Replay: Loving Well Series

Beginning today and through the next week, I will be sharing again a series of posts written to help those journeying the valley of grief and those walking with them on the journey.  I asked other bereaved parents to share from their experience the things that were helpful and not so helpful to them after losing a child.

Many of these insights are useful for blessing anyone in any difficult situation–we can all use a little help from our friends.

If you are a bereaved parent, and you have wanted to let family and friends know what’s helpful and what isn’t-sharing a post to Facebook can be a non-threatening way to let them know using someone else’s voice.

“No one is prepared to bury their child.

But some of us have to.”

Read the rest: Loving Well: Meaningful Ministry to Grieving Parents

Choosing Transparency

I’ve had two conversations in as many days that revolved around how hard it is to be transparent in relationships.

And it seems that the difficulty lies not only in our own desire to present ourselves in a way that casts a positive light on our actions, thoughts and feelings but also because of an unspoken rule in social transactions that demands (and I don’t think “demand”is too strong a word) we conform to the “I’m doing just fine” standard that is prevalent everywhere you turn.

All around me, people are faking life.

They are acting as if there are no hurdles, no burdens, no wounded places in their own hearts.  They run around proclaiming, “this is my best life now!” somehow convinced that if they say it loud enough and long enough it will be true.

But everyone sees what we think we are hiding.

Many know what we think we’re not saying.

And we all walk around, seeing and knowing but never acknowledging the truth:  we are not as strong or as perfect as we wish we were.

All this fake life is costly.  It’s costly to us who try so very hard to keep up appearances-it robs our lives of energy that would be better used in loving and serving others.  It is costly to the people around us because as long as we play the game, they feel like they must play along too.

And everywhere, hurting people hurt alone.  Scared people remain isolated in their fear.

That is not the life Jesus came to give us.  That is not the way to build true community among His called-out ones.  That is not the way to teach our children how to lean into and hold onto the strength and hope that Christ died to bring.

When I lost Dominic, many feelings overwhelmed me-sorrow, pain, disbelief-and, to my surprise, humility.

For the first time in my life it made sense to me why in many cultures bereaved people sit in the dirt and tear their clothes.  Because I remember saying over and over, “I am cast to the ground, and ashes are my food.”

And while that feeling is no longer as strong as it once was, it still echoes in my heart and mind.  I carry it with me wherever I go.  It has freed me from the game of “let’s pretend” that held me hostage to other people’s expectations of how I should act or what I should hide from public view.

Let’s just STOP.

Let’s be honest.

Let’s refuse to hide our scars, our tears, our fears and our failures.

If those of us who love Jesus refuse to acknowledge our weakness, how do we expect others to acknowledge their need for a Savior?

“The Christian often tries to forget his weakness; God wants us to remember it, to feel it deeply. The Christian wants to conquer his weakness and to be freed from it; God wants us to rest and even rejoice in it. The Christian mourns over his weakness; Christ teaches His servant to say, ‘I take pleasure in infirmities. Most gladly …will I…glory in my infirmities’ (2 Cor. 12:9)’ The Christian thinks his weaknesses are his greatest hindrance in the life and service of God; God tells us that it is the secret of strength and success. It is our weakness, heartily accepted and continually realized, that gives our claim and access to the strength of Him who has said, ‘My strength is made perfect in weakness”

― Andrew Murray, Abide in Christ

Making Space for Brokenness at the Table of the LORD

As we enter the week on the Christian calendar when most churches celebrate the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus Christ, I am reminded that often we race past the road that lead to Calvary and linger at the empty tomb.

But to understand the beauty of forgiveness and the blessing of redemption, we MUST acknowledge the sorrow of sin and the burden of brokenness.

When our sacred spaces draw boundaries around what we can bring to the Lord’s Table, we exclude the very ones who are desperate for the bread and cup.  When we treat the path as unimportant and only acknowledge the destination, we discourage those that are struggling to keep up.  When we welcome only the triumphant, we exclude those that are trying.

Let’s throw open the doors to the church and

Clear the way for the Lord in the wilderness [remove the obstacles]; Make straight and smooth in the desert a highway for our God. (Isaiah 40:3 AMP)

Let’s invite the outcasts, the limping, the hurting and the broken to the table.

Let’s declare to the wounded that in Christ there is healing!

As I’ve written before: “The truth is that none of us escape hardship in life.  All of us have hidden heartache.  We all have cracks in our polished persona.”

Read more:  Beautiful Broken

 

 

God of the Day and God of the Night

I was afraid of the dark until I was almost forty years old.

My fear was rooted in scary childhood moments and even years of adult experience could not rip it from the soil of my psyche. I never could convince my heart what my head knew to be true: there was nothing in the dark that wasn’t also there in the light.

It was fear, not darkness, that controlled me.

There is great darkness in grief.  So many unanswerable questions, so much anquish, so much pain.

And there is darkness in many other painful, unchangeable circumstances.

The darkness can hide things that I see clearly in the light.  And if I’m not careful, I  can allow the darkness to foster fear and keep me from venturing futher.

In my own strength, depending on my own resources, I am afraid.

But when I call out from my scary place to the God Who made me, I can face the fear in confidence He hears and cares.

When I am afraid, O Lord Almighty, I put my trust in you.

Psalm 56:3 GNT

Sometimes believers in Christ can convince themselves that admitting their world is dark with pain or suffering or questions diminishes the power of God–that it speaks ill of God or that it means God is insufficient to uphold us in our weakness.

If I pretend that I’m never afraid, or that I never experience darkness, I am denying others my aid.

Even worse, I may be shaming them to silence, sending the message that if they are experiencing pain, something is wrong with THEM.

How many people are sitting in our pews with broken hearts and broken lives, afraid to reach out for help because–in addition to the pain of their broken life–they live under condemnation?

Life is full of pain and darkness.  Even for those who follow Jesus.

When I deny that truth, I also refuse to testify to God’s power to help me carry on and give me the courage to face my fear.

God is the God of the day AND the God of the night.  

I do not diminish Him by admitting that I experience both.

He invites me to lean into Him and to hold hands with His children as I journey on, even when it’s dark.

“Christians with this unflinching faith in the sovereign God do not deny grief. But even in their darkest hours, they borrow God’s strength. In their tears and pain they cling to God who will never let them go. What the Savior has done for others He will do for you. When you are shaken, and you know that life will never be the same again, you can trust and not be afraid. You can live in HOPE with the sturdy confidence that God will dry your tears and put you on your feet again.”

“Grief, Comfort for Those Who Grieve and Those Who Want to Help” by Haddon W. Robinson

 

 

 

Dropping the Mask

Despite my commitment to authenticity, I do have a plastic smile I can pull out of my pocket and slap across my face.

Sometimes I just don’t want to have to have to answer the question, “How are you?” with more than a nod and a wave.

I tell myself that it demonstrates maturity and self-control.

And I actually think that’s OK. I don’t always need to spill my guts to every unsuspecting stranger I meet.

But if I allow it to become a habit or use it as camouflage to keep my distance from my fellow man, it is unhelpful.  It gives the false impression that life is mostly smooth sailing, when that’s just not true so much of the time.

And it builds a wall between me and others.

Because if the people I meet think that I have it all together all the time, they are going to be much less likely to admit that they don’t.  And let’s be real, none of us have it all together.

We all have at least one place in our lives that hurts and that needs healing.

Everyone has scars.

Losing a child is teaching me many things.  One of the things I am learning is that I am not self-sufficient.  I am not capable of meeting my own needs or bearing my burdens alone.  I need companionship in this journey.

When I walk around with my mask on, I isolate myself from the very people that might help me heal.

It is humbling and sometimes frightening, to let others SEE my brokenness.

I might be inviting judgment and condemnation.  But I am also welcoming love and companionship.  I am opening my heart to the gift of friendship.

When I refuse to pretend, I give permission for others to take off their masks too.

Being real creates space for authentic healing.

It unlocks doors to sharing truth.

Jesus came as God in the flesh so that He could experience our trials, our temptations, our joys and our sorrows. He came to KNOW.

But He also came to make the Father KNOWN.

And He has left His followers to continue making the Father known in the world.

If I want to minister to the painful places in the lives of others, I have to let them see the painful places in my own. I have to drop the mask and reveal my face.  When I do, I invite them to let me help carry their load and to let them help me carry mine.

Bear ye one another’s burdens, and so fulfil the law of Christ.

Galatians 6:2