Adjusting to the Darkness

A precious friend sent a small book through the mail just after we buried Dominic.  Lament for a Son-the title was enough to draw me in-and the pages ministered to my soul.

Here was someone who, like me, was wailing for what was lost.

Someone who was declaring out loud what my heart harbored in secret: that the darkness of child loss is unrelenting and horrible.

Will my eyes adjust to this darkness? Will I find you in the dark – not in the streaks of light which remain, but in the darkness? Has anyone ever found you there? Did they love what they saw? Did they see love? And are there songs for singing when the light has gone dim? Or in the dark, is it best to wait in silence?
Noon has darkened. As fast as they could say, ‘He’s dead,’ the light dimmed. And where are you in the darkness? I learned to spy you in the light. Here in this darkness, I cannot find you. If I had never looked for you, or looked but never found, I would not feel this pain of your absence. Or is not your absence in which I dwell, but your elusive troubling presence?

Nicholas Wolterstorff, Lament for a Son

I comprehend Wolterstorff’s question-“Will I find you [God] in the dark-not in the streaks of light which remain, but in the darkness?”

I had long followed the light of Christ.  Walked boldly even when the light was very dim. Trusted the smallest flicker of a tiny candle of hope when night closed in and began to speak fear to my heart.

But this-this unrelenting, palpable darkness that swallowed any light and even the promise of light-this was new to me.

I understood David’s cry:

“How long, O Eternal One? How long will You forget me? Forever?
    How long will You look the other way?

How long must I agonize,
    grieving Your absence in my heart every day?”

Psalm 13:1-2a VOICE

But time is helping my eyes adjust to the darkness.

I am learning to feel my way around in this new room, to navigate days that feel more like night.

I know in my heart that this night will not last forever.

I will be able to say:

“But I have trusted in your steadfast love;
    my heart shall rejoice in your salvation.

I will sing to the Lord,
    because he has dealt bountifully with me.”

Psalm 13:5-6 ESV

God has promised that Jesus is the Light and even this darkness cannot overcome Him.

In the beginning the Word already existed. The Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was already with God in the beginning. Everything came into existence through him. Not one thing that exists was made without him. He was the source of life, and that life was the light for humanity. 5The light shines in the dark, and the dark has never extinguished it.

John 1:1-5 GWT

 

 

Wow! Just. Wow!

I’m always a little frightened to expose my vulnerable underbelly to the sometimes vicious wilderness of the worldwide web.

So when I clicked “send” for yesterday’s post I had immediate regrets-was it too personal? too negative? too self-focused?

I am overwhelmed by the comments both on the blog and on Facebook-comments of encouragement, understanding and hope-not condemnation or condescension.

All I can say is,  “Thank you!”

And I was reminded that isolation is a powerful weapon in the hands of the enemy of our souls.

But godly community disarms it.

So I want to make sure that everyone who reads this blog knows about two online Facebook sites that offer hope and healing through the truth of Scripture and the Good News of Jesus Christ.

Each has a public page visible to anyone on Facebook and features posts of interest to bereaved parents and those walking with them.

While We’re Waiting is a large, well established non-profit organization.  In addition to the online presence, it offers in-person support to bereaved parents through retreats and support groups.  I am very grateful to the Sullivans and Browns who founded the group after experiencing child loss-their obedience has been a blessing in my life and in the lives of many other grieving parents. 

Heartache and Hope is the name of a page I created as an additional resource, along with the blog, for those who are grieving a child.

To receive posts in your newsfeed, simply “like” the public page and benefit from the encouragement.

From each group’s public page, bereaved parents and grandparents can request admission to a closed discussion group.

The private discussion groups are just that-private. Only bereaved parents and grandparents may participate.  It’s a safe space where everyone understands and shares your pain.

As I read and was encouraged by each comment on yesterday’s post, I thought of an image many of us have seen-a defensive circle of elephants facing outward-the vulnerable calves safely tucked in the middle.

circle of elephants

A lion can prowl around the edges but knows it is already defeated.  Nothing can penetrate the powerful perimeter that protects the potential prey.

Peter warned early believers:

Most importantly, be disciplined and stay on guard. Your enemy the devil is prowling around outside like a roaring lion, just waiting and hoping for the chance to devour someone.

I Peter 5:8 VOICE

That’s what community feels like.  

I’m surrounded and protected.  

That old lion-the enemy-can roar all he wants to.  He can’t touch me.

For God did not choose us to condemn us, but that we might secure his salvation through Jesus Christ our Lord. He died for us, so that whether we are “awake” or “asleep” we share his life. So go on cheering and strengthening each other with thoughts like these, as I have no doubt you have been doing.

I Thessalonians 5:9-12 PHILLIPS

 

A Day in the Life

If you get up every morning and go to work-I applaud you!

Most of my days start with work, but I don’t have to go farther than my own property to discharge my duties.

But today I had to get going extra early for a doctor’s appointment with a specialist about 50 miles away.  So I rushed through my morning chores, double-checked I had everything I needed and left home by 7:10.

I had to park in a parking garage-no easy feat when you drive a full-size pickup and the spaces are designed for mid-size cars.  The low roof, confined space and limited light make me feel trapped and uncomfortable.

Every time I have to fill out health paperwork there is always a question or two that makes me think of Dominic.  I shake off the beginnings of tears and wait to be called back.

My blood pressure is higher than it usually is and I’m a bit heavier than last time I was there-both things that make me feel like a failure and add to the voice in my head that says, “You aren’t good enough.  You are doing something wrong or this wouldn’t have happened to you.”  

My disease is progressing and although my doctor is kind, and patient, and fully aware of the fact that I’ve buried a child,  she broaches once again a treatment option that has more risk but potentially greater efficacy.

I’m just not ready to take the leap.

So my anxiety mounts as I think of both alternatives:  Submitting myself to a new treatment that may have grave consequences or giving in to the inevitable limitations that rheumatoid arthritis is imposing on my life.

She graciously puts off the decision for another three months but I know I won’t be in any better position to make it then either.  I’m paralyzed now when I have to decide these kinds of things-torn between “doing what’s best” and “what difference will it make?”

Bloodwork means waiting in a area next to the infusion clinic and hematology departments and I am surrounded by people that are in dire straits. Once more, between the waiting and the thinking, I’m ready to be out of there.

When I get back to my truck, what had looked like a pretty good place to park has become a nightmare.  Another truck beside me and two parked opposite have closed the space I should have had to get out to the bare minimum.  And someone is waiting for my spot.  

Oh, joy!

I try.

I really try to figure out how to get too much vehicle out of too little space.

Finally, in tears, I step out of my truck (now in what I think is an impossible position) and raise my hands in the air-I give up!  You win!

The kind man that was waiting steps out of his car and guides me backward and forward (4 turns!) until I am free from the awful predicament.  I thank him and keep going.

Before Dominic left us this day would have seemed like a tiny blip on the radar of life.  It certainly wouldn’t have brought me to tears.  

But the energy required to simply get up and get going in the wake of losing him means that I have so much less to spend on anything else.

I don’t suffer from anxiety.

I’m not depressed.  

But there are many moments throughout the day when I am anxious or sorrowful.

One minute I’m fine.  And then a series of events, phone calls or memories pile one atop the other until they become a load I can no longer bear.

It feels like I am always behind, always short on resources, always close to tears.

And no matter how hard I try, I am unable to simply “get better”.  No matter how much I organize or plan or work at it,  I always end up frazzled and frustrated and feeling like a failure.  

I wish it wasn’t like this-this added burden in addition to the missing and the sorrow. Maybe it’s part of the missing and the sorrow.  I don’t know.  

But I’m ready for a day, a single day, when I feel just a little bit victorious..

The Shadowlands

 

Isn’t God supposed to be good? Isn’t He supposed to love us? Does God want us to suffer? What if the answer to that question is, ‘Yes'”? I suggest to you that it is because God loves us that He makes us the gift of suffering.

I’m not sure that God wants us to be happy. I think He wants us to be able to love and be loved. He wants us to grow-up. We think our childish toys bring us all the happiness there is and our nursery is the whole wide world. But something must drive us out of the nursery to the world of others and that something is suffering.

You see, we are like blocks of stone out of which the sculptor carves forms of men. The blows of His chisel, which hurt so much, are what makes us perfect.

C.S. Lewis

Lewis referred to this life as “The Shadowlands”.  The place where we see the shape of the promise but not its substance.

I am caught between the world I live in and the world to come.  There is beauty in both, but only in Eternity will my heart be at home.

Right now, I am Living Between the Crucifixion and the Resurrection

not your best life

 

 

 

 

 

Monday Musings: The Love of God

God is love.  ~I John 4:8

I don’t remember when I learned this verse.

It’s been part of my understanding of Who God is and how He works in the world as far back as my mind can travel.

But I freely admit:  He may BE love, but I don’t always FEEL loved.

When I compare verses like Matthew 7:10-12 to my own experience, it’s hard to wrap my heart around the disconnect between what I have been given and what I would give my own children.

 If any of you were asked by his son for bread would you be likely to give him a stone, or if he asks for a fish would you give him a snake? If you then, for all your evil, quite naturally give good things to your children, how much more likely is it that your Heavenly Father will give good things to those who ask him?

Matthew 7:10-12 PHLLIPS

It did not, and does not, FEEL like the act of a loving Father to have allowed the death of my son.

But I am more than my feelings.

And while it is not sin to feel abandoned, or hurt, or even angry-I must be careful not to let my feelings dictate my response to the truth revealed in God’s Word.  

faith is truth not feelings

I acknowledge my emotions but I will not be ruled by them.

I am transformed by the renewing of my mind-I am transformed as I fill my mind with God’s truth.

So I lean in:

I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love,  may have power, together with all the Lord’s holy people, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God

.Ephesians 3:16-19 NIV

nothing can separate1

And I hold on:

The Eternal is compassionate and merciful. When we cross all the lines, He is patient with us. When we struggle against Him, He lovingly stays with us—changing, convicting, prodding;

Psalm 103:8 VOICE

Even though I don’t feel it, I sing this truth to my broken heart:

Since we have been acquitted and made right through faith, we are able to experience true and lasting peace with God through our Lord Jesus, the Anointed One, the Liberating King.  Jesus leads us into a place of radical grace where we are able to celebrate the hope of experiencing God’s gloryAnd that’s not all. We also celebrate in seasons of suffering because we know that when we suffer we develop endurance, which shapes our characters. When our characters are refined, we learn what it means to hope and anticipate God’s goodness. And hope will never fail to satisfy our deepest need because the Holy Spirit that was given to us has flooded our hearts with God’s love.

Romans 3:3-5 VOICE

john 3 16

Because there will be a  day when my faith is sight, my feelings and my knowledge will agree, but until then I try to let God’s truth transform me so that I can “let God re-mould [my] mind from within, so that [I] may prove in practice that the plan of God for [me] is good, meets all his demands and moves towards the goal of true maturity.” (Romans 112:2b PHILLIPS)

 

 

How Do You Breathe?

It was the question I asked the bereaved mother that came to my son’s funeral.

It was the question a mother asked me as we stood by her granddaughter’s casket, surrounded by family and flowers.

And it is the right question.

Because when the breath leaves the body of your child, and you look down at the shell that used to be the home of a vibrant, living soul, you simply can. not. breathe.

What should be an autonomic, automatic, don’t-even-think-about-it bodily function escapes you.

When your lungs finally scream for oxygen, your body takes over, against your will.

And even more than two years later, it’s where I still live-between the conscious world of aching loss that drains me of the will to go on and the unconcious biology of a body still functioning without my permission.

I live in a no-man’s-land with one foot in the HERE AND NOW and one foot in FOREVER.

But there are no bright flags to mark its borders, no crossing guards to give warning to the people I mingle with every day that they are over there- outside my world of hurt-and I am stuck in here.

And so they wave from across the way, cheerful and unburdened by the weight of sorrow I drag around.  They give me odd looks now and then, vaguely unsettled by my inability to plunge unrestrained into their fun.

Memory escapes them-what happened? how long has it been? shouldn’t she be over that by now?

They can’t understand, and I’m thankful for that.

“How do you breathe?”

Only the ones who share the secret knowledge know the answer to that question.

You learn to will your heart to keep beating and your lungs to keep filling because there are others who depend on you and who need you to stay.

You can’t hold your breath forever, even if you want to.  

You lean harder on the hope you have in Christ.

You recite verses and hymns and fill your mind with the promises of Jesus.

And you beg the Spirit of God to fill you to fullness with His breath, His life and His hope.

I pray that God, the source of hope, will fill you completely with joy and peace because you trust in him. Then you will overflow with confident hope through the power of the Holy Spirit.

Romans 15:13 NLT

 

 

 

Resurrection Power

I’m uncomfortable here in this world.

This world where children die and people hurt one another and justice is denied and babies go hungry.

I long for the day prophesied in Isaiah when the lion will lie down with the lamb, swords will be ploughshares and death will be banished forever.

Paul wrote:

All I want is to know Christ and to experience the power of his resurrection, to share in his sufferings and become like him in his death, in the hope that I myself will be raised from death to life.

Philippians 3:10-11 GNT

He wasn’t only talking about the final resurrection, when all in Christ shall rise and reign forever with their Savior.

He was also talking about the earthly resurrection-of life breathed into who we are and what we do by the Spirit of God living in us.

It’s exciting to think about the life of Christ residing in me.  It’s not so exciting to consider the death of self that must precede that life.

But

Without death, there is no resurrection.  

Without destruction, there is no restoration.

Without surrender, there is no victory.

My heart rebels against this.

I want life without death.  I want resurrection power without the grave.  I want to know Jesus more intimately without being stripped bare and standing naked before Him.

But that is impossible.  

To be a follower of the Crucified means , sooner or later, a personal encounter with the cross. And the cross always entails loss. The great symbol of Christianity means sacrifice and no one who calls himself a Christian can evade this stark fact.

Elisabeth Elliot

I realized very soon after the news of Dominic’s death reached my ears that the last vestige of pride had been ripped from my heart by force.

I was, and am, in the dust.

I cannot raise myself from this prostrate position.  I cannot breathe life into this dead body. I cannot, by force of will, pick up and keep going.

I am fully reliant on the God Who made me to give me life.

But Thou, O Lord, art a shield for me, my glory and the lifter up of mine head.

Psalm 3:3 KJV21

This isn’t news to God, it’s always been true.  

But He has opened my eyes.

Forced to face the darkness of the grave, I can more fully appreciate the light of His promise.

victory over death