I’m reading The Fault in our Stars, by John Green. Literally, the very first page found me highlighting a quote (from what I now understand to be a fictional book) because of two words. It goes like this:

As the tide washed in, the Dutch Tulip Man faced the ocean: “Conjoiner, rejoinder, poisoner, concealer, revelator. Look at it, rising up and rising down, taking everything with it.”

“What’s that?” I asked.

“Water,” the Dutchman said. “Well, and time.” ~ Peter Van Houten, An Imperial Affliction

The part that stuck with me, and that has been turned over and over in my mind like a worry stone?

Rising Down.

Rising down is a contradiction in terms. You cannot really simultaneously rise as you are going down…or can you?

I mentioned a friend, yesterday, and an acquaintance. One just discovering that she is losing an estranged father sooner than later, and the other, choosing to carry a pregnancy to term that will likely find her leaving the hospital with empty arms. Both cut off at the knees with their respective news. Both heartbroken to the core and reeling in grief.

Both down.

However, there is an extraordinary, painful beauty in each scenario, because, the one friend, after many years of bitterness, resentment, and a walled-off heart to ward off any more pain, has made a choice to knock down that wall and just love her dad. She started remembering what came before all the pain, allowing images to filter in of a little girl and the dad that she adored. She’s saying what needs to be said from a heart of forgiveness, and cramming as much relationship-building as she can into whatever time is left.

The other was immediately told she should terminate her five month pregnancy. It sucked the air right out of her lungs. All she could think about was the room she had just finished painting, and the personalized canvas she’d just commissioned to include the name she and her husband had finally agreed upon only two weeks before. The name that meant “strong as the oak.” But when she looked into his eyes in that sterile room, there was a silent agreement made that they would carry their girl to term. They would love her, and sing to her, and include her in everything they did for the next four months. They would deliver her into their arms for as long as her heart beat, and she would feel theirs as they held her close. She would have a life for as long as God deemed, just like anyone else.

And that, friends…that’s rising.

Really, we all have the choice to rise, even as we’re going down. And when we do, when we lift our chin up to the possibilities, we see a Hand reaching from the heavens that will pull us right on up and help us walk out our grief, not without pain, but also not alone.

We can all rise up, but when we choose to rise down, well, that’s when change comes, and hearts expand. That’s when real life happens, and we ring every last bit of growth and experience out of it, taking everything with us.

Just like the Dutchman said.


“The Lord is near to the brokenhearted and saves the crushed in spirit.” Psalm 34:18 ESV

“Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our affliction, so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God.” 2 Corinthians 1:3-4 ESV

“More than that, we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.” Romans 5:3-5 ESV

I’ve told you all this so that trusting me, you will be unshakable and assured, deeply at peace. In this godless world you will continue to experience difficulties. But take heart! I’ve conquered the world.” John 16:33 MSG