Life in the Gray

I'm not a big fan of winter. More specifically, I detest the darkness that winter brings. 

Yes, it is technically spring as of Tuesday. Yes, daylight savings happened. But you know what? My experiential spring is not here yet. March thru mid-April is this pesky transitional period that makes me want to curl up in a ball and hibernate all over again. The temperatures are rising, but not consistently. The sun comes out occasionally, and when it does, it is glorious. But more often than not, the forecast looks like this:

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Seasonal Affective Disorder is a real thing, my friends. Winter wasn't too bad this year, but as usual, the gray of early spring has caught me by surprise. And it's not a good surprise. 

For the past couple of weeks, we've fallen into a routine. Andrew comes home from work, and asks me about my day. I shrug, because it was fine but not great. He asks what's wrong, and I shrug again. "Nothing really. I just miss the sun." Yes, I literally say that. Then we decide to snuggle on the couch and watch The Office because the show is funny, and neither of us feels like doing a whole lot more than that after a full day of work. 

I get out of bed. I serve my clients. I write. I eat. But for this brief time of year, it is a mechanical sort of existence. A pause in the hallway, an intermission between acts. The sun is coming back--I know that cognitively--but that fact alone is not enough to pierce the gloom. Early spring is a halfway happy, a lackluster shade of gray.

***

I've been attending a weekly bible study since December, which has been a positive experience for the most part. I enjoy the daily time in scripture, and the fruit that comes from consistently hearing from God. Daily study is a game changer, but I wouldn't stick to it as well without the structure provided by the class.

We're studying Romans, with frequent references to other parts of the Bible, and most of it has been so, so good for my soul. The gospel is good--why wouldn't it feel amazing to remind myself of that daily? But along with that goodness, I've found myself clouded by the gray in-between, the "gaps" I perceive that, if filled, would allow the Bible to read more like a how-to manual.

Proverbs is filled with warnings about types of friends to avoid, and when we should say no to a relationship. Yet verses throughout scripture call us to love one another, to bear one another's burdens, to forgive, to be sacrificial. Where is the line between being a godly friend, and having biblical boundaries? There is no definitive answer given, no authoritative black and white. 

Then we arrived at Romans 12. "Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse them." The commands and intentions are clear--as Christians, we are not to be neutral or passive in loving our enemies, but actively good. That's peachy when I need to be kind to someone who cuts me off in traffic, or I need to forgive a stranger for her unkind remark about my profession as a creative. 

But praying for your enemies is an eye-popping, mind-boggling request when God asks you to pray for your abusers.

God commands me to be "for him," to let go of angry speeches that I've rehearsed in case I run into him at a grocery store. Neutrality isn't enough.

Oh, how silly of me to think I'd mastered my bitterness and conquered my anger! "I've forgiven him," I'd say. In loving response, I imagine God chuckled to Himself, then brought me to Romans 12. He always knows me better than I know myself. 

I tried praying for my most recent abuser, and it brought me to my knees. I found myself weeping in this tension of acknowledging his behavior as evil, but knowing that he was no more tainted by sin than I am. I caught a brief glimpse of our equal need for Jesus, and while it was cathartic, it was also exhausting. I had to pry my fingers away from my beloved anger to get there. 

Confronting evil in a broken world brings me right into the heart of the gray. This world is the waiting room for our eternal, true home. I know it's coming, but it's not here yet. What to do while I wait leaves me feeling clouded, and more than a little frustrated with the gray. I ache for the glorious light of God's presence. But it simply isn't time yet.

***

There is a conversation I'd been avoiding with Andrew since the day we were married. A topic I've mentioned, but fiercely refused to discuss for two and a half years, possibly even longer, dating back to our engagement. I dreaded the conversation with a bleakness that words could never express. But I also knew we needed to have it, mostly for my sake, so we put a block of time on the calendar and prepared accordingly.

On Sunday, we talked about death. We talked about what we want to happen if we're seriously ill or wounded, especially if we're not able to make decisions for ourselves. We talked about our bodies, and what we want to happen to them when we're gone. We talked about each other's well being, and what we would hope for one another in the event that one of us died and left the other behind.

I started crying approximately 30 seconds into the conversation.

Andrew smiled gently, and asked if we should have the conversation another time. "Oh no," I said. "I'm going to cry no matter when we have this conversation. We might as well do it now."

Imagining Andrew's death is one of my primary sources of anxiety. It is a difficult fear to combat, because you know what? He could die today. He could die next week, or next year. He probably won't, but there is absolutely no way for me to know that for certain. It isn't necessarily a fear that lives at the forefront of my mind, or one that prevents me from staying present in my life.

Instead, the anxiety lurks under the surface of my consciousness, rising up like a shark when I least expect it. I glance at the clock, and it's 4:30 PM. Andrew is typically home by now, but I haven't heard from him. What if he's in a car accident, bleeding out on the shoulder of a highway somewhere? I shake my head, and I move on. The fear recedes into the depths of my self, where I can't see it or touch it. But it's there, and I know it will come back.

Anxiety feeds on the gray, the unknowable and the unanswerable. The questions that have no answers. More accurately, perhaps, anxiety feeds on the questions for which the world has no answers. 

***

Like the gray of winter hinting the return of the sun, the unanswerable and the unknowable grays can point to a coming dawn. No, the fullness of spring isn't here yet. But it's coming, and I can see the signs of it. Flower buds poke up out of the mulch, trumpeting the forthcoming warmth. On days like yesterday, the sunshine is so startling and restorative that I can't help but tear up, close my eyes, and drink it in with my arms outstretched.

Finally. Yes. I needed this. 

It is the same experience when I sit in stillness, letting the full truth of God's sovereignty and faithfulness fill my soul. The ambiguous questions are still pesky, but at last, they have answers. Not just any answers...good answers! Answers that invite sunlight into my heart, scattering the clouds effortlessly. 

What should I do about....

Trust me. I am good.

What if something bad happens...

Trust me. I am good.

What if I never...

Trust me. I am good. 

The gray of winter lingers far longer than I would prefer, and the season feels interminable. But my perception doesn't change the fact that the sun is coming. While I wait, I cling to the scattered, precious rays of warmth, knowing that there are blissfully sunny days ahead.