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That was a text I got from my daughter a few hours into labour.

“Is it supposed to hurt this much?”

I wanted to laugh, but I didn’t. Because, yes. It is.

And it does.

And it will continue to.

With every challenge that comes with being a parent. Being a mother or father or husband or wife or grandparent or just being . . . living this life.

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Life hurts this much. Is it supposed to? I don’t know.

I wish I could say with complete certainty that no, no it’s not supposed to, but what do I do with that when it does? What do I do when life takes an unexpected turn and everything goes off the rails and we’re suddenly facing down giants we never imagined existed? What do I do when there aren’t any answers to all my pathetic questions and all I feel is inexplicable anger and confusion and sadness and there’s no STOP button?

Is it supposed to hurt this much?

 “‘Cause you can’t jump the track,we’re like cars on a cable
And life’s like an hourglass, glued to the table
No one can find the rewind button girl,
So cradle your head in your hands
And breathe, just breathe,
Oh breathe, just breathe . . . ”

That soulful Anna Nalick song from years back still gets me every time.

‘Cause you can’t jump the tracks.

Cradle your head in your hands. And breathe. Just breathe.

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Breathe out all the fears and all the prayers that can’t be voiced because the words won’t come. Breathe them out and hope they’re heard anyway.

As long as we still have breath, we still have life. Hope. I think this is still true. I’m trying to convince myself it is. Trying to convince myself that all this, these unforeseen challenges our family is facing, is happening for a reason. Though for the life of me I can’t make sense of it.

I wrote on my Facebook page a week or so ago that I feel like a bad Christian when life hurts too much and I just don’t get it. I feel like I’m supposed to hold my head high and slap on a smile and say something like this too shall pass, God is in control, we’ll just keep praying . . . but honest? I don’t feel the assurance I think I’m supposed to. And I get that knot in my stomach as fear rises and everything I thought I believed in is pushed beyond the limit. Faith is tested. And faltering.

Is it supposed to hurt this much? 

I’ve been in this place before, under different circumstances. And I thought that valley was bad. My lamentations then were nothing compared to this current feeling of helplessness. Desperate to fix things that you have no power over and trying to be strong because they need you to be but all you feel is small and weak most days, and nights are long and restless, filled with unpleasant thoughts and clammy, clinging fear.

And yet still I know others walk a road filled with obstacles far greater than the ones we face. Their giants loom larger and more menacing, their nightmares far more frightening. But this road, our road? It’s still hard. It’s still rough and winding and treacherous in its own way and some days feels impossible to traverse. And I guess we can own that. I guess it’s okay to want to find a detour, a short cut, a better way. But when there isn’t one?

You gotta keep going.

I learned this lesson a long time gone and now I know it’s the only way forward. One foot in front of the other. One day at a time. And if you need a hand to hold onto or another ten feet of rope because yours is frayed and that knot you tied in desperation is slowly coming unraveled?

Yell for more rope.

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“And Moses, Aaron, and Hur went to the top of the hill. It turned out that whenever Moses raised his hands, Israel was winning, but whenever he lowered his hands, Amalek was winning. But Moses’ hands got tired. So they got a stone and set it under him. He sat on it and Aaron and Hur held up his hands, one on each side. So his hands remained steady until the sun went down.” Exodus 17: 10-13

I love this scene, this vision of old Moses losing strength, unable to lift his hands one more time. And there come his friends alongside him, grab hold tight and lift his arms for him. This picture I get in my head kind of makes me cry a little. Because I’m so grateful for my Exodus 17 friends. The ones who hold you up when you can’t stand anymore. The ones who pray when your voice is gone, throat too tight to speak. The ones who reach out even when there’s really nothing to say, just to let you know they’re there. And they don’t mind when you ask the same question over and over again.

Is it supposed to hurt this much? 

Maybe. If only for this reason. To see the good in others, to know love and concern and realize the world isn’t so bad after all, and to be heard and seen and understood and held up in thought and prayer. And to know that when the tables turn, as they surely will, you can be there in that way for them . . . so maybe it is.

Maybe it is.

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