When You Can’t

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As if bereavement isn’t hard enough, there is an element that can color even the most hopeful, positive person’s journey a heavy, smudgy mess of deep, dark coal.


Like a little girl clasping your hand over a fresh cut, tears streaming, you run to your loved one.  You are breathless, heart pounding, terrified and in pain.

Your loved one stoops down to meet you where you are.  Offers you a loving gaze, touches you gently.

You peel back your clasped hand, revealing the brokenness.  The wound itself crying out to be loved on.

And then, it happens.

You’re shoo shooed.  Told it’s not a big deal.  Brushed off.  Abandoned.

And now you’ve got two wounds that need to heal.

Resentment can serve as a way to protect you, but it always leaves a scar.

Back in October, some profoundly painful things happened in my life.  Betrayal.  On a level so systematic and profound I still am deeply wounded by.

Still very deeply disturbed by.

Those who love me most watched in amazement and confusion as I thrashed wildly for a few long days, trying to figure out what in the world had happened, and what in the world I would do.

I felt thrust into a place of wild abandon that required me to be patient in affliction.  And it is flat hard to be patient when you’re ripped to the quick.

Patience, down to the quick.  The oxymoron confusing and ironic.

Anger easily set in.

But do you know what feeling I had that was even uglier than anger?


  1. What if, what if my old friend actually is someone else’s hero?
  2. What if someone else becomes tormented by this additional wound I am healing from?

The two questions that plagued me so greatly that I was immobile in fear.  What would I do?  What will I do?

Patient in affliction.  Sigh.  Sometimes, I just don’t get it.

Didn’t I deserve a place to say that I was treated cruelly?  Wasn’t I worthy to cry out in pain?  To speak the truth?

Under the anger, under the fear, I couldn’t.

I couldn’t call her out, blame her, belittle her, tell everyone to run from her.

Because I knew that my fears were still muddled, and I knew that I needed a view from someplace above it, which could see more along the horizon than I could, to know how to separate the light from the darkness.  Because, I couldn’t.

I entered patience – an active waiting.  Not any kind of stillness anybody talks about.  Not a forgetting, a letting go, a minimizing or a shrugging.

It was a much aware, very active, verb-turns-into-noun-somehow kind of stillness.

What have I been waiting for?

Did I want my old friend to fall?  To peel back the falsehoods for everyone else to make sure they knew them?  What would be underneath that for me?  Rip her to the quick because I was ripped to the quick?  But wasn’t she ever my friend?

And, even more deeply I found myself in patience…

What if somehow what felt so taken from me became a gift to someone else?  Could I give in this way?  Anonymously?

The opportunity of such a proposition brought a flash of splendor to my grief stricken soul, and was enough to remind me that somehow, this stillness is where I need to be, still.  At least for now.  Because I cannot know where else to be yet or what else to do yet.

What though, if this falseness hurts someone else.  What yet, what if my silence hurts my old friend.

Wait, what was that?

How can my silence hurt my old friend?

Because even if the rest of the entire world receives needed love through a plagiarized gift, is my remaining an anonymous donor giving my old friend the gift of forgiveness, or is it a fraudulent gift of enablement?

Patience, even more.

Two months later, still in patience, I want to share my heart with you today to encourage you that patience is an action, an activity, a work.  It is a moment by moment being, a moment by moment weighing, wondering, evaluating, meditating, hoping.

And do you know what else it is, even much more than these things?
Being patient is being love.

Being love to others.  Being love to your enemy.  Being love in the face of adversity, temptation, deceit, betrayal.

Being love to yourself, the one you know full well needs it.

It can look confusing, scattered, and messy, but just like rearranging your living room furniture, it might take a bigger mess before the true order is revealed.  The need to hurry up to give the illusion of order can cause you to hide the needed mess.  Don’t let it.

So when you feel you can’t take it, when you feel you can’t take in, when you feel you can’t take on,

Be still.

The active, living, growing kind of still: being, in, patience.

Moment by moment, the unseen but very real verb-turns-into-noun-somehow kind of patience.

Just like, in fact, our very real children.  Their physical hearts have stilled, but the power of their love moves within us, still.

Here is my encouragement to you as you try to sort out the questions you’re faced in adversity and sorrow – the, how are you supposed to know, what are you supposed to know, to do, to say….

When you can’t,

let patience.

(and when necessary, let pigs)









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