“You can love joyfully or you can love painfully…but love you will, because love you are.” This phrase was spoken to me at the end of a painful emotional process that involved saying goodbye to my father. I had loved him painfully for many years – trying to get his attention by accomplishing things I thought he might find impressive. I liked it when he bragged about me. I liked to see him fill with pride when he talked about my athletic victories or my business successes.
While that goodbye was one of the most painful experiences of my life, I also experienced unspeakable joy in the midst of the pain. I was invited to let go of the belief that my dad loved me because of my accomplishments. When I was finally able to let go of that belief, the sense of freedom and relief was immediate. To replace the belief I had just given up, I was invited to remember my dad in another way – in a way that was joyful. In that moment, I chose to remember his sense of humor and love of life. He was a really fun guy to be around and I loved the time that I got to spend with him. In the depth of the painful goodbye, my joy was equally intense. The idea that my dad loved me, regardless of my accomplishments, brought tears of joy and enabled me to start the process of accepting that God loves me unconditionally in spite of my mistakes.
The prophet Isaiah, when talking about judgment and hope, tells us God said, “In the same way, I will not cause pain without allowing something new to be born” (Isaiah 66:9 ERV). God used the analogy of a women giving birth to help us understand that unbelievable pain and unspeakable joy can coexist. If we allow ourselves to experience the pain, God promises to deliver something new. – Bill Ernstrom, Director of Operations