Elie Wiesel: Sitting Honestly in the Mess of Life

Ever get that dreaded phone call? The one that makes your stomach drop. The one that says something major is changing in your life and it’s not good. It’s hard to find words in a moment like this. Like the moment you hear that we are going to war, or we bombed a city, or a loved one is dying, or there has been another shooting. How do you describe the indescribable?

Elie Wiesel is one of my heroes. He struggled to find words to describe the Holocaust. He was a boy when he was sent to the concentrations camps. I appreciate him because of his honest transparency. He didn’t have to share his pain with the world, but he did with courage.

“Never shall I forget that night, the first night in camp, that turned my life into one long night seven times sealed. Never shall I forget the small faces of the children whose bodies I saw transformed into smoke under a silent sky. Never shall I forget those flames that consumed my faith forever.” Elie Wiesel in Night

I saw Elie Wiesel in an interview on Oprah. He was an old man, and he still had not resolved the struggles he felt since he was a boy in the Holocaust. I was struck by his emotional transparency. He describes standing in line and watching his family be separated by soldiers. He is honest about how terrible it is to watch your family be torn apart and feel powerless.

“Men to the left! Women to the right!
Eight words spoken quietly, indifferently, without emotion. Eight simple, short words. Yet that was the moment when I left my mother.” Elie Wiesel in Night

We need courage in the the time of suffering. Courage to be present and not rush through it. I want to give us permission to be present in those moments when life is messy, even if the messiness lasts for years.

“We like recovery stories to move quickly through the dark so we can get to the sweeping redemptive ending.” Brene Brown in Rising Strong

Some of the worst circumstances we face leave us feeling utterly powerless. It’s these moments when you decide if you are going to step up to the pain. It’s there by no choice of your own. It’s yours. What will you do? Numb yourself? Deny it? Minimize it? Rationalize it? Or will you do the most courageous things and face it?

Life gives you surprises and heartache. It happens. I’m not talking about faking it or making lemonade out of lemons. I’m talking about processing pain when you are ready.

The only way forward is through the pain. What does authentic process look like? Not pushing or rushing. Not hiding or numbing. But real and raw.

At times I push myself, like I’m not to ready to trust, but I force myself to move forward regardless. Other times I drag my feet. Trust and hope have built up in me, but I’m stubborn and reluctant. Still other times, it’s a flow. I trust and move forward with the effort that matches the hope in my heart.

Push – when you are not ready

Resist – when you are not ready

Flow – when you are ready

Flow when you are ready and don’t push it. I’m tempted to push through quickly when life is messy. There are things to learn and emotions to process in the messy moments. It’s okay.

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©2018 Belinda McDanel


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