The news goes out over Facebook, over phone lines, over prayer chains and everyone shows up.
Crowds in the kitchen, in the living room, spilling onto the lawn.
It’s what you do.
And it’s actually the easiest part. Lots of people, lots of talking, lots of activity keep the atmosphere focused on the deceased and the family. The conversation rarely dips to deeper waters or digs into harder ground: “Where was God?”; “Why him?”; “Why do ‘bad’ things happen to ‘good’ people?”
But eventually the busyness and noise gives way to stillness and silence.
When my perfectly healthy, strong and gifted son was killed instantly in a motorcycle accident on April 12. 2014 my world fell apart. My heart shattered into a million pieces. And after three and a half years, I’ve yet to even FIND all of those pieces much less put them back together.
So what does a heart do when that happens?Because, try as I might, I cannot stop time.
Even THAT awful day only lasted 24 hours.
When the sun rose again, the pain was still there. And behind that pain and mixed with it was something else-disappointment, disaffection, distrust.
If you have lived a blessed life where the greatest challenge to your faith has been disappointment and not destruction then I am so, so happy for you. Really.
Some of us have dragged our broken hearts through the church doors out of habit with little hope we might find the genuine comfort we need to survive inside.
Because experience taught us that while it is perfectly acceptable to raise a hand and ask for prayer one or two weeks in a row, it better not become a predictable pattern. Patience with unsolvable and messy ongoing situations runs thin as leaders turn the discussion toward “victory in Jesus”.
But that isn’t what Christ came for-not that we don’t have ultimate and even some temporal victory through Him.
He came for the broken and breathless. He came in the flesh because our flesh is weak and life is hard and bad things happen.
We’ve got to do a better job welcoming and ministering to hurting hearts.
We have to.
I am a shepherd. My goats and sheep depend on me for food, for guidance and for their security.
And every day I am reminded that a shepherd’s heart is revealed by the way he or she cares for the weakest and most vulnerable of the flock.
But most of us are far removed from the daily reminder of pastoral life that was commonly accessible to the authors and readers of the Bible thousands of years ago. So it’s no surprise that we tend to forget the connection between a shepherd’s life and a pastor’s calling.
Even that most awful first day I swallowed tears as I made phone calls and airline reservations and asked for help from those I knew would lend it.
But sometimes the weight of grief and life and stress and pain is simply too much to bear.
So falling apart is really the only option.
And that’s OK.
I can let go and let the tears flow.
I can hide under the covers or inside the house and not answer the phone.
I don’t have anything to prove.
Because I know the One who will hold me until I feel strong enough to pick up the pieces and carry on.
And when you are old, I will still be there, carrying you. When your limbs grow tired, your eyes are weak,And your hair a silvery gray, I will carry you as I always have. I will carry you and save you.
As hard as I may try to help those around me understand how very difficult it is to walk on in this life I didn’t choose, my efforts often go awry.
I forget to make a phone call, I assume some plans are in place, I mistake silence for assent, I’m unaware of secondary pressures or I simply underestimate pent up feelings waiting for an opportunity to be expressed and what I thought would be a regular encounter ends up being an uncomfortable or painful confrontation.
And I’m trapped. No where to go, no where to hide. Stuck in an unfruitful conversational circle.
No matter how carefully I listen, how cautiously I employ “I” statements and affirm another heart’s perspective, it isn’t enough. Because what they really need from me is something I can’t give: to make life like it was “before”.
But we both know that’s not possible. So I become the sacrificial punching bag-the person they pummel until the negative energy is spent.
I want to agree to disagree and lay down arms. I want to walk away, hang up the phone, run and hide.
Because if there were a way for me to relieve this built-up inner pressure (without hurting another heart) I’d do it too.
But there isn’t. So I take the licks.
I add that to my sack of “Things You Have To Endure Post Child Loss” and carry on.