Fragile

If you’ve ever had major surgery you know that the outside looks whole way before the inside is healed.

That’s how it is with grief–those of us who have lost a child appear to be strong–we have to be, because life doesn’t stop.

Not even for burying a child.

No matter how tightly I strap on my armor, grief sends arrows through the tiniest unprotected chink and pierces my heart.

There is no defense against the sound, the smell, the wayward memory that sends me back in time to when Dominic was alive and with me.  And once there, to drag myself forward to today—where he is neither—is torture. 

Sometimes the process can be a matter of seconds, the only evidence a blank stare or a single tear.  Other times the memories and the forceful return to the here and now unleashes a flood from my eyes and ends my usefulness for that day.

Either way, it’s exhausting. 

I think that might be one of the most surprising aspects of grief for me.  When it strikes hard (as it still does sometimes) it robs me of energy and the desire to do anything.

I am a “get-it-done” kind of person.  But there’s no way to get grief “done”.  It works itself out in its own time and in its own way.

I can position my mind and my heart to heal by focusing on the promises of God in Scripture.  But I cannot hurry along the healing.

And healing, when it comes, will always be incomplete this side of heaven.

Please don’t mistake the fact that I can stand straight and look strong as proof that I am recovered. 

I am often frightened and sometimes I want to hide.

But vulnerable and wounded, I remain until God calls me home.

“In His feathers He shall deliver you and under His wings you shall have refuge; His truth shall surround you as a supply of armor.”

Psalm 91:4

Embracing Solitude, Making Space to Hear

We strive so hard to fill our days–our feet barely hit the floor and we are rushing to get ready, to get in the car, to go somewhere, do something.

And should there be the rare morning when our schedule doesn’t demand our attention, we sleep it away and then turn on our noise machines to provide a soundtrack for breakfast, lunch and dinner and everything in between.

One statistic notes: “our homes have more television sets than people. And those television sets are turned on for more than a third of the day—eight hours, 14 minutes.”  (USA Today)

We are afraid to be alone.

Afraid to listen to my own heartbeat and thoughts and to consider my own questions.  So I fill the space with distractions and push away the necessity of facing them.

But grief will not be ignored.

It will not allow me to pull the covers over my mind and hide beneath them.  I cannot turn the music or television up loud enough to drown out the rhythm of sorrow keeping time in my head.

I am re-reading “A Grief Observed” by C.S. Lewis.

It comforts me that this man who was an intellectual giant, a creative genius, and a thoughtful and capable apologist for the Gospel, struggled just like me when faced with the sorrow, pain, loss and questions of grief.

And, contrary to what I wish were true there are not answers available for every question.

Quoting Bible verses does not soothe every frayed nerve.

There are not rock-solid assurances that sweep away every doubt.

Being in one’s own company alone with God is challenging.  

Without the noise of outside distraction I am forced to face my fears and hidden darkness.  

with you always

 

And in the quiet I find that the easy answers leave me empty and unsatisfied.  I must listen carefully for the still, small Voice that whispers comfort.

In the end, it is to Jesus Himself that I must cling.

 

 

Worn

I used to think the expression, “the straw that broke the camel’s back” was an exaggeration meant to paint a comical picture of someone who didn’t have sense enough to remove pounds of heavy bricks but buckled under the tiniest extra weight of a single straw.

Now I think it accurately describes those of us with no control over the baggage we have to carry and who find that it really is the small things that force us to the ground.

Just when I’m convinced I have this grief load well-balanced so that the weight, though heavy, is bearable, along comes LIFE and throws the whole rig out of kilter.

Grieving my son means that while I can usually get through the day, I have no extra emotional, psychological, physical or spiritual energy to draw on when things get just a little more challenging:

  • I mean to encourage, but miscommunicate my heart to a friend and hurt her feelings.
  • Family members have needs I can’t meet.
  • People I expected to lend a listening ear spend our time together unloading on me instead.
  • My rheumatoid arthritis flares and moving around just plain hurts.

And I realize that the load I thought I was managing is much too heavy and threatens to crush the wind right out of my lungs.

With my strength gone, the sorrow and the missing and the unanswerable questions dog-pile on my prostrate spirit.

The song “Worn” by Tenth Avenue North describes perfectly how I felt last night:

I’m tired
I’m worn
My heart is heavy
From the work it takes to keep on breathing

I’ve made mistakes
I’ve let my hope fail
My soul feels crushed
By the weight of this world
And I know that you can give me rest
So I cry out with all that I have left

Let me see redemption win…Let me know the struggle ends…That you can mend a heart that’s frail and torn.

I want to know a song can rise…From the ashes of a broken life…And all that’s dead inside can be reborn…‘Cause I’m worn…

I know I need
To lift my eyes up
But I’m too weak
Life just won’t let up
And I know that You can give me rest
So I cry out with all that I have left

Let me see redemption win…Let me know the struggle ends…That you can mend a heart that’s frail and torn

I want to know a song can rise…From the ashes of a broken life…And all that’s dead inside can be reborn…Cause I’m worn…

And my prayers are wearing thin, I’m worn even before the day begins.
I’m worn I’ve lost my will to fight, I’m worn so heaven so come and flood my eyes.

Let me see redemption win… Let me know the struggle ends…That you can mend a heart that’s frail and torn.

I want to know a song can rise…From the ashes of a broken life…And all that’s dead inside can be reborn…

When it Doesn’t Feel Like Grace

It’s been said that everything this side of hell is the grace of God.

But burying my child doesn’t feel like grace, it feels like punishment.

Or abandonment.

Or forgetfulness.

I cannot add my voice to the modern Christian chorus of “Everything happens for a reason”.

Is this my tree, set in the midst of my garden?  The one about which God says, “Trust Me”?

I am tempted to argue, tempted to try to frame the meaning of my test in terms my human heart can understand.

“God must not love me.”

“He must be hiding something.”

I am faced with the same question that mocked my first mother, “Did God really say?”

And, like Eve, I am tempted to give in to the fear that draws my soul to doubt the wisdom and goodness of God.

Why would He bring me to this place where I am forced to walk obediently in trust and without light?

But these are whispers of the enemy of my soul, luring me away from the only Source of hope and comfort that there is.

And he is skilled at turning my feelings against the truth.

I am powerless to fight the serpent in my own strength, too weak to answer what seem like reasonable questions.

So I throw myself on the mercy of Him Who made me, of Him Who brought me to this point of testing.

In my weakness I rest in His strength.

and finally He said to me, “My grace is enough to cover and sustain you. My power is made perfect in weakness.” So ask me about my thorn, inquire about my weaknesses, and I will gladly go on and on—I would rather stake my claim in these and have the power of the Anointed One at home within me.

2 Corinthians 12:9 VOICE

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Sparrows DO Fall

I have never subscribed to the theory that the Christian life is free of pain and suffering.

But there are some who do.

Christian bookstores are filled with titles touting the path to joy and happiness, the way to wealth and material success.

And some of the claims of these authors and preachers rest on Jesus’ own words in the Sermon on the Mount:

But seek ye first the Kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added unto you.

Matthew 6:33 KJV

They interpret this verse to mean that if your heart is set on God and His Kingdom, then He will give you the things that will make you happy and healthy.

I would argue that they have it all wrong.

My own experience and that of many other faithful followers of Jesus makes plain that loving Christ does not protect you from the evil in this world.  It doesn’t guarantee that you won’t get cancer, that you won’t lose your job, or that you won’t suffer persecution from the enemies of God.

And it doesn’t spare you from burying your child.  

Just a few chapters later, Jesus instructs His disciples as they go out to minister and encourages them with these words:

” Are not two little sparrows sold for a [a]copper coin? And yet not one of them falls to the ground apart from your Father’s will. But even the very hairs of your head are all numbered [for the Father is sovereign and has complete knowledge]. So do not fear; you are more valuable than many sparrows.” 

Matthew 10:29-31 AMP

More than one song has been written to include the phrase, “His eye is on the sparrow”–meant to bring comfort in moments of fear.

And it is true.  His eye IS on the sparrow.

But read the whole verse: “not one of them falls to the ground apart from your Father’s will.” 

God knows when a sparrow falls, but He doesn’t always stop it from happening.

‘For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways,’ declares the Lord. ‘As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.’

Isaiah 55:8-9

Since Dominic died, I have found an unusual number of bird’s nests knocked down from trees by the wind.

Intact and beautiful, but empty.

I’ve wondered about whether God is trying to encourage me, or simply reinforce the truth that I now carry in my heart:  

Even though He is watching, sparrows do fall.