Last week I sat down one evening and read Kate Bowler’s new book Everything Happens for a Reason: And Other Lies I’ve Loved. I didn’t get up from my chair until I was finished. And then I went downstairs and gave Brad a big hug and asked him if I could give him his Valentine’s Day gift a day early because I just needed something happy to happen.
It’s a beautifully written book and it broke my heart.
She’s living life in 90 day segments – one vine to the next. She was diagnosed with stage four colon cancer two years ago. Every 90 days she has another scan – a scan that lets her know what the next 90 days will hold.
I found many connection points in her story, including infertility, which I was not expecting. That caught me off guard and pulled me deeper into her writing. Although our circumstances are very different, and I would never want to play the comparison game here, I did find some of her experience to resonate with my own.
Her first book, Blessed, tells the history of the prosperity gospel in America. Name it and claim it; if you’re sick, it must be because you did something wrong, etc. A statement that comes out of this movement, and the title of her book, is everything happens for a reason. I’ve heard this throughout my life. In fact, at one time I probably believed it for myself.
It makes life so much easier. If everything happens for a reason then I don’t have to wrestle with the mysteries of life. I just accept it. I accept that God wanted me to go through this, that God will only give me as much as I can handle, that I’ll be stronger because of it. No. Nope. Not buying it.
If God planned this, if God wanted this for my life, then I’m out. See ya. Not doing it.
I’m not saying beauty can’t come from ashes. That happens every day. I’m just saying God didn’t start the fire.
Kate writes, “I can’t reconcile the way that the world is jolted by events that are wonderful and terrible, the gorgeous and the tragic. Except that I am beginning to believe that these opposites do not cancel each other out…I think the same thoughts again and again: Life is so beautiful. Life is so hard.”
Life is so beautiful. Life is so hard.
My story isn’t as public as hers – she’s had two articles in the New York Times, she’s written two bestseller books, she’s a professor at Duke Divinity School. Hi. I’m Anne. Haha. Not as many people are aware of my story – of my infertility. And, I’m thankful to be surrounded by people who don’t say out loud, “everything happens for a reason.” They may think it, but they must know me well enough not to say it, because I can probably count on one hand the times I’ve heard that. The more public I am with my story, the more I’m opening myself to the likelihood of someone saying that to me. There are risks in being vulnerable.
I suspect some people aren’t comfortable with my vulnerability, with my truth. Some people may think I’m not a very good Christian. Some people may think I’m sacra-religious at times. Think away, Some People!
Whatever Some People think doesn’t bother me. I don’t write for them. I write for me. Although writing in a journal is cathartic, I’ve found this form of writing to be a release. There’s something freeing about writing my truth and then clicking “publish.” There’s something freeing in releasing my words out into the world. It’s odd how private and public this is – these are my thoughts, my words, my experiences and at the same time I’m trusting the world to hold them with tenderness and love. That’s scary, but when I click “publish” I feel so brave and authentic and vulnerable and true.
Life is so beautiful. Life is so hard.
Everything doesn’t happen for a reason: “Plans are made. Plans come apart. New delights or tragedies pop up in their place. And nothing human or divine will map out this life, this life that has been more painful than I could have imagined. More beautiful than I could have imagined.”
Things pop up in the emptiness of what was. It’s painful letting that space stay empty. It’s painful waiting for the right thing to show up and fill it again. It’s also so beautiful to see new life growing in areas I thought were dead.
It’s tempting to fill the empty space. I do it all the time – running, hiking, yoga, quilting, TV. And then I remember… space isn’t a bad thing. So I cut back again, letting the space breathe, letting it be open and free.
I don’t know the reasons. I don’t have answers for the reasons. I may never know. But, trying to sugar coat the situation with trite statements doesn’t help. The only way I know how to do this is to dig in – to live in the grief, to face it head on, to allow it to live with me. We sit and breathe together. We run and hike together. We quilt together. We sit at the table with Brad together. We are learning to live together, grief and I. We’re beginning to see the value in each other, the gifts we each hold.
“But most everyone I meet is dying to make me certain. They want me to know, without a doubt, that there is a hidden logic to this seeming chaos.”
There’s no hidden logic to life. We’re here each doing the best we can, most of the time anyway. There are few things I’m certain about, the rest will work itself out along the way. I am certain that no matter what the reasons are this is true: life is so beautiful and life is so hard.