In the past seven days, I have grown up a lot.
In the months after Josh died, I felt like I did more growing up than the rest of my teenage years together. And I believe I did. But this past week I have grown up even more. Let me try to summarize it.
To find blessing out of what you thought was a curse. To be overcome by words you never thought you'd hear. To survive a plunge through darkness and come out whole. To accept what's broken, only because of your own frailty. To shatter your own pride enough to do something you never, ever would dare to. To share deep sorrow. To be open, vulnerable. To die. To live. To forgive. To love.
Yes. It has been a huge week.
But then, a few days ago, as I sat staring out at our wind-chimes... I realized I have my whole life ahead of me. Here I am, feeling as if I've felt every emotion there is to feel... and I'm only 19.
So sometimes I feel young, so young. So naive and sheltered. And then, on further reflection, I realize that I am so much less naive than I used to be. And I feel old. Childhood feels so far away. I feel like a woman, not a girl. And I am a woman, I am. Yet still I am young.
Perhaps, after all, there is no contradiction. Maybe I just like to have something to ponder about... hmm.
That being said, I will leave you to finish pondering it for me. I must move on to life... yes, life. Life is such a confusing thing sometimes. But in the end, it doesn't matter if it's confusing now, because whatever it is, it does have a purpose. God is quite intricately involved in things. It's a mystery, and an incredibly happy thought. Because he is so good. So, so good.
Hmm... I'm feeling dreadfully pondersome. But I said I would finish, so I will. Good day.
That is what I will call it.
The Path stands before us humans. It leads through dark, light, beautiful, murky, sharp, smooth, difficult and serene. This path has been written about so much that everyone is sure they know it by heart. But they are all wrong. It is much, much harder and much more beautiful than they think.
Some approach it with much caution. Perhaps too much, because they are afraid. They are afraid of injury. They are afraid to put all of their energy into climbing up the hills because the view at the top just might not be worth it. Worst of all, they could fall, and then be both injured and greatly drained of precious energy.
Some of these mask their fear with piety. They claim that those rough cliffs and steep ravines and raging rivers don't need to be traversed through at all. "After all," they say, "only the fool-hardy would rush into un-needed dangers such as these."
How blind they are. Do they expect the hills to just level out for them? Yet deep down inside, they have just as much fear as those who don't mask it.
Before you scorn these people altogether, let me tell you that they are right to be wary of the danger. Their caution is good, for they could very well be deeply wounded. Their mistake lies in their conclusion about the danger - whatever is on the other side is not worth the risk of getting there.
So let us see what these fearful people do. Before they even take a step, they take account of the risks and purpose to avoid them. Then they begin, walking along delicately, not wanting their feet to get dirty. At the first sign of a danger, they stop. "I could be injured badly," they say, "Therefore, I will be wise and guard my life."
Therefore, they do not live. They miss the excitement of getting dirty, fording the river and trekking up the hill to see the majestic mountain peaks and rambling meadows and deep dark forests. They miss the pain and sorrow of injury, but they gain the sorrow of never having seen anything. They do not die, but they do not live.
So they turn around, walk back and look for another path which they hope will not hold these dangers. But they will not find that. You cannot see anything beautiful without risk. So they will either continue searching forever, in an endless, fruitless circle... or become so frustrated that they bitterly give up ... or finally realize that perhaps, after all, the risk might be worth it.
Then there are other types.
There are the sort who are bold and wild and reckless. They are afraid of nothing. They run along the path, tripping and scraping themselves up - oh, but it is so worth it! They feel everything to the fullest. They dive headlong into the stream, they climb the rugged cliff with abandon -
And they fall.
Suddenly they are broken and in pain. Their energy is spent. They can hardly walk on their injured legs. Angry and sorrowful, they crawl into a little cave to mourn their loss. And they will either sit their forever, just as bitter as the meek ones... or they will one day raise their head, stand on their shaky legs, and find the courage to enter the world again.
These wild ones were wounded before they had hardly seen anything. Why? Because they were afraid of nothing. The dangers were real and they disregarded that fact for the sheer thrill. Therefore, they did live - but the constant pain they now endure was not worth the short amount of freedom and abandon.
So what are we to conclude? Both types are unwise in different ways. Therefore, let us follow the meek one, who is slowly becoming more courageous - who decides to take a risk after all - or, if you'd like, the bold broken one who is finally ready to attempt the journey again, though with much more care.
They approach a river. It is rushing, fast. The meek one feels herself start to tremble. Can she really do this? Yes, she must, if she can find a way. The bold one easily pictures himself jumping in like he would've done before... but no, he must think this through.
So they walk along the path until they find a place where it narrows. Here, with a very big jump, one could make it across. It is not entirely safe; no that it can never be. But it is considerably wiser, realizes the bold one, than trying to jump across where he was before. It simply took a little longer walk. No, it was still a risk, but one that could be accomplished.
The meek one whispers a prayer. The bold one backs up to get a running start. And then they jump.
The bold one stands panting, on the other side. He is a bit scratched, but he doesn't notice. The thrill of the jump washes over him and he grins. Then he turns and jogs through the forest, which is becoming more and more beautiful with every step.
The meek one stands slowly, in awe. Was that all? Yes, it was frightening... but now it was over, and look. Look at the beautiful golden forest ahead of her. Tears rise to her eyes as she realizes she's finally where she's always dreamed of being. It was so worth the risk.
And as for the bold one... he too is taking a moment to take it all in. It breathtakingly gorgeous - so much moreso than the quick glances he got at beauty during his former days of rashness. It was worth the caution.
And so the tale ends. Not with perfection, but with resolve. The path continues. More wounds, challenges and sweeping sights wait for the travelers. But they are ready now. With God's help, they are ready.
The path is not for the faint of heart. Neither is it for the reckless.
It is for those who note the risk, say a prayer, and take it on. With fear, perhaps, but with determination and wisdom. And there lies is a thrill you can't afford to miss.