There are several phrases widely used that make my skin crawl or make me unbelievably annoyed. Shocking, isn’t it, that something so ordinary would get under my skin and immediately deflate my mood?
We’ve talked before, you and me, about my penchant for a mouth full of sass and climbing up on my high horse or a soap box. I wish I could tell you that it was a very small list of things that get my southern mouth runnin’ but, alas, that would be a lie. As anyone who knows me well will tell you, I’m what you may call an opinionated lady.
One such phrase I hear constantly is “everything happens for a reason”.
Even writing the sentence, my face is scrunching up at its very existence. This phrase and I have a lengthy history; one that caused a nasty razing in my original programming and a rebirth of sorts when looking at it as a concept. I believed everything happened for a reason for many, many years. Raised as a Christian, I thought that everything that happened was by God’s design and if something unfortunate happened, it was due to a lack of faith or that God had a reason.
Let me be clear – I was a dumb human being then.
I had the luxury of thinking that way and offering that horrific phrase to people who were going through something terrible because I hadn’t yet experienced anything traumatic enough to make me question it. I was naive. I was inexperienced in the ways of trauma and gut-wrenching pain and, therefore, should have kept my sassy southern mouth shut when talking to people who had. Bless my immature heart.
When I would offer this explanation to people, it wasn’t out of malice. It wasn’t to cause more pain and heap on more layers of pain and questioning. In fact, I had exactly zero clue that my words were even doing that! I just took the typical societal approach of offering platitudes and cliched answers for wounds that had no explanation. When my sister’s good friend’s brother died when I was in middle school, I vividly remembering hearing the adults around me at the funeral use that god-awful phrase. I thought it was normal, a valid response when an explanation can’t be found. “I just can’t understand it,” the ladies in pearls and heels at the funeral home said to each other. “Well, you know, everything happens for a reason.”
Thinking about that now makes me nauseated.
His sweet mama wrote me the kindest card when Caleb died and occasionally, during the summer months especially, I think of who he would be as an adult had he not died of an asthma attack at summer camp as a child. I remember thinking when I was young that I couldn’t understand why this had happened and to the nicest people at our church, even. Why do bad things happen to good people, I wondered? IS there a reason?
Last week we talked about mining for gold in our stories and mining for the gold in my story has also turned into me mining for meaning as I have gently placed my pieces back together. Truth time: I don’t believe everything happens for a reason, but I believe you can find meaning, even in the darkest circumstances. Some people still subscribe to the belief that everything does happen for a reason, and, if that works for them, then great. For me, I recoil every time someone uses that phrase in my presence because I don’t believe my babies died for a reason. I don’t believe two of my living children endured what they did before becoming a part of our family for a reason. I don’t believe that you lost your babies or have endured trauma or tragedy for a reason. I can’t even begin to fathom what those reasons could be, and I refuse to even try. And while I don’t subscribe to the theory of “everything happens for a reason”, I do believe you can find meaning in every piece of your story and that meaning is also the gold.
For me, meaning looks like this:
Wandering into the foster care system to adopt my two older children opened my eyes to a broken system; having to prove my fitness as a parent repeatedly and under intense scrutiny while biological parents are seemingly given infinite amounts of chances. Being angry at those responsible for the harm caused to my children before they entered my life, and yet learning how to offer grace and forgiveness too. Having my heart break for the hundreds of thousands of children still in foster care or available for adoption and becoming an accidental advocate for those children, especially the teens that age out with nowhere to go.
Losing my four babies taught me how incredible it is when a baby is born alive; an actual miracle, something most people take for granted. It taught me to cherish every day you’re loaned with your children while at the same time giving yourself the grace and space to admit that it’s freaking HARD and not every day is sunshine and roses. (Because it’s SO freaking hard some days!) It’s allowed me to share my broken heart with other Grief Warriors; to borrow courage from them and lend my courage to others. It’s allowed me to see the joys and sorrows of life and appreciate one fully because of the other.
All of this has revealed the gold in my marriage because there were days where it was UGLY and I wasn’t sure we’d make it. I literally questioned its ability to survive almost daily. For Years. Celebrating our 10 year anniversary this year was sweeter because of the battles we’ve endured together and it has proven to us that our marriage can survive anything. It’s revealed who in my life are my 2am friends, the people who will walk through the fire with me even when they feel like breaking themselves. It’s brought forth new friendships who only know the “new normal” me and allow me to be fully myself including allowing me to show my scars and kintsugi – the gold in my brokenness.
I would do anything for my children to not have experienced the horrific things they have in their short lives and to have my four angel babes here in my arms. Anything.
But, that’s not reality. None of it is something I can change.
All I can do, is mine for the gold; search for the meaning and be on the hunt for gifts my grief reveals. Collecting the flakes of gold in my story helps me remember my strength, especially on the days where I feel like my strength can’t be found.
I don’t know why bad things happen to good people. I don’t know why God has allowed what has happened, to happen. It’s question #1 on my list when I get to Heaven one day. I don’t know why asthma attacks or cord accidents occur. I don’t have reasons to point to as to why there is suffering and pain and trauma that destroys lives in this world. I wish I did – but I don’t. What I do have is the collection of lessons, of meaning, out of the fires I’ve been forged in and carry them throughout the rest of my story. What I do have, is the legacy of my angels in heaven, the lessons learned from our foster care and adoption journey, and the gold in my story to hold onto when the darkness comes for another visit.