“I wake before the morning light. Every. single. morning.
I get my coffee, sit in my chair and wait for sunrise.
I never worry that today it might not happen.
I’m never concerned that after all these years of faithfulness, this day may be the one where daylight fails to make an appearance.
There is no fear in this darkness because I know it will not last forever.
Morning is coming.
Morning. Is. Coming.
And that’s the hope I cling to in this longer darkness of the Valley of the Shadow of Death-no matter how many years it may be, the Valley has an end.
The same God Who keeps the earth in orbit around the sun has ordained that death will not have the last word.
Light will triumph.
Darkness will have to flee.”
From Morning Is Coming
I have loved Scripture as long as I can remember. When I was in second grade I got the notion to read the whole Bible straight through-in the King James Version. I made it to Leviticus before I threw in the towel.
By the time my kids were grown I had read and studied Scripture for decades.
But three years before Dominic ran ahead to Heaven I realized my reading had become rote-I felt like I “knew” all the stories. So I slowed my study to a crawl-only one chapter a day-and I usually copied the whole chapter plus my notes into a journal. I had just finished this time through the Bible in January before Dom was killed in April.
And all that truth stored in my mind and heart was what I “read” for months when my eyes were too full of tears to see print on a page.
Many verses stung-some still do-but I was committed to bathe my broken heart in what I knew was true. I would take it like medicine, even when it tasted awful. I knew-in the end-it was my only hope for help.
It’s easy when doubt creeps in to let my heart hold onto it-even in the face of Truth that puts the doubt to rest.
But if all I do is question, question, question and never still my soul to receive God’s answers or His comfort, then I will simply run out of oxygen and faith. I will lay prostrate with the enemy’s foot on my neck.
I will lose all hope and give up and give in.
I let my feelings, questions and doubts OUT, but I also choose to take the Word of God IN.
And when I can’t do anything else, I recite and cling to the names of God:
Jehovah-Roi-the God Who Sees Me. This is the name Hagar gave God in the desert. He didn’t change her circumstances but He assured her that she was seen, not overlooked and not abandoned.
Jehovah-Nissi–the LORD my Banner. God is the One I look to in the battle. He will not always save me from the fight, but He has guaranteed the victory.
Jehovah-Shalom-The LORD my Peace. Jesus is Sar Shalom-the Prince of Peace Who promises Himself to every heart that will turn in faith to Him. This peace is inner certainty that He is Lord over all, even when the evidence I can see is telling me that’s not true.
THE NAME OF THE LORD IS A MIGHTY TOWER. THE RIGHTEOUS RUN TO IT AND ARE SAVED.
I leaned hard on the Word stored in my heart. I was too broken (and some days still am too broken) to open my Bible.
God had prepared David for years as a shepherd to lean hard on Him. David’s Psalms don’t end with “Where are You, God?” they progress to a recitation of the character of the LORD, to an enumeration of His past faithfulness, to a true understanding that sometimes there’s NO understanding what He is doing.
And David leaned in, hung on and recited truth to his heart even when his head couldn’t figure out how what he was experiencing squared with what he knew to be true.
The whole book of Job is full of questions but it is also contains Job’s declaration he was firmly convinced that “as for me, I know that my Redeemer lives, and He will stand upon the earth at last.” (Job 19:25)
“You can’t hold your breath forever.
But when you first learn your child is dead you want to–oh, how you want to.
I don’t know if it was defiance or hope that made me certain that if I could just stop breathing, I could freeze time.
I could undo the truth.
I could stop the creeping terror that seized my heart.
But it was impossible. My body insisted that my lungs release the poison of carbon dioxide and refresh my oxygen supply.
There is a spiritual counterpart to the physical desire to stop breathing.
Most bereaved parents will tell you that at some point in their grief journey, whether they would describe themselves as “believers” or not, they have had to examine their notion of God.
They have to ask, “How am I to relate to this Person that controls the Universe–this Being that could have saved my child–but chose not to?”
I am a Christ follower. I believe in Jesus and I trust His Word.
But I will honestly confess that burying my child has made me reexamine just what that means and just Who He is.
Before my son was killed, I gave mental assent to the idea that “God is in control” but wasn’t forced to reconcile His control with my heart’s desire to guarantee my family’s safety.
But His existence, and His character does not depend on my understanding. And to be frank, a God I can comprehend wouldn’t be much of a God at all.
I could not will my body not to stop breathing.
And what I am learning in this grief journey is that I can’t hold my spiritual breath forever either.
The poison of doubt and the insistence that I be able to comprehend the fullness of God will suffocate my soul as surely as lack of oxygen will stop my heart.
So, “Hallelujah” is my exhale.
It is my letting go-my drawing in again the life-giving truth that God is God and I am not.
And acknowledging that while I cannot understand His ways, I can choose to trust His Father love.”
There is no easy answer for why children die-no sweet saying that can wash away the pain and the sorrow and the regret of burying your son.
But I know this: If my healing depends on me, I am lost.
If the God of heaven is not the god of all, then I have no hope.
If Jesus didn’t really come, and die and rise again, I have nothing to look forward to.
Ann Lamott recounts this tale in her book, Plan B: Further Thoughts on Faith:
There is a lovely Hasidic story of a rabbi who alwasy told his people that if they studied the Torah, it would put Scripture on their hearts. One of them asked, “Why on our hearts, and not in them?” The rabbi answered, “Only God can put Scripture inside. But reading sacred text can put it on your heart, and then when your hearts break, the holy words fall inside.”
My heart is already broken-burying my son did that.
Now I’m waiting
that the holy words will fall inside.