The Struggle Is Real

thoughtful_smIf you follow Facebook, you’ve probably seen the hashtag #TheStruggleIsReal. Usually denoting some sort of real life difficulty, the phrase is common in my Facebook feed, and typically combines some sort of humorous anecdote with an every day frustration. I’ve seen it along with anything from stories of toddlers throwing tantrums in the grocery store to dieters trying to resist a new bakery. Though it’s often associated with something light-hearted and humorous (a nice antidote to other social media topics!), it is often true, isn’t it? From serious issues to everyday minor ones, the struggle is real!

This was brought home to me recently when my husband and I made the decision to move our family from Mississippi to Michigan. I was offered a job I could not resist, and we decided to pack up our life here and move north—amidst concerns about new jobs, new friendships, new childcare, and of course leaving all the wonderful, beautiful people and places we know in Mississippi. I have moved fairly frequently in my life, and this particular decision was much more difficult than I thought it would be. I like decisions that are easy, obvious, and relatively clear. This one was anything but that, and we agonized and talked and second-guessed until we were exhausted. The struggle was real, indeed.

Since Lent I’ve been documenting my attempts to stretch myself, to push my own boundaries and to do things I’ve never done before. I suppose you can’t make that your goal and then be surprised when God opens a door you didn’t particularly expect (or maybe even want) to be opened—an opportunity to upend your life and your family and your career and try something new. One particular conversation about the job happened on my birthday, when our family went to dinner. My husband and I had just found out about two great opportunities, one to move and one to remain where we were. We had been exchanging phone calls and texts all day, and just wanted to sit down and discuss the pros and cons, perhaps amidst a pleasant birthday dinner. Instead, my infant son got sick, my older son didn’t want to sit still, and let’s just say that at a particularly low point my son, my dress, and the restaurant booth were all soaking wet. The struggle is real.

There have been many times over the past three weeks, as we struggled with this decision and all its implications, that we wished the struggle would skip over us, even though the opportunities it presented were great ones. The struggle, even if it yields great benefits, is often uncomfortable and unpleasant. It is real, in a time when we’d rather deal with issues that are a bit more pleasant and bright, a bit more white-washed and photo-shopped and a bit less, well, real. But life is lived in the “real,” the struggle, the nitty-gritty details of life—the decisions and the actions that make up our reality. Those decisions are hard and we may not want to make them, but they are the turns that map our lives.

Perhaps it is a positive sign that in our social media, and hopefully in our lives, we are willing to be real. We are open to offering our friends (both real and virtual), a look at our lives—not the glamorized, heavily-edited version, but the true, “really real” version. I recently read an article discussing true hospitality, and it concluded that hospitality is best offered around a messy kitchen table, set with food you didn’t have to spend all day preparing but instead threw together with help from your guests, maybe even with a glass of wine in hand. In those times, the author believed, we truly extend hospitality to our guests.

Perhaps #TheStruggleIsReal offers the same thing for our emotional lives—to invite guests in and, in the midst of the mess and the dirt, ask our friends to sit down and struggle with us. Draw your chair up and pour some coffee into a mug and let’s struggle together. The chair is probably draped with dirty laundry and the mug is probably chipped because, as we know, the struggle is real.

Photo Credit: Donyale Leslie

Photo Credit: Donyale Leslie

Kimberly McClung DeVries was raised in a minister’s family, first overseas as missionaries and then in Georgia. She attended the University of Georgia to receive a degree in telecommunications, worked briefly in that field, and then went to law school instead, also in Athens. She has worked as a public defender and for a legal aid agency, and now resides in Mississippi with her husband and two boys. Kimberly is trying to grow by pushing herself out of her comfort zone. To that end, she has a toddler and a baby, both boys, works full time as a lawyer, and is also helping her husband survive his PhD.

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