"He will swallow up death forever;
and the LORD GOD will wipe away tears from all faces,
and the reproach of His people He will take away from all the earth,
for the Lord has spoken.
It will be said on that day,
"Behold, this is our God; we have waited for him, that he might save us.
This is the LORD; we have waited for Him;
Let us be glad and rejoice in His salvation."
As Christmas approached, I found myself wishing I was a perfect gift giver. You know the person who reads between the lines and creatively comes up with meaningful gifts for everyone. Gifts that draw oohs and ahs and great big smiles. I so wish I was that person, but I am not. Instead, I find myself a tad overwhelmed as five kids grown have added spouses six grandkids to the mix, making loud and crazy fun. Yet, this mom's heart noticed in the mist of noise the loud silence usually filled by three missing voices. Voices of those experiencing first Christmases away. Phone calls and Facetime helped some and grownup kids made Christmas easy this year, helping in the kitchen, doing projects with kids, taking dogs to the park, and creating laughter with jokes and stories. No longer bearing the sole responsibility of making Christmas happen was good for both me and Poppi.
Then goodbyes were said, our house became too quiet. Christmas became another memory as neighborhood twinkling lights diminished. I found myself experiencing a bit of grief. So, when Poppi suggested a movie, I quickly voted for Saving Mr. Banks, thinking it would be light hearted and pull me out of my "after-Christmas funk." But instead, I got a deeply thought-provoking, emotion-rousing, and grief-stirring movie! The kind of movie that leaves you feeling like you have been standing on sacred ground watching someone's pain unravel. At the end the movie I wanted to sit there for awhile out of respect for the story I'd just seen. I wanted to savor the emotions I momentarily believed I had shared with the characters on screen. Instead, I wiped away my tears and we left. But, inwardly I wept the rest of the day.
I had heard the story was about the making of the Mary Poppins movie and the relationship between Walt Disney and Mrs. Travers. But I think it was more about her need to control the making of the movie. Present scenes, delicately woven with flashbacks of the author's life, lend understanding to her need to control, her judgmental stance, and her curt tongue. At one point Mrs. Travers gets angry at the creative crew, yelling that they have made Mr. Banks to be a monster of a man and wants to know why they can't make him better. They had made him as she had unknowingly described him in her book and her cry was a deeper cry she had never spoken before.
I want to say more, but won't spoil it for those who haven't seen it. So I will focus on why it impacted me. I lead support groups for women who suffered trauma in childhood, many of them coming out of extremely dysfunctional homes resulting in deep, long buried pain. These beautiful ladies coped in all sorts of ways, some similar to Mrs. Travers. Most of them having lived in denial most of their lives, peal off their denial, one layer at a time...this is that sacred ground I visit a lot. In the movie Walt realizes Mrs. Travers' pain drives her decisions and behavior in the same way that I see it in our ladies.
I realized yesterday that we may develop denial in childhood to protect our hearts from things that are too painful to face, but we continue in denial as adults because we want different endings to the stories we live. We want to live in a family who love us more than their addictions. We want to live where cancer, heart disease, diabetes, or Alzheimer's doesn't take away people to early. We want to live where depression and a hosts of other mental illnesses don't rob us of the minds of those we love. We want to live where eating disorders don't destroy health and consume our daughters, moms, and grandmothers. We want parents who didn't abuse children in all sorts of ugly unspeakable ways, some even in the name of God. We want to live where pornography and adultery aren't ripping families apart and objectifying both men and women. We want to attend churches that don't wound us. We want to live where wars and natural disasters aren't scaring people until they are a but shell of the person God created them to be.
The sad truth is that we have all been impacted by living in this sin-filled world and we have grown up in imperfect, broken families. The sad truth is that at the end of the day, every single day, we must face the fact that we, ourselves, have wounded others by loving so poorly.
I realized yesterday that adult denial is about wanting different endings, endings that gives peace and joy. Mrs. Travers sought those with her little Buda and her great big denial system, but she didn't get it. Walt sought peace and joy as he attempted to rewrite his story by creating "The Happiest Place on Earth," but it really isn't. In the same way, ladies in group try to write different endings through denial, endings in which parents didn't hurt them, disease didn't kill, people beat their addictions, innocence wasn't stolen, and needs were consistently and joyfully met. But, the truth is, people in denial remain plagued by the past that they avoid and they bear scares of broken relationships, bitterness, and depression.
As I discussed the concept of denial with my husband it hit me that the one thing missing in the movie was that God has already written a different ending for each of our stories and that we often don't realize that. Because of His birth, His death, and His resurrection we can face the truth of our stories. For you see His story is not a make believe story, it is a redemption story! In Him chaos is calmed, insanity made sane, addictions and eating disorders overcome. In Him we can face and forgive unspeakable acts and be set free from the bitterness that hardens hearts. In Him we experience unconditional healing love freeing us of the pain we hide. In Him, our morning is turned into dancing, grief into joy, inadequacies into adequate, not enough into enough, too much into just right, hatred into love, weakness into strength, and pride into sweet humility.
What if our desire for different endings is a holy desire? What if it was indelibly written on our hearts by the Creator to drive us to Him? Maybe, just maybe, it is our denial systems which we hold so tight that keeps us from seeing the beautiful stories already being penned by Him. Maybe it even clouded my ability to see that the only perfect gift is the gift of Jesus, Himself.
As the new year unfolds, I hope we live in the truth of our stories just as He has written them, ever watchful as they unfold full of grace, full of redemptions, full of joy, and full of peace. There may be tears and fears in this life right now, but He will ultimately wipe away those tears as He takes us past our fears. We can trust Him who died in our place. For He bore our reproach, freeing us from the need to deny reality. Facing reality enables us to embrace His grace, freeing us to experience His outrageous, indescribable love. In Him, there's no need to rewrite a story, for salvation stories are stories He has perfectly written.