Consolation

I was caught unaware mid-morning by tears.  

No reason, just my heart remembered that this life I’m living is not the life I expected.

Nowhere to go but to God.  

No hope to cling to but His Word.  

It’s the best I can do.  

still my consolation is this

Living Without Answers

We are a people who love a good mystery as long as it leads to a good ending-bad guys vanquished, questions answered, motives revealed and a tidy resolution.

But real life is rarely so neat and squared away.

Just consider your average doctor’s visit.  Diagnosis is often a result of trial and error when a simple blood test or throat culture is unavailable to confirm or rule out a particular malady.  Yet we blunder forward, trying this and that until something either works or the illness runs its course.

Relationships are even trickier.  We stand toe-to-toe with others hoping we understand what they are saying or not saying, feeling or not feeling-all the while forced to act and react in the space between.  It’s a wonder we aren’t all at war with one another.

And then there are the big “What ifs?” and “Whys?”

The cosmic questions that rock our world and threaten to undo us.

These are the questions that filled my mind and kept me awake at night after burying my son.  Questions I was free to ignore before they took up residence in my soul and echoed in my head with every thump, thump, thump of my beating heart.

It took a very long time for me to learn to live with them unanswered. And there are still moments when I scream aloud and raise my fist to the sky, demanding an accounting.

But most days, I can rest in that space between the asking and the answer-if not exactly at peace-then at least in a state of suspended animation.

And that may really be all God expects of me this side of heaven.

Job never did get any answers.

He stood before God speechless and in awe.

That’s pretty much where I am right now.

I don’t have to like it.

I don’t have to understand it.

I only have to be willing to admit that He is God and I am not.  

Job answered God:

“I’m convinced: You can do anything and everything.
    Nothing and no one can upset your plans.
You asked, ‘Who is this muddying the water,
    ignorantly confusing the issue, second-guessing my purposes?’
I admit it. I was the one. I babbled on about things far beyond me,
    made small talk about wonders way over my head.
You told me, ‘Listen, and let me do the talking.
    Let me ask the questions. You give the answers.’
I admit I once lived by rumors of you;
    now I have it all firsthand—from my own eyes and ears!
I’m sorry—forgive me. I’ll never do that again, I promise!
    I’ll never again live on crusts of hearsay, crumbs of rumor.”

Job 42:4-6 MSG

 

No Comparison

One of the hardest parts of blogging for me is that I am committed to authenticity.  As best as I am able, I try to be honest and transparent.

This entry was tricky.

I never, ever want to minimize ANYONE’S pain-in my mind there is no hierachy of misery. But I also want to let those outside the child loss community see how much it hurts to have our loss compared by others to their very different losses. We would much rather you simply take our hand or hug us or sit silently with us on the mourning bench.

So, here it is.  I hope you receive it in the spirit in which it is intended.

It is just so hard to accept that remaining silent is often better than saying the wrong thing.

It seems like every quiet space MUST be filled with chatter-especially in our overstimulated world of screens and noise boxes.

But, I promise-if you and I are speaking, and I choose to expose my heart-I would rather you take my hand or hug my neck and say nothing than tell me, “I understand exactly how you feel.”

Unless, of course, you do.

If you have buried a child, then please, please, please tell me that!  We will cry together.

women-crying-together-cell-phone

But there is no comparison between losing an aged aunt, full of years,  and losing a child, full of promise.

There is no comparison between losing a job, a house or a dream-any of which have the potential for restoration in this life– and losing a childwhom I will not see until I reach heaven.

There is no comparison between losing a pet and losing my son.

It’s the difference between being hungry because you skipped lunch and starving to death because you don’t have access to food or water.

One is uncomfortable and the other is excruciating.

So, while I deeply appreciate your desire to empathize with me, please don’t try to stretch your limited experience with loss to include my own.

It hurts my heart and minimizes my pain.

There’s just no comparison.

cant-fix-it-my-family-is-always-achingly-incomplete

 

 

 

 

 

 

Repost: God in a Box

Every idea of [God] we form, He must in mercy shatter. The most blessed result of prayer would be to rise thinking ‘But I never knew before. I never dreamed…’ I suppose it was at such a moment that Thomas Aquinas said of all his own theology, ‘It reminds me of straw.’

Letters to Malcolm: Chiefly on Prayer (1964)

It’s possible that you haven’t thought of it this way, but if you are a believer in Christ and have yet to walk through faith-shattering trials, you may have placed God in a box.

I know I had.

Read the rest here:  God in a Box

 

 

 

 

Arguing with God

I don’t expect to win and I don’t think I’ll get an audible answer, but I will tell you I’ve had some rip-roaring, humdinger arguments with God.

Now the pious among us will probably be shocked. They may tell me I’m pushing the envelope of grace or even sinning by asking God what exactly He is doing in this Valley of the Shadow of Death.

That doesn’t deter me-there are plenty of scriptural precedents for asking God, “why” and begging Him for an answer to the pain of this broken world.

Moses wanted to know how come he got stuck leading a bunch of whiny migrants tramping through the desert.

Paul begged God to take away the thorn in his flesh.

Jesus and Job both asked the question.

Though He slay me, I will hope in Him. Nevertheless I will argue my ways before Him.
‭‭Job‬ ‭13:15‬ ‭NASB‬‬

We usually don’t quote the last half of that verse, do we?

We stop at the affirmation and leave off the doubt-Job’s desperate desire to understand just what God was doing when it seemed unfair and capricious.

Most of the book of Job is full of questions.  Job asking why he was targeted and his friends asking him what sin he was hiding.

Come now, let us argue it out, says the Lord: though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be like snow; though they are red like crimson, they shall become like wool.

Isaiah 1:18 NRSV

God invites us to ask.  He opens the door to questions.

He is willing to “talk”.

But He doesn’t always answer every question. 

In the end, Job’s mouth was shut not by God giving him assurance of anything except His “otherness” and the fact that He IS God.

A difficult truth to embrace.

One I ponder often.

I hurt, I sorrow, I agonize over the loss that has come into my life. A precious life has been taken away. I feel great grief and pain. It sears my every waking hour and casts a puzzling dreary shadow across my life’s journey.

At a time like this, it is imperative that I remember that God has not promised to keep my life bubbling with pleasing sensations. I must not prostitute God by giving Him the responsibility of being an indulgent Santa Claus in the heavens. God is not my servant. I am His servant.

As I come to grips with my grief, I reject the sentimentalized, sickly religion so popular today. God’s comfort is not insulation from difficulty; it is spiritual fortification sufficient to enable me to stand firm, undefeated in the fiery trials of life. God’s provision is not always green pastures and still waters. Sometimes God leads into the valley of the shadow, but I may walk there with confidence, assured of the love and presence of God.

No longer can I offer a mindless, frivolous assertion that God always measures up to my every expectation of Him and always gives His children goodies. I must declare that some things are beyond my human understanding in the ways of God. Those mysteries have destroyed my comfortable existence, but I proclaim: ‘Though he slay me, yet will I hope in him’ (Job 13:15). I will hurt for years to come. A hundred times a day I feel keenly the void left by death’s cruel blow. That pain, however, must drive me to stronger trust in God whose providence is not always compatible with my desires.

~James Means, A Tearful Celebration

Come Sit With Me: How Job’s Comforters Got it Wrong

I want to make sense of the senseless.

I want to draw boundary lines around tragedy so I know what precautions can keep it far away from  me.

But God is in control.  Not me.

How Job’s comforters got it wrong…

 

God in a Box

Every idea of [God] we form, He must in mercy shatter. The most blessed result of prayer would be to rise thinking ‘But I never knew before. I never dreamed…’ I suppose it was at such a moment that Thomas Aquinas said of all his own theology, ‘It reminds me of straw.’

Letters to Malcolm: Chiefly on Prayer (1964)

It’s possible that you haven’t thought of it this way, but if you are a believer in Christ and have yet to walk through faith-shattering trials, you may have placed God in a box.

I know I had.

I thought that after decades of walking with Jesus, reading and studying Scripture and wading through some fairly significant trials I had God pretty well figured out.

I could quote verses for every occasion, open my Bible to any book without looking in the Table of Contents, and had something sprirtual to say about everything.

But now, like Job, I cover my mouth.

C.S. Lewis shared his grief journey after losing his wife in the book,  A Grief Observed.

What many may not know is that he was pressured to publish it under a pseudonym.  

His publishers and some of his close friends didn’t want people to know that this giant of the Christian faith, this celebrated apologist for believing Christ was shaken to the core by the death of his beloved bride.

Lewis resisted and I am so thankful.  

It brings me great comfort to know that one who was much more equipped to face a faith crisis found himself floundering in the ocean called sorrow and grief.

He knew where the boat was.  

But he, like me, wasn’t sure he wanted to climb back in.

Not that I am (I think) in much danger of ceasing to believe in God. The real danger is of coming to believe such dreadful things about Him. The conclusion I dread is not ‘So there’s no God after all,’ but ‘So this is what God’s really like. Deceive yourself no longer.”

C.S. Lewis, A Grief Observed

Grief has forced me to reexamine every notion I had of God and how He works in the world.  I’ve had to pull out all my theological assumptions and compare what I thought I knew to what is in the Bible and what I have experienced in life.

It is exhausting.  And necessary.

Like Lewis, I’ve discovered that I had ideas about God, but that they were not necessarily true: “My idea of God is not a divine idea. It has to be shattered time after time. He shatters it Himself.” 

I had decided that God acted in certain ways, that prayers guaranteed certain results and that my life as a believer in Christ was destined to be one of favor and blessing because I was honoring Him.

My box for God included room for some pain and suffering-but definitely not enough space for Him to take my child and plunge me into this abyss of grief and sorrow.

What do people mean when they say, ‘I am not afraid of God because I know He is good’? Have they never even been to a dentist?”

C.S.Lewis

At the dedication of the Temple, Solomon prayed:

“But, God, will you really live here with us on the earth? The whole sky and the highest heaven cannot contain you. Certainly this house that I built cannot contain you either.”

2 Chronicles 6:18 ERV

God has broken out of my boxHe was never really in it to begin with.  

Only my ideas of Him could be contained in so small a space.