This past Sunday I stood in church with tears running down and arms held high. Opposite emotions going opposite directions – grief trickling down and praise reaching high. Few times in my life have I comfortably operated in that dynamic paradox. Scripture talks about joy in the midst of sorrow, and yet it’s so hard to honestly allow our spirits to embrace the duality because we tend to want to box things in, choosing an "either-or" instead of an "and."
As I was getting ready for church Sunday morning, I got a phone call from my mom. I wasn’t going to take it because I was supposed to be getting ready (Dave despises being late and I inherited a late gene. I’m sure Sunday mornings aren’t a point of tension in anybody else’s home, ha!). My spirit prompted me to answer the phone and in-between tears my mom told me my adopted Grandma, Hilda, had just passed away. She was fighting the nasty cancer that had invaded her body and after her first chemo treatment she was actually doing remarkably well, it was an infection from a recent surgery that came out of nowhere, poisoned her body, and abruptly took her in a matter of days.
My only sibling, Graham, was already at church for a pre-service class and so I was the one that broke the news once we met up in the sanctuary. As grief washed over him, my tears awakened from their dormancy and we just sat there in sadness. Sadness for precious life lost unexpectedly. Sadness for the 60th anniversary that would have been celebrated next month. Sadness for Glenn, who left behind, will have to figure out life without his Beloved by his side. Sadness for intended phone calls and communication that never happened because we got too busy with stuff that now feels like it doesn't matter.
As worship began, I had a choice, believe that it had to be either-or (praise or grief) or embrace the reality of their coexistence. In the midst of grief, I could stand and choose to command my spirit to align herself with the Father’s goodness. Yes, I was confused, and I know He is good and His plan is never sickness. Yes, my heart was overwhelmed, and even in that space I could stand and declare that He makes all things new, abundant redemption.
In those sacred paradoxical moments, I had an image of oil and water mixing. People say they don’t mix, but that’s not entirely true. If you mix it up enough, infiltrate it enough, you see the big pool of oil get broken down into little micro beads. Each bead isolated and enveloped by the cushion of liquid surrounding it. I think that’s how it is with our Father as well. As we surrender and fall back into Him, He in His kindness mixes up the pools of our grief and pain, breaking them down as He wraps His Spirit around us, bringing comfort, peace, and healing. Over time those beads get broken down smaller and smaller, and while never fully combining, they are dispersed and held in their space by a stable network of free flowing truth, hope, and love. It’s always and!
And then out of nowhere, this sweet woman whom I’ve only connected with a handful of times in person is praying over me and slips a diamond band on my finger. With tears falling I look down to see the sparkle of the only other diamond anything I own aside from my wedding ring, really!? After the service I went up to her asking if she really meant it for me (and I think I even asked if she wanted it back). She laughed, telling me God told her to give it to me as a symbol of His extravagant love.
You guys, you can’t make this stuff up. God is so good. He doesn’t stop chasing after us! He’s big enough for all our pain, all our brokenness, all our grief, and all our honest attempts for praise in middle of those feelings. I walked into church melancholy and heavy hearted and I left not only comforted, enveloped, and reminded of his relentless extravagant love, but with a diamond ring!
Morgan is a storyteller at heart. After running an NGO in Uganda for 7 years, she and her husband, Dave, currently record a weekly podcast called Chasing Unicorns, produce and host The FIND series, run the CB Ideas design agency, and mange Yes& Collective. Morgan also co-authored the newly released children’s book, The Girl Chronicles: A Story of Good. She’s a mom to two middle schoolers, Asher & Jadyn, and so when she’s not driving them around, she fills herself up with yoga, reading, air-popped popcorn, and all things coconut flavored. IG: @MorganHansow & @HansowFamily www.HansowFamily.com