GOING BACK, MOVING FORWARD
By Hannah Brenchner
I’m writing to you tucked in the corner of an eclectic Mexican restaurant located in C terminal at the Charlotte airport. I’m not even that hungry. It’s more for symbolic reasons that I’m even sitting here.
I vividly remember being here in 2015. It was the day after Valentine’s Day. I was coming from a speaking engagement and only the people closest to me knew the dark pit I was walking out of at that time in my life. The severe depression had leveled me but we were finally starting to see glimpses of light in the everyday fight. Still, everything felt so fragile and hard. I was returning to Atlanta and planning to pack up my life and move back to Connecticut.
I remember rolling my suitcase through the airport, coming around the bend of this very terminal. I was mumbling under my breath. A stream of consciousness meets a steady prayer.
“God, I just want to go back to how things used to be. Before all this depression. I would give anything to go back.”
I’ll never forget moving past this Mexican restaurant when I heard a response almost instantly, “But you weren’t happy then.” Maybe it was God. Perhaps it was me. I don’t know.
But I know it was the first time in that stretch of months that I finally woke up to what I was doing: I was romanticizing the past so that I wouldn’t have to look toward the future. I was trying so hard to reclaim a life that shattered for a reason. I told the God of New Things that I’d like to stick with the old and familiar, and it was like he was saying back to me:
You are never going back to that place. You will never live that life again.
And while that hurts your spirit now, it will make sense one day. It will all make sense. The future is brighter than you can imagine, but you must move in a new direction. You have to lay down your shattered expectations. You have to release your past. You can’t take this baggage with you any further.
You can’t possibly receive what’s coming to you if you’re hands are full with what isn’t for you anymore.
I had to let go. And letting go meant facing all the grief that comes with letting go. It meant accepting this life I was trying desperately to hold onto wasn’t for me anymore. It was time to let go.
It’s not coincidental that I passed this restaurant and remembered this moment. Just this week, my girlfriends and I started reading the book of Ezra. To know where I’m going, you must know that Ezra’s book of the Bible begins with a decree from King Cyrus. After many years of exile, he releases the Jewish captives in Babylonia and frees them to return to their land and rebuild the destroyed temple.
A few chapters later, I’m struck by a passage I had never noticed before. The text says they rebuilt the foundation, and they immediately began to worship. It’s a beautiful picture of rejoicing in new foundations but look closer:
“And all the people shouted with a great shout when they praised the Lord, because the foundation of the house was laid. But many of the priests and Levites and heads of fathers’ houses, old men who had seen the first house, wept with a loud voice when they saw the foundation of this house being laid, though many shouted aloud for joy, so that the people could not distinguish the sound of the joyful shout from the sound of the people’s weeping.” (Ezra 3:11-13)
What a strange but somber detail to include. These people were weeping because they remembered the past they had to walk away from, the destroyed house of God. They couldn’t imagine a better future, their hearts still trapped in “what was.”
And yet others were ready to see a new beginning. The shouting of grief and joy mingled; God saw it all and allowed it all.
I knew I had to write this email for someone today, though I don’t know all the details of your story. But you’re caught between grief and joy. You want to look forward, but you are afraid of letting go of the past you became so comfortable with. You see glimpses of hope for your future but still live in the past.
And while I can’t tell you what to do– or how and when to do it– I want to encourage you: you are allowed to grieve what happened and still find strands of hope for the future. There is space for both. What was and what will be– they both get to exist in your story.
But eventually, you pick one. And you learn to open your hands to receive what’s coming for you. Somewhere in that process, you release what’s no longer yours to hold. And that’s when healing begins.
keep fighting forward,
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