I have been reading through the Bible with some of my family for nearly a year and we’re about 2/3 of the way through, which is really exciting but not the point. Haha. I’d come across passages of scripture where people would throw ashes on their heads or cover their bodies with sackcloth. I was intrigued by this. What stood out to me was that this act seemed to coincide with mourning. For example, in Esther 4:1, it talks about Mordecai tearing his clothes, putting on sackcloth and ashes, and walking out into the city “wailing loudly and bitterly.” Mordecai was experiencing such intense and utter grief because King Xerxes’ was allowing Haman the go ahead to destroy the Jews (Esther 3:8–15). It goes on to say there was “great mourning” among not just Mordecai but all the Jewish people; “fasting, weeping and wailing, many lay in sackcloth and ashes.” (Esther 4:3). This displayed their intense overwhelming all consuming grief and absolute distress. This is just one example of many that I’ve come across. It’s been rolling around in my head the more and more scriptures I’ve read in regards to the way they mourned in the Bible.
I started thinking about mourning and what that would look like if we fully allowed ourselves permission to feel and engage in that type of grief. We’re all navigating such an incredibly strange and really devastating time in our world, dealing with this pandemic that has halted our every day lives. There is grief and mourning that come along with what’s happening right now. The loss of a loved one, the loss of income, the loss of normal, the sacrifice of sanity, being thrust into an unsafe situation you were desperately fighting to leave and now you’re stuck, the resounding loneliness of being single and quarantined. I’ve only scratched the surface. So what would it look like if we got rid of the “idea” of what mourning was suppose to be and allow ourselves to truly release the grief. What if we stepped in, what if we leaned into grief and dealt with it, instead of numbing ourselves or if we stopped caring what other people thought and allowed ourselves the opportunity to properly heal.
These again are just thoughts that have been rolling around in my head. This led me to wake up a few nights ago at 3:00am and the words poured out of my mind and into my Notes app on my iPhone because I mean, I really didn’t want to get out of bed to find a piece of paper and I wrote and everyone sleeps with their phone right next to them right? I wasn’t sure if I wanted to share because this particular piece feels incredibly personal. However as I move towards healing, I want to continue to challenge myself to be transparent and authentic, to live in truth; to uncover more of who I am and who God is shaping me to be. So I’m a little nervous to let you into this piece of my “grief/healing” journey except that’s exactly what I want this ministry to be. Allowing people to be comfortable in their mess, knowing that God sees you and loves you deeply in the thick of it. You don’t have to come to God cleaned up or tidy or presentable, you can come to Him eyes red and swollen, snot dripping out of your nose from crying and He still looks at you with compassion and grace and deep unconditional love and calls you beautiful and worthy. That is my heart and desire for Messy Girl Ministries. To allow you the freedom to be exactly who and where you are and know you have a place of safety and acceptance and unconditional love. If I’m not willing to lay my guard down too, how can I expect to create a safe space? SO having said all of that, here are my 3:00am thoughts:
“If I had ashes on my head…
You would know that I’m in mourning. That the grief I hold within my chest is so heavy, it cripples everything I do. That I want to tear my clothes and sit on the floor and rock back and forth and wail. That I wish I could audibly release the heaviness in my chest.
If I had ashes on my head.
If I wore a sackcloth around my body…
You would know that I suffered a major loss. You could come and offer support. You could hold my hand, you could pray over me and for me speaking the words the grief has stolen from my voice. You could be a comfort as I weep and cry out over insurmountable loss. As I lament with God, screaming and pleading, shouting and beating my chest. Pounding the floor. Publicly navigating this crushing weight.
If I wore a sack cloth on my body.
I wear a smile on my face, like a badge of honor. Smiling as though the sun itself is beaming from my face. Inside rotting away as the insurmountable grief becomes a load to heavy to bear. So you come and you laugh and you take away another piece of me. Adding to the grief, adding to the chaos. You don’t know the level of mourning I carry. You don’t know the weight crushing my chest. I don’t know how to transition from smile to ashes. I’ve been wearing the smile so long I don’t know how to release the mourning.
I wear a smile on my face and pray that He will show me how to go from ashes to beauty.”
When I shared my “poem” with my mom, she got pretty concerned. “Are you depressed, Elisha?”, she inquired and I responded no or something along those lines, kind of chuckling. Of course that is the natural response when someone shares with you that intense level of pain, especially when your disposition is pretty much always sunny. I’m not saying that you should just go out and share your grief/story with every single person, because BOUNDARIES, another thing I’m learning but that’s A WHOLE other post, haha. Man I’m kind of wanting to throw my hands up at God and say, “I love you, but I AM TIRED OF GROWING OVER HERE!!!!!” Anyone else feel that? Especially right now? Like can I just sit on my couch and binge watch Friends & The Office until quarantine is over? Okay, thank you. Anyway- I digress. My whole thought pattern as I’ve tried to process the idea of grief has just been to lean into the grief, the healing, the learning. To stop running away from the things God is trying to heal in me, to unpack it, expose it and bring it into the light allowing the darkness to have no power anymore. Numbing it, shoving it down and packing it away will only delay your healing and then it will come reeling out in the middle of the night and slap you in your face and you will think WHAT IN THE WORLD just happened. I am learning to be comfortable with the waves of grief as they come, whatever it is that you are working through, stop hiding. Allow yourself the freedom to bloom, to heal and to grow through it. It’s painful, it’s tedious. It’s so so hard. It’s also so worth it. Value yourself enough to give yourself the opportunity to step into the next chapter of your story.
In Isaiah 61: 1-3 he writes, “The Spirit of the Sovereign Lord is on me, because the Lord has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim freedom for the captives and release from darkness for the prisoners, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor and the day of vengeance of our God, to comfort all who mourn, and provide for those who grieve in Zion— to bestow on them a crown of beauty instead of ashes, the oil of joy instead of mourning, and a garment of praise instead of a spirit of despair.They will be called oaks of righteousness, a planting of the Lord for the display of his splendor.” (emphasis mine) This scripture brings such joy and relief to my heart. Such hope and encouragement for when I’m feeling overwhelmed and weary and that’s what I want to leave you with, that hope and encouragement that God is walking alongside you in your suffering. You are not alone friend. You have a wonderful Counselor, loving Father, place of peace to rest in as you boldly and courageously step into the next part of your story.
Still a hot quarantined mess,
I am in the process of figuring out who I am all over again. For now I know these things about myself and I am sure as I continue on my journey of healing and self awareness I will learn more about who I am growing to be. I am a single mother to the most beautiful little boy I have ever seen. I have a wonderful family of strong determined women who have poured into me and built strength and courage that I didn’t know I possessed. I love to travel and explore and discover new places. Pink is my favorite color, unashamedly, pink and sparkles. I am strong, stronger than I give myself credit for. I am who I am by the grace of God, He has blessed me abundantly and far more than I deserve. I have a heart for people and my goal in writing is to encourage them to seek God not only when they have everything cleaned up and figured out but to know and reassure them that they can come to God in the middle of their mess, the broken and their yuck. He is waiting with arms tenderly wide open willing to embrace whatever mess you are in the middle of.