Eleanor Can’t Handle It.

“I hate feeling this way,” she said. I watched the tears roll down my daughter’s cheeks, her chin quivering with emotion.

She had plopped herself down in the entryway as soon she got inside the door, and she sat there and cried as she recounted her difficult night at ballet class, her sore toe, the mean girl who threw yet another zinger her way. But then it took a turn. Instead of the weight of school and ballet, she was talking about the weight of being alive, of walking through this wounded world and feeling like you need to do something, anything, to make it all okay — and then realizing there’s nothing you can do.

She was sitting in the reality that there’s more brokenness in the world than she can reconcile.

Eleanor is 14, so it would be easy to dismiss her tears as teen drama. And no doubt, it is a product of all the crazy emotional stuff that comes with being 14 — but I don’t think it should be dismissed. In fact, sitting there listening to her, it occurred to me that maybe teenagers are onto something with their wild, dramatic, sometimes dark, often “out of touch with reality” emotions. Like, maybe their hormone- and stress-fueled emotions really aren’t crazy at all — maybe they’re really a gateway to the truest stuff inside of us, the truest stuff about this world. And a big part of that truth is that this world is way more jacked up than we can fix.

She said to me through tears, “I can’t handle it.”

And I said, “You’re right.”

None of us can handle it, if we’re really honest.

So I guess we have a choice: be honest and admit that we need someone greater than ourselves to step in and save us, or find a way to fool ourselves into thinking that we can handle things just fine.

I know a lot of people who are good at that. I never was. My need for God was always like a homing beacon inside of me, emitting a high frequency sound that I could always hear in the background — it drove me slightly mad for most of my life until I figured out the source. I guess that’s why I responded to my daughter last night the way I did.

I told her that what she was feeling was precious — the most precious feeling in the world. “I can’t handle it” is our heart’s cry for God. And, despite what this world tells us and what our human nature pulls us toward, we need God more than anything, anything else.

We sat on that floor for a while. We talked about why the world is the way it is — why hasn’t God hasn’t just fixed it all already? I told her I didn’t know, but I do know there’s a plan — and one reason I’m so sure of that is that Jesus came down to be in all this brokenness, to experience it all — to even let it kill him — so that we don’t have to walk through this all alone. We talked about how our hearts ache for heaven, for everything to be right and perfect and whole, and how much Jesus must have longed for home. And that made us sad for him, so we cried a little more.

My daughter will be an adult soon. And I’m sure she’ll feel that same tug that we all do — the pull to minimize our need and downplay our weakness. And that’s understandable, of course. But I hope she remembers that night we spent sitting on the entryway floor. I hope she remembers that, really, she can’t handle it.

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