Lent Post #14: When Falling Apart Actually Means Falling Into Place

Life can be chaotic. No matter what you’re going – a health crisis, the loss of a job, a family death, a child going to college, what have you, life can be chaotic. And sometimes, it can even feel like life is falling completely apart. 

A little over a year ago, I felt like my life was completely falling apart. I was 23, facing a major health crisis – something no 23 year old should have to face (ok, a very grandiose statement, to be certain, since no health crisis is justified, nor is it deserved, but at 23, everything feels completely unnecessary), and trying to balance health and graduate school felt completely impossible. People encouraged me to take time off, to drop out and take care of myself until such a time as I was feeling well enough (or “better,” as they put it) to come back. Sure, that sounds like a great idea, but to take another piece out of my life Jenga game might just as well have caused the whole game to come crashing down, and well, game over! At that point in the year, I was barely holding on with the help of my friends and family, but seminary – my classes, and worshiping God – was the thing that was keeping the game going. Sure, my health was crap, but the game was still in play. 

When things are falling apart, sometimes, they genuinely are falling apart. Last year, my life was falling apart in some ways. A major health crisis is by definition, life falling apart, and yet, at the same time, many good things came of this experience as well. How is this possible? How is it possible that while the world is completely falling down all around, life is actually being constructed together in a much better way? 

To be transformed sometimes involves a breaking apart or a sheering away at the old self. Sometimes, it involves a complete giving up of something – either by choice or involuntarily – before the growth can occur. Rarely are we the same people after change occurs, but afterward, sometimes, we are even better because we have fallen into exactly the people God intended us to be. I want to make clear that I am not arguing that God breaks violently, or that God causes bad things to happen, because that is not at all the point I am intending to make. I don’t believe that God causes bad things to happen, nor do I wish such a thing to ever be assumed upon anyone, by any faith tradition. Instead, what I mean to say is that through the process of falling down, God is present – not in the pushing down, but in our act of falling, in catching us, and in helping build us up – not in the same manner as we were before, but perhaps even better than we were. 

Falling apart feels a bit like drowning. Like the world is falling down all around you, and you have completely forgotten how to swim. And yet, when you look up, all of a sudden, things are falling into place, because it isn’t about what is causing the chaos, it is about the divine hand holding the world in place. When you come to this realization, the falling into place becomes crystal clear, and the falling apart becomes a bit less distant. It doesn’t go away, but the power it had is no longer real, strong or firm. The unnecessary evils of this reality go away. 

When I figured out that there was nothing I could do to change my reality, when there was nothing I could do to change being a sick 23, 24, and then 25 year old, the illness no longer had any emotional power over me. It still sucked. A whole lot in fact. But the power it had over my everyday life – the worries and fears – no longer mattered as much because there was nothing I could do about it. It was “given to God,” so to speak (a phrase I cringe at and a phrase that has little to no theological bearing, but a phrase in this circumstance that couldn’t be more fitting), and God was taking charge of that, making something of it, and making me better for it. 

But hopefully, and perhaps more significantly, God will make others better for my “falling apart.” Falling apart stinks. There is no way around that. But if it is possible to have someone else (or more than one person) be built up, informed or helped as a result of your story, then the kingdom of God has been proclaimed and glorified. If someone else has been supported and felt as though they are not alone, then praise God. 

Falling apart to be falling into place is such an isolating experience for some (if not everyone?), and if an individual’s experience can touch the heart of another, then the body of Christ has been mended in some beautiful, incredible way. So share your falling apart to falling into place moment. Look for those moments when the uncertainty is actually certainty in disguise. Those moments are actually out there, that much I can testify to. And when you find them, they are truly among the most beautiful moments in life, worthy of sharing, as they can be life changing and giving for others as well. 

 

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