I have been pregnant three times. I have given birth twice.
Fragmented memories remain of the day I lost my first baby–the child whose heart thumped in my womb for only eight short weeks. I remember the horror I felt when I discovered the first scarlet spots alerting me that my baby was gone. I remember the weight of my husband’s hand resting heavy on my shoulder when my doctor confirmed our fears and tried to comfort us with statistics. I remember the coldness that swept through my chest when the nurse assisting with the examination gave me a stern warning as I shakily made my way toward the exit.
“Now I know you’ve heard some unsettling news, but you need to pull it together,” she cautioned as I brushed tears off my cheeks and neck. “You’re young. You’ll get pregnant again in no time. There are women in that waiting room who are pregnant now and they don’t need to be upset. So just get a hold of your emotions before you go out there.”
Then, with a pat on my back, she scurried away … leaving me embarrassed by my grief.
My legs trembled as if I was walking a tight rope without a safety net. Through blurred vision, I forced a stoic expression, entwined my trembling fingers with those belonging to my husband, and walked out of the building. With each step, one thought bounced around my mind.
Pull it together. I need to pull it together. Pull it together.
I’ve heard those words numerous times throughout my life in various situations. Sometimes they were spoken by well-meaning individuals. Other times, I whispered the phrase to myself.
A graveside vigil. Pull it together.
Job loss. Pull it together.
A loved one’s betrayal. Pull it together.
Saying goodbye to dear friends. Pull it together.
Overwhelmed by an infant’s colicky cries or a toddler’s 40-minute tantrum. Pull it together.
I’m sure that everyone who reads this post can add to the list above.
Truth be told, I think the expectation of “pulling it together” during times of emotional agony is often misguided. Hannah, the mother of the prophet Samuel is a beautiful example from scripture of a woman who mourned honestly before the Lord. Hannah didn’t “pull it together.” You can read her story in the first chapter of 1 Samuel, but here is an excerpt from 1 Samuel 1:10-16:
“In her deep anguish Hannah prayed to the Lord, weeping bitterly. And she made a vow, saying, ‘Lord Almighty, if you will only look on your servant’s misery and remember me, and not forget your servant but give her a son, then I will give him to the Lord for all the days of his life, and no razor will ever be used on his head.’ As she kept on praying to the Lord, Eli observed her mouth. Hannah was praying in her heart, and her lips were moving but her voice was not heard. Eli thought she was drunk and said to her, ‘How long are you going to stay drunk? Put away your wine.’ ‘Not so, my lord,’ Hannah replied, ‘I am a woman who is deeply troubled. I have not been drinking wine or beer; I was pouring out my soul to the Lord. Do not take your servant for a wicked woman; I have been praying here out of my great anguish and grief.’”
At that wall, Hannah unraveled the twisted knots of her grieving heart before God and it was messy. Passersby probably shook their heads. Eli mistook her agony for drunkenness. Hannah’s core was shaken. Her heart was broken. Her hope was nearly threadbare. She wasn’t able to “pull it together,”… not on her own … but she knew where to turn as her emotions were shred to bits.
The fiery pain of a personal loss is immeasurable. And each person’s threshold for heartache is different. There are times when we cannot pull it together.
God doesn’t command us to pull it together.
In the moments when torment throbs deep, God doesn’t bark “stiffen that upper lip, girl.” He instead whispers “come to me dear one, come to me.” He invites us to crumple into the comforting arms of Christ … to pray … to scream … to beg with abandon … to heal.
“For He has not despised or detested the torment of the afflicted. He did not hide His face from him, but listened when he cried to Him for help.” Psalm 22:24