There are plenty of wise sayings about how important it is to appreciate the present. I think we all know this in theory, but perhaps it’s only in times of loss and pain that we finally grasp it that life is fleeting and changeable, nothing guaranteed. I’ve been thinking a lot about gratitude recently; how I’ve spent much of my life dissatisfied with how things are, sometimes ruminating on the past and always thinking ahead to the next good thing, rather than appreciating how things are in the here and now. I wouldn’t have chosen to learn this the way I did, but now I have I am thankful to know it.
At the beginning of this year we found out I was pregnant. I felt a mix of anticipation and happiness – overwhelmed and vulnerable amidst my joy. I skipped ahead to the future, envisioning how we would tell people, calculating my maternity leave and thinking about all the ways our lives would change. But it all came crashing down in one horrendous moment when we went for my 12-week scan and saw a baby without a heartbeat.
Words don’t do justice in describing what that does to you. There is too much pain, too much rawness right now. Suffice it to say, it is one of the very hardest things you can go through, something that swallows you up and leaves you forever changed, cracked open by grief and put back together in a topsy-turvy way in which you are never quite the same. The intense trauma of what I went through emotionally and medically left me not only grieving, but experiencing sudden, debilitating anxiety. Experiencing ongoing panic that made me feel I was losing control of my mind, I alternated between nervous energy and walking around in fog, or overtaken by horrible intrusive thoughts.
The one thing I’ve learned about anxiety is that the more you fight it, the worse it gets. I tried everything I could think of but it was only when I accepted the place I was in, when, conversely, the feelings started to lift. And although I am miles better than I was, I am not ‘there’ yet, wherever ‘there’ is. Over the last week or so I have plunged back into that chaotic black hole of obsessive thoughts. My mind screaming with questions begging to be addressed. Underneath this, I’m still working through the raw grief of miscarriage; a pain that stings when I see a pregnant woman and leaves me uncomfortable being around babies at times. Life feels tough and there are moments of blackness where I just want to press the fast-forward button to when life feels more bearable.
And yet God is near. Despite the battle I face every day, I’m finding his presence and love in moments of stillness in a way I have never experienced before. I’m learning that Jesus meets us in our storm in a way he cannot when seas are smooth, and that sometimes good things come out of the hardest times: silver linings that remain even after the black clouds have begun to dissipate.
I have found that there is a strange peace that comes when you accept pain rather than fight it, and that being thankful for what you have in those moments releases joy. I do have hope for the future, which on some days is all I cling to – but hope, I believe, begins with accepting things just how they are, without seeking to change them instantly. When we’re in pain our natural, human instinct is to escape and resist; but there is a peace to be found amidst sorrow; rest to be found when we stop struggling.
C.S. Lewis once wrote: “The present is the point at which time touches eternity.” Every moment, whether it be full of joy, pain or monotony, is an opportunity to connect with the eternal. It is an act of faith when we choose to allow God in to our present moment and accept it for what it is. When we do so, somehow the dark feels a little less dark and peace feels a little nearer. And so in all the chaos of what at times feels like an ongoing storm, my silver lining has been this small glimmer of beauty in choosing to be present in it.