This is a journal entry I made this past May when James and I visited Paris – our first big trip since my surgery and our second time in the city. We love getting to travel, especially to Europe, so this was a big milestone in our healing journey.
These were some of the thoughts I had about sorrow and new beginnings that were triggered by seeing Notre Dame for the first time in five years, covered in scaffolding due to the 2019 fire.
I felt a strange sort of kinship with Notre Dame… as we were both in the process of being rebuilt.
James and I are back in Paris – it’s been five years since we’ve been here.
So much has changed and nothing has changed. The view of Notre Dame is just as beautiful, but now Notre Dame is gutted and covered in scaffolding. Its structure is burned from the inside out. It will take years to rebuild and restore it – and it will never be the same.
It will be a new version of itself. It will still be Notre Dame, but it will have evolved, and changed. And, in the end, hopefully be safer for it.
Is that not so different from me and my journey?
I, too, have been changed from the inside out. My bladder cut out, my intestines rearranged, my body the same and yet something new, something evolved. I, too, was burned in some ways.
Burned by life, by bad news, by fear and pain. It will take time to be fully restored. And, yet, in the meantime, I am still me. Still beautiful. Still human and very much alive – figuring out how to heal after the burning. Figuring out what I want this next evolution of myself to be.
This past year I was given a death sentence and because of our advancements in science and technology, I have been given new life. By the grace of God, we caught the cancer in time. But my heart aches for all the people who didn't.
It seems, as humans, the more we figure out new ways to heal ourselves, the more things pop up that can kill us. Perhaps that is part of the balance of life. Perhaps sorrow is ingrained in our DNA. We are beings of dark and light. We can’t exist without them both.
I don’t understand why when we talk about Jesus, we focus so much on his victory over death instead of his life and death and struggle with sorrow. It is beautiful that Isaiah prophesied that the messiah would be a man of sorrows.* There is nothing more human than that.
In my darkest moments, it was not Jesus’ resurrection that gave me hope, but his persecution and crucifixion and how Jesus felt about it. Because I knew he knew how I felt.** God knew how I felt. I was not alone in my pain, in my sadness, in my fear and in my suffering.
Now, just like I am becoming something new, I feel like my relationship with God is becoming something new. In some ways it is harder to let it. It feels normal for me to change, but God feels like something that should be constant and immovable like the sun and the stars.
And, perhaps God is and perhaps God isn’t.
Even our relationship and orientation to the sun and the stars changes throughout the years, the months and even the day. So, why couldn’t my relationship with God change and grow?
I think I need to let my past understanding of God go to make way for the new one. I can’t make space for this new relationship if I am holding onto the old one. I need to have faith and hope that God will show up in new and exciting ways. Didn’t clinging to the past keep some of the religious leaders from seeing Jesus? I don’t want to do that.
In many ways, Paris is the perfect place for rebirth. I don’t know why. Maybe it's stepping out of our everyday. Maybe it’s the beauty. Maybe it’s all the creative energy that came before me. Or, maybe it’s because it’s the place I’ve chosen my rebirth to be.
Maybe it is all these reasons at once.
In many ways, we die every night and are reborn every day. The cycle of death and life is woven into the fabric of every aspect of our lives. I think it is those that accept it – instead of fear it – that truly get to live.
**The night before Jesus’ crucifixion and death, Jesus told his disciples: "My soul is overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death." (Matthew 26:38) This verse is not often referenced. I didn’t realize Jesus felt this way until I was reading my Bible one day and came across it, and it lit something up within me. It is this verse that made me feel the most seen by God during my own pain and sadness. It made me realize that I was not alone. God is just as present in the dark as he is in the light.