Persistent Longing, Persistent Prayer

So often we think of prayer as words.

But prayer can be a heart cry too deep for words.

It can be a groaning soul, longing for release.

That has been the prayer I offer most often this side of child loss, “Please God, please, please, please!  Send grace and have mercy!  Help me hold on to hope and make it Home!”

As I’m caught in the current of the days leading up to the anniversary of Dominic’s running ahead, my mouth grows silent and my heart louder.  My world circles smaller and eternity looms larger.  

I don’t have to think about prayer.  

I breathe it.  

My heart beats it.  

Unceasing, persistent, continuous prayer.  

There is a different kind of prayer without ceasing; it is longing. Whatever you may be doing, if you long for the day of everlasting rest do not cease praying. If you do not wish to cease praying, then do not cease your longing. Your persistent longing is your persistent voice. But when love grows cold, the heart grows silent. Burning love is the outcry of the heart! If you are filled with longing all the time, you will keep crying out, and if your love perseveres, your cry will be heard without fail.

~St Augustine

Hope is My Lifeline

 

 

2013-christmas

A grainy picture is all I have left of that last Christmas together.

I first wrote this in 2013 before our circle was broken:

Eighteen days to ponder the coming of God’s great Gift.

We know the end of the story which can make us jaded and impatient.

If for a moment we can recapture the desperate hope that was in the heart of Israel longing for Messiah and then in the next remember that He has come, we will be forever changed.

I can’t characterize many things in this grief journey as “gifts”.

But there is ONE thing:  I am desperately longing for the coming again of Jesus the Christ.

The longing hope Israel felt is so much stronger in my own heart.

I understand in a very real way how much Israel hoped for His first coming.  I feel it in my bones.  

I wake every morning thinking, “Is THIS the day?”

jesus-is-coming

Hope is what I hold on to.

It’s my lifeline.

Life at the Intersection of Desire and Self-Control

Maybe you can relate:  It is easier to do without if what I want isn’t close enough to tempt me. 

I don’t shop if I don’t want to spend.  I don’t get donuts if I don’t want to eat sugar.  I don’t have soda in the house if I don’t want to drink carbonated soft drinks.

It’s much harder to deny my desires when what I long for is within reach.

I have practiced the spiritual discipline of fasting on and off for over a decade.  And I have learned a great deal about myself, about desire and about how very weak I am, in my own strength, to continue long on a path of self-denial.  Who can resist chocolate when it’s right there in front of you???

When I perceive that God is calling me to give up food or something else for a span of time to focus on Him and on spiritual growth, I can prepare myself.

I can pick a date.  I can arrange my home and schedule and commitments to accommodate what I know will be the challenges associated with the battle that is to ensue.

But there is a difference between choosing to fast and being forced to starve.

For those who live in parts of the world overrun by famine, choice has been removed. They don’t go without food because they desire to exercise personal or spiritual discipline–it has been decided for them. And many times, there is not one thing they can do about it except to hang on and try to survive.

Grieving my son feels like an odd and uncomfortable mix of both scenarios.

I certainly had no choice in the matter–I was not consulted, prepared or given any warning.  And he is gone. Gone, gone, gone.

Yet I am surrounded by memories, physical connections and constant reminders of the one I miss.

I must live everyday at precisely the intersection of desire and self-control.

No, I cannot “have” him back.  When I am thinking correctly, I don’t want him back here in this broken world with broken people.  If what Scripture says is true (and I preach to myself that it is) then he is experiencing joy and beauty that fills his heart so full there’s no room for missing me.

But the heart wants what the heart wants.

And my heart wants my family circle whole again.  My heart wants to see how Dominic would use his gifts and talents to impact the world.  My heart wants my surviving children and my husband and my extended family not to have to carry this heavy grief load and to be free to live life without the intimate knowledge of the darkness of death and loss.

Every day I am forced to acknowledge my heart’s desire and then exert the self-control necessary to get out of bed and participate in daily life.

It takes so much energy.  I am often tempted to give up and give in.

This fast is the most strenous ever thrust upon me.

I know in my head my desires will never be fulfilled this side of heaven.  This passionate longing won’t end until I am reunited with Dominic and ultimately, all my loved ones in the Presence of Jesus.  And I have no idea when that might be.

So I must focus my thoughts and fix my heart’s affection on the promise of God in Christ: that He will redeem every broken thing, that He will restore every lost treasure and that resurrection will rule.

Energize the limp hands,
    strengthen the rubbery knees.
Tell fearful souls,
    “Courage! Take heart!
God is here, right here,
    on his way to put things right
And redress all wrongs.
    He’s on his way! He’ll save you!”

 Blind eyes will be opened,
    deaf ears unstopped,
Lame men and women will leap like deer,
    the voiceless break into song.
Springs of water will burst out in the wilderness,
    streams flow in the desert.
Hot sands will become a cool oasis,
    thirsty ground a splashing fountain.
Even lowly jackals will have water to drink,
    and barren grasslands flourish richly.

Isaiah 35:1-7 MSG

 

 

 

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

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Repost: What Grieving Parents Want Others to Know

I’m sharing this post again because based on response, it continues to speak to grieving parents and to their family and friends.

If you know someone who has lost a child, I hope these words give you insight into how very hard it is to keep going while carrying that burden.

If you are a bereaved parent, you might find sharing this post helps your circle of friends and family get a glimpse inside your own heart.

 

People say, “I can’t imagine.

But then they do.

They think that missing a dead child is like missing your kid at college or on the mission field but harder and longer.

That’s not it at all.

It isn’t nostalgia for a time when things were different or better or you talked more: it’s a gut-wrenching, breath-robbing, knee-buckling, aching groan that lives inside you begging to be released.

There is no smooth transition up the ladder of grief recovery so that you emerge at the top, better for the experience and able to put it behind you.

We’ve all heard the much touted theory that grief proceeds in the following stages:

  • denial
  • anger
  • bargaining
  • depression
  • acceptance

And people (who haven’t experienced grief) tend to think it’s a straight line from one stage to another, gradually going from bottom to top and then on with life.

But it just isn’t true.

Reality is, these “stages” coexist and fluctuate back and forth from day to day and even hour to hour.

Grief remakes you from the inside out.

Losing a child has made me rethink everything I believe and everything I am.  It has changed and is changing my relationship with myself and with others in ways I couldn’t imagine and often don’t anticipate.

And it is hard, hard work.

Life around us doesn’t stop.  Grieving parents return to work, continue to nurture their surviving children, keep getting up in the morning and taking care of daily details.

We are doing all the things others do, but we are doing them with an added weight of sorrow and pain that makes each step feel like wading through quicksand.

We want you to know we are doing the best we can.

Life without my child is like having a leg amputated–I am forced to learn to manage without it, but everything will always be harder and different. And it will be this way for the rest of my life.

The one thing a grieving parent DOESN’T want you to know is how it feels to bury your child.

I don’t want anyone else to know what it means to leave part of your heart and a chunk of your life beneath the ground.

“But please: Don’t say it’s not really so bad. Because it is. Death is awful, demonic. If you think your task as a comforter is to tell me that really, all things considered, it’s not so bad, you do not sit with me in my grief but place yourself off in the distance away from me. Over there, you are of no help. What I need to hear from you is that you recognize how painful it is. I need to hear from you that you are with me in my desperation. To comfort me, you have to come close. Come sit beside me on my mourning bench.”

Nicholas Wolterstorff   LAMENT FOR A SON

Rachel Weeping for Her Children

I woke up with this Scripture on my mind: “Rachel weeping for her children and refusing to be comforted, because they are no more.”(Matthew 2:18b)

God warned Joseph in a dream, but apparently didn’t warn the other fathers.

It served His purposes for those children to die. There is no way to know if their mamas ever suspected the reason or understood the plan.

We read the “story” focused on Jesus-as is right. And we conclude that everything turns out well. But those families lived the rest of their lives with grieving hearts.

The Kingdom has always advanced at a steep cost and the ways of God are mysterious.

This tension is hard to  bear.

We live in a scripted world where we can watch and re-watch news, events, movies and Youtube videos.  We can read and re-read books. And our attention span is short.

Our compassion is often short, too.

We want to rush past the hard parts, the sad parts and the uncomfortable parts.

We want to get to the end of the story because we want to see how the parts fit together.

But when you are living the story, you can’t hurry to the end. You must live each day, each minute as it comes.

The only way to make it through is with patient compassion, tender mercy and extravagant grace.

Faithful Waiting

I fell in love with Ron Dicianni’s painting,  “Simeon’s Moment” many years ago.  My husband bought and framed a print for me and I sit opposite it every morning as I drink my coffee.

It never fails to touch my heart.

There was a man in Jerusalem whose name was Simeon. This man was righteous and devout, looking forward to Israel’s consolation,and the Holy Spirit was on him.  It had been revealed to him by the Holy Spirit that he would not see death before he saw the Lord’s Messiah. Guided by the Spirit, he entered[b] the temple complex. When the parents brought in the child Jesus to perform for Him what was customary under the law, Simeon took Him up in his arms, praised God, and said:

Now, Master,
You can dismiss Your slave in peace,
as You promised.
 For my eyes have seen Your salvation.
You have prepared it
in the presence of all peoples—
 a light for revelation to the Gentiles[c]
and glory to Your people Israel.

Luke 2: 25-32 HCSB

We don’t know how long Simeon had waited, how many times he had looked at a male child brought for dedication only to realize that he must still wait–but we know that Simeon returned to the temple because he trusted God’s promise.

Then one day, perhaps a day he thought would be like any other, THERE HE WAS–Messiah had come.

As he cradled Jesus in his arms, spoke prophecy over his baby head, Simeon’s faithful waiting was rewarded.

Yet even at that moment, Simeon did not receive the fullness of the promise–Jesus was yet a tiny child.

But the foretaste of God’s trustworthy love flooded his soul and he was able to say,  “You can dismiss Your slave in peace,..for my eyes have seen Your salvation”.

Waiting is hard.  

I miss Dominic and I long for the time when my family circle will be restored.

Sometimes the days drag on and it seems as if the promised light and redemption is far away.

But one day, perhaps a day that begins like any other, CHRIST WILL COME.

So until then, I will rest in the foretaste of God’s trustworthy love and wait faithfully for His appearing.