I recently began working at a local homeless shelter and addiction treatment facility. I interview prospective students who want to join our year long program. When asked to share a bit about themselves and why they want to be part of the program, most often I hear haunting words that echo through my soul:
I just can’t do this anymore.
Each time the words are whispered, I remember the moment I also whispered those very words.
Perhaps, those words are some of the most powerful one might ever utter because the moment the words leave our mouth, we’ve come to the end.
The choice to stay or to move forward.
I just can’t do this anymore.
Have you been there?
The point of hopelessness?
Some refer to hopelessness as hope deferred.
I think more of us need to admit our moments of hopelessness.
Our moments of
I just can’t do this anymore.
I think admitting such moments brings hope to those behind us and serves as a reminder to ourselves of the things we have overcome.
A word that makes me smile.
A word that energizes my heart.
May I tell you a tiny story about hope?
I lost my hope once.
And yet in the midst, as if the world is a magic treasure box and I, the master of the box, I ever so slowly lifted the lid.
I find a bit of hope’s treasure.
A bumblebee swaying to the rhythm of a pollinated flower.
His wings flutter to the whispers of the wind.
Can you see it? Do you feel it?
As you stand still in the moment.
A bumble bee, reminds us of hope.
Look with me through the box.
Do you hear it? Listen.
There it is again.
I smile as an older couple begins to dance to the music.
The lady with a cane and a man with a smile.
I smile again because:
I take a deep breath as tears begin to fall because hope’s treasure also has an uncanny way of redirecting us back to love.
There it is again.
I open my hand as if to grab hold of what I thought was lost.
I close my hand and hold it against my chest.
I look up and smile. Then close my eyes and take another deep breath as I whisper a tiny Prayer:
Thank you. For Hope. In the midst.
Our stories are powerful.
One day, you will sit with someone who shares with you the very words that you once whispered and believed of yourself.
Perhaps the most holy words one might declare in their lifetime:
I just can’t do this anymore.
And in that moment, hope and hopelessness will collide like a spark.
And you will be the hand that reaches out and the voice that whispers:
And I’ve been there.
This is what we were created for.
To be beacons of hope.
In the midst.
I’m not sure if there is anything more holy than sitting with another as both hope and hopelessness collide.
Sit with the broken heart that hopelessly proclaims, “I just can’t do this anymore” and you can be certain you have just heard the purest of prayers and a last cry for hope.
“Rage — whether in reaction to social injustice, or to our leaders’ insanity, or to those who threaten or harm us — is a powerful energy that, with diligent practice, can be transformed into fierce compassion.”
― Bonnie Myotai Treace
Oh hey, Anger!
Let’s let go of the words and whispers we’ve heard for a lifetime:
You are not allowed
How dare you be angry
You are just a bitter person
I will hurt you, yet slap you in the face with your anger
I take ownership of honest human emotion.
Anger, you are valid.
You serve a purpose.
You are the enemy of injustice.
The enemy of abuse.
The enemy of silence.
You exist to channel us through the circle of grief.
Without you, change remains stagnant.
Without you, injustice is loudest.
Without you, grief becomes trapped.
Anger, you allow us to take a stand.
To say: Absolutely No More!
Change is coming.
The march has begun!
And hey, Anger, we won’t swim together forever.
But you’ll be invited and welcome at the appropriate moments.
You’ll be the prayer that points to healing.
You serve a purpose within us in response to those who wish to hurt then tell us how to respond to the pain.
You wave a red flag in front of those who wish to establish injustice, then attempt to control emotions as a result.
No, not this time!
Anger comes in the midst.
Anger precedes peace.
Anger sings of trauma and also the deepest parts of healing.
Anger is allowed.
You are valid.
Dear Anger, now, what are we going to do about it?
FYI: And in sum, let us grant ourselves permission to be angry.
Share your thoughts with me. I’m curious about your process with anger.
“He comes in the form of the beggar, of the dissolute human child in ragged clothes, asking for help. He confronts you in every person that you meet. As long as there are people, Christ will walk the earth as your neighbor…”
– Dietrich Bonhoeffer
What if, we changed the word He to love in the above quote. What if our entire existence on earth is to become more love daily. To be love. To walk in love. To share love with the world. And what if, we are confronted with our purpose during every chance meeting. Each time we leave our home. Each moment on the street.
Confronted to learn to love better.
Confronted to become the best human we can be.
Confronted because with each confrontation we shed those things we need to shed to be a better human.
Who is my neighbor?
What do I need to shed?
Who do I need to forgive?
What trauma needs to be healed?
What if, we listened to each other? Listened to learn?
Is it possible?
Can humanity finally gather together. At the table. Share a meal. Share stories. Listen.
What might happen?
At the end of our life – What question will truly matter?
Did I learn to love?
Did you learn to love?
Share your thoughts with me in the comments.
Together we learn. Together we grow. This is community.
God: Yeah, we’ve been working through this for quite awhile. It’s time.
I don’t know what the heart of my story is supposed to be.
God: We’ve been working through this too. You tell them who I was for you, who I became for you, and who I am for you now. You tell them about my heart. About love.
I remember that vision, God, where we sat together and talked about your heart and you showed me how to go about forgiving my own father. And I remember how, for the first time, I was able to see you as a Father. I remember I didn’t want to leave that moment.
God: That’s a good memory we shared together, Christelle.
I’m still in process, God.
God: Yes, I know.
I’m having a hard time forgiving.
God: Yes, I know.
Silence. Thinking. Pondering.
God, what’s your favorite memory of us?
God: Oh, I have several, but, one of my favorite was the day you were born. You know, Jesus was there. Sitting at the foot of your mom’s bed. I gave your dad your name.
I always wondered, God. Cuz it’s not like the others.
God: I wanted your name to always hold within it who you are and who’s you are. I wanted it written on your birth certificate because I knew there would be dark moments and lies spoken around you telling you who you are not. I whispered your name to your dad… a prophetic expression of your life and destiny.
Silence. Processing. Thinking.
How do I forgive them, God?
God: You know the answer, Christelle. You need to see them through my eyes. I gave you three sons. The way you see your sons is exactly how I see all of my children. When you see them through my eyes, you will be able to forgive them. You’ve been hanging onto hurt for too long. Step by step, moment by moment, we are going to walk through it and let it go. Remember the day I showed you myself as a Lion, and together we forgave your father? I love you child, and I love them too, exactly the way you love your boys.
I’ve prayed my entire life to be more like you, God. To love like you.
God: (chuckling) I know. You’re become more love daily. I see you as I made you. A living expression of my love for you and all your brothers and sisters.
That’s alot of love.
God: You know, to be like me, you’re going to need to answer your phone.
Well, I have a job where I need to do that very thing. You always do that, God. That thing where I learn something profound about you in some abstract way. How do you do that?
God: I speak your language, Christelle. Love speaks your language.
Well, if the phone call is mean or abusive, I’m hanging up. Just letting you know.
God: That’s your choice. You can make any choice you want.
God: Remember the times when you were really angry at me? So angry that you were cussing at me and yelling?
You’re doing it again.
God: I didn’t turn away.
You didn’t hang up and you listened. I remember, God. This love thing takes a lot of practice. Sometimes, I think I don’t want to be like you anymore. It’s too hard. But ultimately, I do. I want to be love. I want to be like you.
You did it again. Showing me the heart of a father, mother, and heart of a son and daughter. Every child wants to be just like their parent. Every sons admires and adore their father. A healthy father relationship on earth is a living breathing prophetic expression of your heart.
There is not a wrong way nor a right way to fully grieve.
I do believe, however, that many of us were taught that it’s not okay to grieve.
Years ago, I attended a group therapy workshop. The goal: to fully grieve a loss. Each person in attendance was dealing with loss. Some death. Others, health. Divorce. Job.
The loss of a dream.
Each of us will deal with loss throughout our lifetime.
Each of us will grieve in our own way.
Some public. Some private.
The workshop taught me the importance of fully grieving loss. For the first time, I was granted permission to feel loss deeply, profoundly.
To breath it in and let it go.
Grief has many stages. There are no rules one must follow in order to grieve. It is, however, important to feel each stage deeply.
If we don’t allow ourselves to fully grieve loss, pieces of our heart and soul will become stuck in process. Perhaps anger will take root or bitterness will plant itself ever so slightly into our being.
We must feel it,
Breath it in and let it go.
Each stage, thoroughly acknowledged and worked through.
Anger. Denial. Isolation. Bargaining. Deep Sorrow and Depression. Acceptance.
There is no right or wrong order to the grieving process. Yet, each feeling that corresponds is entirely okay. Some will describe their process as a roller coaster. Others, a circle. Most will feel the stages several times through, perhaps backtracking through certain stages again and again.
I’m not sure we entirely heal from loss. I think loss leaves a forever scar. And at the most unexpected moment, the pain will rise again.
I’ve experienced grief.
In the grocery store. In my car. While listening to a song that evokes a memory.
My initial response is to hide my grief behind sunglasses. Or to run to the nearest restroom until the tears stop flowing.
What would happen if we allowed each other to grieve fully?
No restrictions, nor rules.
What would happen if we stop making grief awkward while embracing each other’s process?
What if in the midst of grief, we hold each other’s hearts near?
What if we allow each other space to grieve uniquely and without judgement?
A smile. A touch. A whisper of, “I’m sorry, I’m here. If you need me.”
No words trying to make grief better, but rather, hearts that become a safe space.
Can we do this for each other?
Can we allow each other to be fully human?
I think this. Might be love. Amplified.
Let’s allow it. Embrace it. Breath it in. Feel it thoroughly. Let it go.
And grant permission to each other to fully grieve as well.
I’m still working through my own loss. Losses.
Breathing it in. Letting it go.
Granting myself permission to thoroughly experience the entire process. Granting others permission and a safe space to do the same.
But there are many women who cannot break free from abuse they face on a daily basis.
I know the hopelessness, the loss of dreams, the inability to move from one’s bed, couch, home.
I’ve known the deep dark pit of despair, the cave I was unable to crawl away from.
I speak because I’ve been told to stay silent.
And I’ve learned that abuse is enabled through the silence.
I’ve learned despair grows through the enabling of those who do not want the hard stories shared.
I speak into a church system that has enabled abusers while silencing victims.
I can no longer sit by and watch.
I speak, to bring healing to my own soul and for the women who cannot yet leave. So they will know, they are not alone. And perhaps, within my own story, someone might catch a glimpse of hope.
I’m lucky, I have a brother and sister in law, who I now live with, who remind me daily of who I am and who’s I am. Not everyone has this. I have looked my brother and sister in law in the eyes, crying heartbroken words such as, “Why does he want her and not me?” and “Why does he hate me?” through many seasons. Words no wife should ever have to whisper.
Understand, friends, losing toxic thoughts after leaving an abusive situation takes days, months, sometimes years of detoxing. I am blessed to have a support system. But, I have sat in therapy sessions with women who have been isolated and have noone.
By the time one escapes a toxic marriage, they have lost themselves.
The glimmer of life once known in their eyes has disappeared.
So now, I speak because there are women who cannot.