The only way is through

We're Going on a Bear Hunt was one of my favorite books as a kid. A rather adventurous (dare I say reckless?) father and his four young children embark on a rugged trek across an ever-changing landscape and do indeed (frightfully) succeed in their hunt. The book's singsong refrain that has stuck with me all these years, as they encounter thick, oozy mud and a swirling, whirling snowstorm and the like, is this: We can't go over it. We can't go under it. Oh, no! We've got to go through it!

There's a resounding wisdom in those words.

I've faced all sorts of bumpy terrain of late, more of the emotional variety than the literal, and how tempting it has been to approach it with all sorts of evasive tactics. Whether under or over or around, through denial or avoidance or resignation, the avenues of escapism have looked awfully appealing. To face grief, anger, heartache, disappointment, desperation, head on? It's a fearful prospect, one that merits an Oh, no! indeed.

But the truth of the matter is this: I have got to go through it. For to be whole and healed as I long to be, there is nowhere to live but in reality. There is no way to move forward but to move through, to enter freely and courageously into the muck and mess of my broken, wounded self, to hold up a mirror to my bare heart and soul and to open my eyes to whatever is staring back at me. Without shame, without fear, and with all the hope I can possibly muster. Or rather, receive from God.

The particular season of life I find myself in has lent itself well to this trying invitation. For I've been rendered all but powerless to put up a front, to pretend I'm okay, to coast along in the status quo. (I do think I'm the furthest I've ever been from the status quo, and there's something refreshing about that.) It's a challenging, humbling place to be, but it sure is good for me.

And there's another pearl of wisdom in that delightful book I love: don't go through it alone. The book's pages depict a baby on her dad's back, a little girl pulling her sister through the long, wavy grass, a boy holding his dog's collar as they cross the deep, cold river. This journey through life would simply be impossible to manage without the loving support of dear guides along the way, and, of course, divine grace. And whether I've been catching up with an old friend on her couch or crying before a priest I've just met on a nighttime river cruise past the Eiffel Tower (it's a long story), I've found myself leaning on others again and again, more than ever before. And the love and compassion that my need has evoked has been truly abundant.

Yes, the only way to the other side—to the resolution of these vicissitudes of life—is through. Not over or under or around, but through. One fearsome beast a time.




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