I stood alone on a heavily trafficked side street in Prague. I missed my family; I had not yet met up with my Czech friends, and I was emotionally struggling in this beloved city. Having visited Prague a dozen times, it was practically a second home, but the loneliness, that feeling was new to me.
As a mom to two young kids, the wife of a pastor, the manager of a short-term missions program for the US, and a one of 7 committee members for our International program, finding myself without a companion felt like I had been forsaken.
When I finished hunting for gifts to take back to my family,I noticed a small piece of street art on the corner of a building. It wasn’t much larger than my hand, but it impacted me in a big way.
The art was of a small duck with one word written above.
It was beckoning me to see the alone time I had as a present. It whispered that in this space, I was not forsaken; I was cherished. I had the chance to receive something I didn’t even realize I needed, space to just be me.
I photographed the profound message, looking foolish as I bent down at the corner, hoping no one would trip over me. After a few frames, I embraced the message. I meandered around the city, some areas I knew by heart, others that were yet to be discovered.
I revisited my treasured waterwheel and strolled through a new-to-me park. I gazed upon my favorite sculpture and walked with discovered peacocks. An experience that could have left me bitter turned into something sweet. While adventuring around Prague, I still wished my family could share the experience, but after my providential reminder, I allowed myself to enjoy it alone.
We often experience hard, lonely, struggling spaces, this is certainly true during these past months of 2020-2021. And in those times, whether by guilt, false piety, or something else all together, the tempting posture of wallowing can easily ensnare us. It can be almost comforting to roll around in the disgust. This is different than grieving. Grieving eventually makes pathways to joy, wallowing doesn’t look for a way forward at all. Wallowing makes despondency our travel companion, and trust me, that is not pleasant company if we want to move away from the pit.
This is why sometimes we need a reminder to enjoy. It doesn’t need to negate struggle, but it doesn’t let it fill every space either. To enjoy good gifts also means to allow hope and light into our souls. Yes, embracing the good with the bad brings a level of dissonance, but throwing out the good because of the bad just elevates things to worse.
When are tempted by despondency, a questions to ask is, do we want to sit here or do we want to move forward? Does our grief allow a space for celebration? Are we brave enough to accept the challenge and enjoy?