“Beside the rivers of Babylon, we sat down and wept as we thought of Jerusalem. We put away our harps, hanging them on the branches of poplar trees.” (Psalm 137:1-2)
I wrote this verse in my journal last September, right in the middle of a very painful time in my life. I didn’t know it at the time, but these would become prophetic words for me, as that day was to be my last time singing on the worship team in the church that had become my family. It wasn’t my choice to leave the team, and I never got to say goodbye, or even dispute the reasons behind my dismissal. Leaving felt as abrupt as a death, and as harsh as a knife to the stomach.
In that same journal entry, I wrote this:
“Grief is an important emotion. We tend to want to dismiss it, jump past it and into more comfortable emotions, but you can’t bypass grief. You have to walk through it, or it will find you and force you to feel it. When something or someone has died (physically, emotionally or spiritually), you have to let yourself grieve the loss.
I’m grieving many losses right now, and I feel like the Holy Spirit is reminding me to let myself grieve, not to move past my emotions, pretending they don’t exist – that will only produce anger in me, as I try to cover my grief. So I need to let Him walk me through it, trusting that He will bring me through to the other side.”
Looking back on this season, with the benefit of the rearview mirror, I could never have known how true this would be for me. I had no idea how deeply I would have to grieve, or how difficult that period of time would be. This whole last year has felt like a stomach-punch from which I’m only just beginning to recover. But God has been so faithful to me the whole time. Every time I wanted to run from the pain, deny its existence, or just move on before I was really ready, He gently reminded me that there was still more pain I needed to deal with.
And I can now say now that I’m turning a corner. We’ve found another church (in which I cried in every service for the first two months, even though every Sunday, I would tell myself, “This time, I’m not going to cry!”), and over time, it’s beginning to feel like home. This time last year, I doubted whether we would ever be part of a traditional church again, so it’s been a miraculous turnaround for me. I’d love to say that my amazing skills as a counselor helped me to heal quickly, but I know that it was the God I love, and who loves me, walking with me through the pain, that brought me to the other side. The human part of me would have fled from the grief that I didn’t want to face (anger felt much better, thank you very much), but the Holy Spirit wouldn’t let me, and now, on the other side, I’m so grateful.
Today was an important day for me. It was my first day as a part of a new worship team, at our new church. It was emotional, as I thought about the past and what I’ve had to leave behind, but it was also joyful, as I got to worship my God, who healed my heart to make it possible for me to stand up with a new group of people and be vulnerable, risking the pain of the past for the hope of a different ending this time.
I could easily have become bitter and angry at the people who hurt me. But ultimately, God is my defender. He is my judge. So I forgive them, and I’m leaving the rest to God.
We’ve all been hurt. It is the very essence of being human. But in our pain, we have a choice; to let it define us, or to let it improve us. With God’s help, may I always choose the latter.