Today I stained my deck.
It seems mundane. A task we ‘have’ to do when wood gets worn and unseemly. And it had already been a long day. My mother had gone into surgery this morning for a massive tumor and hysterectomy. The same surgery I had just gone through in January. Four months now but I still feel the tearing, the straining, the adjustments, and the pain.
As I began to stain over the worn out wood, I felt a sense of calm arise. Seeing something that looked so old and useless turn into a beautiful and nearly new object was quite satisfying. It all felt quite peaceful in a way—the swishing of the stain across the wood grain; the sound of the birds and the smell of the grill coming from my neighbor’s back yard. Therapeutic work; like an art form. I was grateful.
My mind finally felt freed up. The movement and the labor allowed me space to contemplate. To feel. And there were lots of those. Feelings, I mean. My heart and thoughts leapt from the anxiety of the day, wondering if mom had cancer, and if she would even make it out of surgery, to the loss of my own reproductive organs, and the stress and strain of the biopsies. The wondering and praying I didn’t have cancer all year, and now this. To be honest, I didn’t know if I’d even see mom again. It brought up the memories of when dad died. No final goodbye, just regrets.
As my paint brush jumped to a new piece of deck, my mind jumped too. What a difficult year. The quarantine, the losses, the homeschooling, and new business. The loss of friendships, my ministry, and church family. It all. just. seemed. to. be. too. much. But God.
As the stain soaked into the rotting wood, I felt hope arise. Seems odd if you look at everything practically. 30 years living with bipolar disorder and panic disorder. Adopting a child who suffers too. ADHD, depression, and now testing for autism. It’s been a long journey I can’t quite wrap into this small space in time but the grief is real. The whole “what could have been but never will be” thing is so real and stunningly painful. Only gratitude can help now. I think God still does miracles but for the most part He likes to do healings that take time and effort.
I stepped back to look at my work. Half of the deck looked nearly new. The other half pretty sketchy. It was really a picture of me. Worn out from so much life. So much experience. Sure there had been days where the party tunes were loud and the visitors full of laughter—when the deck was lively and full of promise. But the rain and heat and the constant usage wore it out. A little stain doesn’t make it new. It doesn’t erase what caused the wearing, or replace the wood beneath. Is it merely a cosmetic fix that doesn’t get to the heart of the matter?
Listen, you can continue to paint over what’s wrong when really you need to go deeper. Stain, stain, and re-stain, but at some point you might need to replace a rotting board or two. There’s no denying real construction is possible in the future when we choose to hide the truth. I choose the word “authentic” for my year in January and this is it my friends. No more simple coverups to avoid the real work.
There’s so much loss but so much gain. I see the hope with so much pain. I’ve heard your greatest ministry, your real life purpose is in your greatest pain and testimony. Well let it be then friends, let it be.
So allow yourself to feel, to grieve. Write, create, and express it! Be real, be authentic, be you. And use it to launch you into your greatest purpose and change. the. world! When you walk unleashed, you will unleash others around you and your greatest pain will be not only yours, but exactly the healing someone else needs too.