Who is the Keeper of my Faith?

No one has dared to say it to my face, but they don’t have to.  In the darkness, whispers abound and they taunt me:  “Where’s God now?”

“What has this faith in Jesus done for you?”

And my first response is to add up the “good” things that have happened in my life and weigh them against the “bad”.

How do I balance scales that on one side include burying my child?

How many good things would have to be piled up to outweigh the heartbreak of losing my son?

But then my heart reminds me that this is the wrong equation.  The underlying premise of this arithmetic is that I can give proper value to the things I’m adding up.  Even more, that the scales I am using are correctly balanced, unbiased and trustworthy.

I want my relationship with God to be one I can comprehend.  I want to be able to explain Who He is and what He is doing.  I want to KNOW.

Adam and Eve KNEW-they walked in the cool of the Garden with the Lord God.  And even that was not enough to keep them from doubting His goodness, His promise, His heart.

So is it any wonder that on my weakest days, in my most broken moments I doubt what God is doing as I walk this valley?

If my faith depended on me, there would be no hope.  If my feelings were the measure of truth, there would be no way to gauge falsehood.  If my future is in my hands, I am doomed.

But all is not lost–because from before the foundation of the world, God planned my redemption,  He arranged my adoption and He keeps my faith and my future secure:

Praise be to God for giving us through Christ every possible spiritual benefit as citizens of Heaven! For consider what he has done—before the foundation of the world he chose us to become, in Christ, his holy and blameless children living within his constant care. He planned, in his purpose of love, that we should be adopted as his own children through Jesus Christ—that we might learn to praise that glorious generosity of his which has made us welcome in the everlasting love he bears towards the Son.

Ephesians 1:4-6 PHILLIPS

Goodness of God

“God is good, all the time.  All the time, God is good.” ~popular church saying.

I’ve never been comfortable with direction from the pulpit instructing people in the congregation to “repeat after me”.  Maybe I’m a little rebellious, but it always seemed disingenuous to appropriate someone else’s sentiment for my own.

And I think there is danger in adopting pet phrases to explain God (as if He can be explained) and creating shorthand for concepts that require so much more discussion to even begin to understand.

In fact, I think these bumper sticker mantras and t-shirt worthy slogans often push genuine seekers to the fringe because they cannot embrace simplistic explanations for complex issues.

I admit that there are times they slip from my mouth.  I might be too lazy to engage with someone or too hurried to take time to really listen to their heart.

But in the wake of losing my son, I’ve become much more aware of how simply repeating one-liners falls so very short in meeting the needs of those around me.

“God is good, all the time.  All the time, God is good.”

When spoken to someone whose life is going well seems like a benediction, an affirmation–a confirmation that God’s seal of approval rests on them and results in physical blessing.

“God is good, all the time.  All the time, God is good.”

When spoken to someone whose world is crumbling sounds like a rebuke or reproof–adjust your attitude because it can’t really be as bad as all that!

I think we misunderstand God’s goodness in each case.

I want to think of God’s goodness in terms of concrete benefits that I can point to in the physical world.  I want  to see tidy endings to messy stories that wrap things up so I can wrap my mind around them. I like stories of miraculous healing, safety in the midst of storms, provision from out of nowhere.

But so many who love Jesus die.  And there are Christ followers around the world who starve and who have no place to lay their head.  Are they unfaithful?  Are they unworthy?

I am beginning to embrace the truth that I have no idea, really, of what “good” is when I try to  use the word to describe  God. I cannot limit God’s goodness to only what I can see, feel, taste or touch.

I am learning that “good”, when speaking of God, is higher and bigger and different than anything I know.  My mind is not capable of comprehending the goodness of God in all its aspects and manifestations.

I have experienced the faithfulness of God, the provision of God and the Presence of God in the midst of this pain-but I had also experienced those things before my son left us.

I do not see the “good” in burying my son.

But right now I walk in half-light, in shadows and in partial revelation.  I cannot wrap my ongoing experience in the shadow of the valley of death into a tidy chapter book with a happy ending.

And I refuse to adopt simple explanations of the mystery of this pain.

I am living the story, leaning on God, trusting in His character and waiting for His revelation of how this apparent defeat will ultimately be victorious.

So I trust the truth of Scripture that tells me goodness is the character of God. And I rest in my past experience that in Christ all God’s promises are “yes” and “amen”.

And I long desperately,like a drowning man gasping for air, for the day when I will know fully even as I am fully known.

For now we are looking in a mirror that gives only a dim (blurred) reflection [of reality as in a riddle or enigma], but then [when perfection comes] we shall see in reality and face to face! Now I know in part (imperfectly), but then I shall know andunderstand fully and clearly, even in the same manner as I have been fully and clearly known and understood [by God]. I Corinthians 13:12 AMPC

 

 

Gifts of Spring

I spend a lot of time outdoors and love to notice the small details that announce the changing seasons.

Just a week ago I began to see tiny purple flowers peeking through the winter brown and heralding Spring’s return. Yesterday I found the first shy violets lifting their heads and today green has spread across the pastures overnight until it fills more space than the drab gray patches left over from last year’s bounty.

IMG_1762

It is a good thing that the earth still turns and the seasons still roll.  It is a reminder of God’s faithfulness to His promise:

“As long as the earth endures, seedtime and harvest, cold and heat, summer and winter, day and night will never cease.” Genesis 8:22 NIV

New flowers, new life, longer days, brighter sunshine are gifts.

But they are also a reminder that another season has passed, another calendar page has been torn off, another year has rolled by without the companionship of the child I love.

One of the things I am learning in this grief journey is that pain and joy, gladness and sorrow, hope and regret will forever be mixed in the marrow of my bones.  Every smile will carry with it a tinge of sadness.  Every new memory made will conjure up an old one undone.

And this is a gift as well.

Contrast sharpens the edges of everything.  And death makes life more precious.

Now that I know, by experience, breath is fleeting and that no matter how carefully I plan, the future is not in my hands, I am free to live and love and inhale the fragrance of this one sacred moment because there just might not be another.

 And now I have a word for you who brashly announce, “Today—at the latest, tomorrow—we’re off to such and such a city for the year. We’re going to start a business and make a lot of money.” You don’t know the first thing about tomorrow. You’re nothing but a wisp of fog, catching a brief bit of sun before disappearing. Instead, make it a habit to say, “If the Master wills it and we’re still alive, we’ll do this or that.”

James 4:13-15 MSG

 

 

Unbounded Love: A Generous Life

Every day I have a choice:  I can live with my hands closed tightly around what I think I can protect from others or I can live with my hands open both to give and to receive.

Losing a child makes it tempting to cling that much tighter to what and who I have in my life.

But losing a child also makes it plain that no matter how tightly I hold onto the people and possessions I think are mine, in the end, I’m just not strong enough to do it.

I don’t have power over sin and death.   I can’t anticipate or control the thousands of potential dangers that lurk around corners and spring from shadows.

Every thing and every person that I treasure is a gift from God.  They were given me to steward, not to own.

There is an interesting conundrum associated with success documented in many studies: those who have more tend to give less.  The actual dollar amount may be larger, but as a percentage of income or wealth, it is much smaller.

It seems that those who accumulate wealth and experience privilege begin to consider themselves more deserving than those who live in poverty.

I think there is a corollary in the church:  we who are members of the Body of Christ and walk in the joy of forgiveness can drift from remembering that we, too, were once far from God, walking in darkness and without hope.

It wasn’t so long ago that you were mired in that old stagnant life of sin. You let the world, which doesn’t know the first thing about living, tell you how to live. You filled your lungs with polluted unbelief, and then exhaled disobedience. We all did it, all of us doing what we felt like doing, when we felt like doing it, all of us in the same boat. It’s a wonder God didn’t lose his temper and do away with the whole lot of us. Instead, immense in mercy and with an incredible love, he embraced us. He took our sin-dead lives and made us alive in Christ. He did all this on his own, with no help from us! Then he picked us up and set us down in highest heaven in company with Jesus, our Messiah.

Ephesians 2:1-6 MSG

God is a generous and loving God.  He makes his rain to fall on the righteous and the unrighteous :

You have heard that it used to be said, ‘You shall love your neighbour’, and ‘hate your enemy’, but I tell you, Love your enemies, and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be sons of your Heavenly Father. For he makes the sun rise upon evil men as well as good, and he sends his rain upon honest and dishonest men alike.

~Matthew 5:44-47 MSG

He longs for all to come to a saving knowledge of Christ:

The Lord does not delay His promise, as some understand delay, but is patient with you, not wanting any to perish but all to come to repentance. ~2 Peter 3:9 HCSB

And He has called us as His ambassadors of reconciliation to proclaim His goodness, love and generosity throughout the world:

All this is done by God, who through Christ changed us from enemies into his friends and gave us the task of making others his friends also.

2 Corinthians 5:18 GNT

When we walk with closed hands, when we act as if we are “us” and the rest of the world is “them” we build walls instead of bridges.

And we push people away instead of drawing them in.

Have we forgotten that but for the grace of a loving and generous God, we too would be lost?

What are you so puffed up about? What do you have that God hasn’t given you? And if all you have is from God, why act as though you are so great, and as though you have accomplished something on your own?

I Corinthians 4:7 TLB

 

 

 

 

Am I Normal?

Believe me, no one wonders more than I if the things I’m feeling, the things I’m doing and the rate at which I am healing is “normal”.

I belong to a couple of bereavement support groups and a recurring theme is, “Am I crazy?  Is this the way it is supposed to be?”

Sometimes grieving parents wonder these things because of their own misgivings.

But often, we question our feelings and experience because of external pressure.

And that is unfortunate and unfair.

When a mom brings her new baby home from the hospital, people are quick to remind her that life “will never be the same”.

She is encouraged to seek advice and help from friends and family and given space and time to figure out this new way of being.  As the years pass, she might express frustration and concern over the challenges of going back to work, sleepless nights, feeding issues, potty training, and dozens of other, everyday struggles that result from welcoming this little person into the family.  And that is just the beginning. 

No one thinks it strange that the ADDITION of a child is a life-long adjustment.

So, why, why, why is it strange that the SUBTRACTION of a child would also require accommodation for the rest of a mother’s life?

My heart grew larger when Dominic was born and the space that is his cannot and will not be filled by anyone or anything else.

I am learning each day to work around this empty spot.  I am becoming stronger and better able to carry the weight of grief that I must bear.

I can do many of the things I used to do before the only place I could visit Dominic was at the cemetary.

But I have to do them differently.  I need more help.  It takes more time. And sometimes I find after I plan to go somewhere that I am just not able to go after all.

I will never “get over” burying my son.

There will always be another mountain to climb, another loss to mourn, another hurdle to clear in this grief journey.

Dominic is part of me.  That didn’t change when he went home to be with Jesus.

The absence of his presence is EVERYWHERE.

And just for the record–missing the child I love for the rest of my life is perfectly normal.

 

 

Acknowledging Our Grief Anniversaries

An insightful and universally applicable post-everryone you meet is fighting a battle you know nothing about-walk gently in this life.

“I’ve tried to remember this because it helps me to realize that most people I encounter every day are doing this continual memorializing of someone they love too. They, like me have these constant pinpricks to the heart that they are experiencing at any given moment. They, like me could be internally reeling for what seems to be no apparent reason. This very ordinary day for me could be a day of extraordinary mourning for them.”

john pavlovitz

SadGirlBeach

I always struggle on sunny Saturday mornings.

It was a brilliantly blue-skyed September Saturday two and a half years ago, when I bounded down the stairs on the way to the gym and noticed my phone vibrating on the hallway table. The caller ID told me that it was my youngest brother Eric and so I rushed to it, eager to catch up. Had I known what he was going to tell me ten seconds later, I probably wouldn’t have answered it.

That was the moment I found out that my father was gone.

As only those who mourn the loss of someone they love deeply understand, sunny Saturday mornings have never been the same for me. They are now a Grief Anniversary; a perpetual, involuntary holiday where my heart marks its injury over and over and over again without me getting a say in the matter. Since that terrible day there has rarely been a Saturday morning regardless of…

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Spring Forward

I wrote and first posted this last fall,  when we ended Daylight Savings Time.  It struck me then, and strikes me now, that we continue to think that time is in our hands.  We break days into hours and hours into minutes like they belong to us.

But no one knows the number of our days except God.

“Every spring and every fall we dutifully make the rounds to our clocks and digital devices, putting them first forward an hour and then back in an attempt to make the days “longer”.

As if time was in our hands.

The sun rises and sets according to the Creator’s schedule, we can neither speed the world’s turning, nor slow it down.

We can only choose whether to be present in the moments He grants us.”

Read the rest of this post here:  Time Change