I’m just in a tough season right now.
For awhile in recent times, this was my “real” answer to the question, “How are you doing?” To my mind, it communicated that the current load was heavy and awkward, but that I knew it wasn’t going to be like that forever.
But then, trying to encourage a friend who was wrestling with a series of deeply challenging events, I muttered something along those lines, “Whew, you are in a really tough season.”
And she pushed back.
“What if it’s not a season? What if this is just the way that things are?”
I took pause. She might be right.
I have lived the scene in the movies where a bunch of friends wearing overalls and headscarves fix up a run-down property and fill it with love. With four other friends, I founded a charitable non-profit at the wise old age of 22. During the construction phase, we had long circular conversations about how to handle potential problems. But soon, the doors opened and time for long conversations was gone! Real women with real problems began to move into the home. Our mission of welcoming homeless pregnant women was set into motion.
Suddenly I had to make important decisions as a part of my daily life—decisions that affected the well-being and living environment of the people in my life. Freshly out of college and a natural peacemaker, the reality of constantly angry or disappointed people rocked my world. As the leader of this project, I was forced into difficult conversation after difficult conversation.
To a mom: “I’m sorry, we are asking you to leave. I know you don’t have anywhere else to go but your behavior was unacceptable. For the good of everyone, this is the decision that I’ve made. I’m sorry.” Her response: hardened silence.
To a neighbor: “I would love to have a calm conversation about this and figure out a workable solution. This is our home now and we want to be good neighbors.” Her response: filing complaints with the fire marshall and the zoning department.
And on and on and on.
I was a very young soul fumbling to shoulder a very big responsibility.
A potential donor came by for a tour of our program. As he left, he turned to me and said, “One day, running one home will be easy.” I smiled and nodded, keeping a polite “Yes, Mr. Donor” face. Inside, I was fuming. THIS could never be easy.
My internal experience of that time was one of sheer emotional weight—the feeling of having no choice but to bear something beyond my capacity, something completely and utterly unbearable.
I was holding it together and doing what needed to be done. I was putting on my best “I am a competent leader” face when it was needed. But deep down, I was overwhelmed, alone, and scared.
But, even so, I did bear it.
Free from consequences? Nah. With perfect dignity? Nope.
Nonetheless, I did learn to shoulder the responsibility, to carry the weight.
And as it turns out, the donor was right. Eventually, I was able to bear the load of more than one house. And looking back, the responsibilities of leadership in those early years now seems small in comparison to the responsibilities of the later years.
So, thinking about “tough seasons”… perhaps my friend going through a tough time and I were both right.
Life is hard. You say things you wish you could take back. You experience betrayal and disappointment and grief. You have to deal with things that you never wanted in the first place. Dreams and reality collide. Plans shift and sacrifice stings.
But, you live your way through it.
And seasons change.
Oh Mary, this is beautiful. This quote by Mother Teresa makes me think of you:
“I know God won’t give me anything I can’t handle. I just wish God wouldn’t trust me so much.”
I am honored to know you.
St Teresa of Avila (I think!) has a similar one: (speaking to God) “If this is how you treat your friends, its a wonder you don’t have so many!”
This is lovely, Mary.
Such great accomplishments! You trials and successes are great for one so young! You are a very wise, admirable, soldier of Christ! Love, happiness, comforts and peace be with you!
“But, you live your way through it.”
Yes. Yes. Yes.
Sometimes it just is. That’s a hard answer to give someone when times are hard, but honest is better than half truth.
Mary, there is so much truth in what you’ve written. One of the things I’ve learned about myself—and about life—over the years is that the dread and anticipation of a difficult task or time is almost always worse than actually getting through it. I guess that’s another way of saying that, for the most part, we are so much more resilient and capable than we think. And each difficult season we push our way through (by the grace of God and with the support of others) trains and strengthens us for the seasons ahead.
There is an expression in German which changes the preposition “through” into a verb. Roughly translated it says, “You simply have to through.” (Get through it, push through it, sustain yourself through it, live through it, learn through it, etc. It does not really matter. You simply have to through.)
Whoa. That really resonates with me!!! Thanks LeeAnne! Here’s to throughing it!