I have to remind myself that little Eliana would be so proud of me.
Little Eliana had big dreams. She had no doubt she could achieve those dreams. She thought college students were the coolest people on the planet.
I remember what it was like to be happy. Which stinks, because there’s a great divide between the innocence and the darkness that runs through every day of my life now. Little me and the me now don’t feel like the same person. When I look at pictures of myself from anytime before senior year of high school it feels like I’m looking at a stranger. Rationally I know it’s me, but she seems so far away.
She was insecure, but her smile was bigger than it is now. Her laugh was loud because she wasn’t afraid.
I call home in the middle of a mental break down.
My dad tries to remind me that brokenness is the natural state of the world. To receive joy is to receive a glimpse into what’s to come. To receive a blessing is to receive a sneak peek of what God’s preparing for us even now. This is not our permanent home. We’re pilgrims here. I don’t want to believe him.
“Doesn’t that make you pessimistic?” I ask.
“There’s a difference between pessimistic and realistic,” he says.
Realistically, we ought not to be surprised when we suffer. Suffering is what this world has fallen into. What we ought to be surprised by, then, is when God graciously opens up a tiny window for us to glimpse his glory. It’s like Moses. God hid him in the cleft of a rock and passed by for a moment. Moses could not behold the whole glory of God, but he got a glimpse.
Our relationships are a glimpse into the ultimate relationship between us and God. The broken ones and imperfections are a difficult reminder that none of these things can ultimately satisfy us the way He can.
Charlotte encourages me to understand joy as God’s grace providing me with just a little relief to get through. She uses the same vocabulary as my dad. My resting state might be anxious and depressed, but God blesses us with small glimpses into the way the world should be, and that’s meant to give us hope. It won’t always be like this.
My dad reminds me that while my suffering is valid and he believes me, I do have it better than a lot of people. I have family. I have friends.
“Another [who doesn’t have those things] may have more rewards in heaven than we do,” my dad says. “But we will all be in the presence of God and we will rejoice that they are receiving those gifts.”
It scares me to think about going through any of this without God, so I don’t think about it very often.
My mom says, “Hold it loosely in your hands so God can hold it tightly in his.”
“Did you get that from somewhere or did you just make it up?”
“It just came to me. That was definitely God.”
“That’s what I was thinking, too.”
I finished reading a commentary on Dante’s Divina Commedia for a class, and one line struck me right in the face. The commentator talks about the moment Jesus calls Peter out onto the water.
“A key thing about this reference is that Peter did not want to walk on water. It is a moment of a crisis of faith. He was teetering on the brink of the abyss, struggling, but he does finally manage to go on. This is a poignant moment, and Dante is clearly stressing that there are degrees of faith, and that a crisis of faith must not be seen as a denial of faith.” (“Reading Dante” by Giuseppe Mazzotta)
I read it to my mom after venting about how I feel like I can’t find God. She falls silent.
“Nothing can keep you from the love of God,” she says. “Not anxiety. Not depression.”
Little Eliana is still there, somewhere. I know she is. In a weird way, she’s cheering for me. She’s hoping I take care of myself. She’s hoping I know she thinks I’m cool. She’s hoping I realize all the ways God has provided in the midst of the darkness.
She’s hoping I know she’s proud of me.
Someday, someday, I will be proud of me, too.