Grumble Hallelujah on the Kitchen Floor
Why lamenting needs to be part of our lives
As I lay on the kitchen floor — my body rocking with sobs, my mouth telling my husband, “I hate my life”— it never occurred to me to pick up the phone and call a friend. To tell someone that the life I was living, in which rug after rug kept getting pulled out from under me over the past few years — my parents divorced, my husband’s business tanked, our debt rose, health issues loomed, and our marriage sagged under the weight of it all — was nothing as it was supposed to be.
In fact, I was mortified when my husband rounded the bend and saw me there. Crying and hurting is something I do best alone.
So I was surprised to find Amy Dickinson write this in her 2010 memoir of life as a single mom, The Mighty Queens of Freeville: “I wanted two things when I first learned that my marriage was ending. First, I wanted it not to end. And second, I wanted for others to share a complete and interior knowledge of my heartbreak, followed by demonstrable grief.”
Is that true? I wondered. Are there people whose first inclination amid heartbreak is to tell others? In person?
Even though my heartbreak and disappointment were quite different than hers (my marriage, for example, was not ending) I couldn’t imagine wanting to tell a soul.
And yet, Dickinson — a.k.a. “Ask Amy,” the syndicated columnist who filled Ann Landers’s wise shoes — laments that she could not share her grief. “While there might be tiny streets tucked away somewhere in London where this sort of behavior is both possible and tolerated,” she writes, “they remain like Diagon Alley in the Harry Potter novels: attended by witches and warlocks and mysteriously hidden from view for the rest of us.”
Though I’ve never lived in London, I believe my middle America neighborhood is much like this. Maybe it’s because I grew up being taught to always respond, “Fine, thank you. And how are you?” when asked how I was. What I took from this well-meaning, good-mannered advice was, “No one wants to hear your problems, Caryn.”
And a few more “witches” and “warlocks” moved in to block the streets where I could speak.
All through the years of being disappointed with life, I spoke very little of what was going on. I was ashamed. Scared. Confused. For being angry with God, angry with my family, and generally hating my life. I kept hearing the voice in the back of my head say no one cared about my problems. And then, another voice, that my problems were not real problems at all: Look around the globe, Caryn! People are suffering! Starving! Trafficked!
But mostly, I feared the voice that told me I shouldn’t complain. That if I really loved Jesus, I’d trust and obey. And shut up. And choose joy. And praise him. I feared the voices that said voicing hurts and disappointments not only had no place in the Christian life, but was antithetical to it.
Just after my fetal-curled time on the kitchen floor, I cracked open my Bible. Then, I risked vulnerability and talked to a friend.
And I realized something: complaining about the “supposed to be’s” of life is not only cathartic, it’s biblical. Consider the complaining that is done in Bible. Think of the lament Psalms. Of the entire book of Lamentations! Of Habbakuk without any sheep in the pen, any grapes on the vine. Of Jesus himself, on the ground, sweating and desperate for his cup to be taken away. Each of these lamenters turned to God in their suffering, ultimately rejoicing in him and trusting him with the “direction” of their lives. Even when it was to the cross.
I believe this complaining, this lamenting, needs to be part of our Christian lives and our churchy conversations. Because it’s the down times of life—the crises—that can lead us to God, to what he wants from our lives.
In a Psychology Today article, Marcia Reynolds writes, “…don’t let people tell you that you have no right to be unhappy with your life. It is okay to lose your equilibrium when others think your life should be smooth sailing. It is okay to question your life’s purpose. It’s okay to say, ‘I don’t know who I am.’ It is better to ask the questions and seek the answer than to live a numb life.”
It’s something we Christians should be preaching as well, not simply because it’s psychologically beneficial but because it’s spiritually true. Especially since Jesus told us as much when he says, “In this world you will have trouble” (John 16:33). This is the same Jesus who tells us we will have trouble offers us life to the “full” in him (John 10:10). I believe these babies go hand in hand.
The full life doesn’t mean everything will come up roses, that we have to paint on fake smiles and walk through life with nary a grumble. The full life means we recognize the life we’ve been given and seek God in it. It means that we begin to see the kitchen floor — or wherever our hurt takes us — as holy ground, as space to seek God and his will for our lives. A place for step one toward a truly full—of troubles, of joy, of sorrows, of laughter, of disappointment, of fulfillment—life that we can love, and through which others can see Jesus.
Caryn Rivadeneira is the author of Grumble Hallelujah: Learning to Love Your Life Even When It Lets You Down (Tyndale, 2011). She lives with her family in the western suburbs of Chicago, and writes for Her.meneutics regularly.
Original article here