I recently finished Ann Voskamp’s book “One Thousand Gifts.” There are very few books that have changed my life, however I think this is one of them (credit to my sister Elizabeth for having me read it!). Her style of prose is strange but in so many ways makes sense with how I think: scattered but everything fits together. This particular passage has stuck with me. As I read it I sighed and tears immediately welled up in my eyes as I allowed the truth of this to sink in.
“And I see what I am. I’m amputated. I have hacked my life up into grace moments and curse moments. The chopping that has cut myself off from the embracing love of a God who ‘does not enjoy hurting people or causing them sorrow’ (Lamentations 3:33), but labors to birth grief into greater grace. Isn’t this the crux of the gospel? The good news that all those living in the land of shadow of death have been birthed into new life, that the transfiguration of a suffering world has already begun. That suffering nourishes grace, and pain and joy are arteries of the same heart — and mourning and dancing are but movements in His unfinished symphony of beauty. Can I believe the gospel, that God is patiently transfiguring all the notes of my life into the song of His Son?… All is Grace.”
It used to be that if you ask me about my life I would tell you about good seasons and bad, like that, they would be separate. Among other things, I would share with you how hard 4th-6th was. How I was teased incessantly and had very few friends during a season of turmoil in my church and family. I would tell you how great high school was. I would tell you about how awesome my two trips to Guatemala were, and how significant they were to me. I would share with you how hard my time was in Costa Rica, but how dear those relationships are. I would share with you how awful and hard the past year has been. But also how wonderful.
Until this period of my life, I, like Voskamp mentions, “have hacked my life up into grace moments and curse moments.” But now the two have twisted themselves together so much that when I read this quote I was just so grateful that 1) someone else has experienced this bizarre juxtaposition of emotions and 2) she articulated it in a way that made sense and allowed me to understand what I was feeling.
For anyone reading this who may not know me, or not know me well: I am recently divorced. This has been the hardest year of my life by far. I have been dealing with the pain, depression, and all the negative emotions associated with this crisis. But throughout it I have also experienced so much joy, so much grace, and so much love. But I can’t separate these emotions. I think this is part of the “transfiguration of a suffering world.” God is so patient. So kind. So Gentle. So loving. So Faithful. He pours out joy in the midst of suffering.
This doesn’t mean that pain is not felt or that tears of mourning are not shed. But God is so good. He just wants us to turn to Him. To cry out to Him because He wants each and everyone of His children on this earth to know Him. To know His loving kindness and Grace. He wants us to experience His grace. He wants to turn our “mourning into dancing” (Psalm 30:11). Because all is grace. Good and bad, pain and joy can all be experienced together, even in the same moment!
If we do not allow ourselves to feel the pain, we do not open ourselves fully to the love that is so freely given by the One who understands pain, suffering, and rejection better than anyone. I suppose one of the biggest lessons I have learned in the past year: It’s okay to feel pain. It’s okay to feel joy. It’s okay to feel them simultaneously. All is grace.