasn’t been simple. It has been rough building and steep climbing. At times it has been comprised of so many downs, I have doubted whether our general trajectory was looking up at all.   Life has beaten the stubborn out of me. It has taught me something about just how in control I really am. I used to think that I was pretty important in determining what would be and thrive in my life. But sometimes He has ideas and plans bigger than I can thwart or make come to pass. Learning this can look like a lot of painful disappointment, and a lot of unearned grace. The result, for me, has been that I am leaving Redding a lot more open handed than when I came.

Loss has been a part of these past five years. When I look back, there’s pain criss-crossed over the joys and successes. What I have looked for and what I have found hasn’t always lined up. On the road from there to here, dreams have been thwarted, plans I have counted on have disintegrated, changes have left me disoriented, and losses in relationship have broken my heart. Life hasn’t been any easier for the people closest to me and I have struggled to be strength in their lives–wanting to give, needing to receive. Loss, disappointment and death have all come like one fist after another. They have come when it doesn’t seem just. Who of us deserved these losses? Have we not tried hard and done well?

Somehow I tend to think that if I persistently continue to give my best to something, those efforts will win in the end. I like to think that I can save, maintain, and claim things in my life–that good effort pays off and that somewhere in there, there’s a guarantee that’s based on my performance. But I’ve learnt that this simply isn’t true. I have spent a lot of time and energy fighting for things I couldn’t keep. Things that I persistently gave my best to, but lost anyways. This loss has taught me that I can’t possibly love and give and try enough to keep from the pain of disappointment. It has taught me that I am not in control. My best, my fullest, it will never guarantee return.

But in as much as there have been things I couldn’t keep, it seems there have been things I couldn’t lose. All this life, streaming through my fingers, escaping capture, and yet, I hold out an open palm and am amazed by at the goodness I see cupped in my hands–treasures pulled through years of growth and change. I look and say, “how did you get here?” Because in all of my best, I’ve made a lot of mistakes–costly mistakes that could have, should have destroyed things. But here they are–some of the most beautiful relationships and investments that I could possibly hope to take with me into the next season. These are exactly the things I would have wanted, though I couldn’t have known it at the time. I was so distraught over what was being lost, what I couldn’t control, what I couldn’t make right. And all that while, He was saying to me, “honey, your best isn’t going to win that one. But I have treasures for you that your worst won’t drive away”.

I began to experience the exchange Jim Elliot understood when he said, “he is no fool who gives what he cannot keep to gain that which he cannot lose.” Sometimes you pour your best into something and nothing becomes of it. And sometimes a thing will bloom when you forgot to water it. My best efforts have taught me that I cannot hold onto something that’s going to leave. And my worst mistakes have taught me that I can’t do anything to lose what God is placing in my hands. He’s bigger than my contributions–both good and bad.

Here at the end, I am encircled by the kind of goodness I had always hoped would come of this season. I could’t have asked for better things than those that I have been given. They evidence choices wiser than what I might have chosen for myself. Looking at what I have lost and the things that remain, I can only be filled with reassurance and trust that He will continuously fill my life with good things. But it’s not going to be because of me.

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