Sorrow is encroaching, like dark vapors pushing in to dance with the light. This wretched yet exquisite duo of sadness and joy that belongs to me. And this is a choice, seeing it as a dance instead of a wrestling match because it has a place here- grief. I am tired of treating it as an unwelcomed guest. I bear the scars from years of mishandling it. It’s not an enemy (though it sometimes feels like it) and this is not a fight (though I bear wounds). This is my life and grief is the price of love. A price I am willing to pay over and over again because a sweet little girl who traces the hills of heaven with dancing feet, wearing a smile similar to mine, is missing from my life. How can I not grieve? How can I not weep, sitting here with indescribably enormous love for Anna which cannot be wrapped around her nearly eleven year old body? How can this mama not ache with ferocious ache?
As the years go by, grief is more manageable because it is more familiar and life has given many blessings. But the love doesn’t go away and therefore the grief can’t either. And I can’t simply “let it go” because hope infuses me with the truth that I’ll have it again. I used to believe that grief could be resolved or figured out this side of heaven, that if I worked hard enough, cried long enough and if enough time passed, grief would dissipate. But once again, grief is the price of love. And so I must turn from hatred over its presence to fluffing pillows and putting out a vase of flowers on the night stand, because grief is coming home for a time. The truth is, grief is a guest that comes and goes as it pleases. I have learned (am learning still) to accept and make peace with the reality that grief has a key to my life. And I cannot curse the suffering, because sacred blessings accompany the pain. “Gifts of grief” I call them. “Blessings of comfort for those who mourn” the bible calls them.
So there you have it, my two realities, held in beaming spotlights during the month of February- pain and pleasure. We dance together accompanied by notes of sufficient grace. And when I cannot dance anymore, when the pain begins to dominate the pleasure and I buckle under the weight, I crawl. And when I reach those moments when I cannot muster a single movement forward, I lay down on the cold, hard terrain of grief, knowing my head is cradled in the lap of my Shepherd. Oh my Shepherd, the one who delights to care for me when all I can do is offer Him utter dependence. He is overcome with, enamored by and overflowing with love and delight for this wounded, weary lamb. I am still shocked by it- this love so perfect. This love without limitation or measure. How is it that I can be crippled helpless and He is overcome with affection, tenderness and ridiculous, lavish love for me?
I was recently asked, “How do you grieve well?” I suppose the most concise and yet full answer I could offer to that is, learn what it means to be a sheep in the care of your good Shepherd. All other grief is without hope. But to grieve in the arms of the one who created you, the one who Himself stitched you together, the one who alone has the power to bind your wounds, the one who grieved himself and has faced every feeling with victory, the one who has already worked out a specific plan to work all of our things together for good…this to me is grieving well. Knowing who you are as a sheep, (poor, needy, helpless, utterly dependent) and knowing who He is as your Shepherd (powerful, present, unconditionally loving and gracious.) This is good grief.
This February I am hoping to walk into a deeper experience of hope with my Shepherd. I am thinking that this precious passage from Romans means much, much more than I have allowed it to mean.
“May the God of Hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust and believe in Him, overflowing your hearts with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.” Romans 15:13.
A long time ago I gave God my own script for what, when and how I wanted joy to be birthed in my life. I settled on my own version of “hope” and was pleading for something my hands could hold, not heaven. I liked my “lesser” model of hope very much. But this kind of hope has led me to despair over and over again. In many ways God has answered my prayers and I am so very grateful! But In other ways, my deepest desperation remains. In the past few months I have come to realize, it’s time. Time for me to put down my script and to let a new kind of hope (the kind I can’t even dream about in words or images) fill in all the gaps, all the cavernous spaces left in my heart and soul by Anna. For the first time in eleven years, I face these anniversary days of grief without a script, without a hope for anything other than Jesus Himself and the way His promises will be expressed in my life. In some ways my grief is deeper as I fully acknowledge what is lost and what will not be given again. But perhaps this means that true hope can make its way into the deepest places of pain and that burning place inside will be soothed. This is my urgent plea this February…that my heart would overflow with godly hope by the power of the Holy Spirit. I am hungry with anticipation, expectant for hope! Yes, the darkness is coming, but new waves of light are cresting as well!
Today I am grieving for my daughter.
What are you grieving?
Are you far from home and missing the comforts and pleasures of a life you once knew…that knew you well? Are you grieving singleness, infertility or the loss (losses) of a precious baby? Are you grieving your companion and wondering how you will manage days that threaten to feel dark all day every day? Are you wrestling with the pain of feeling lonely in your marriage? Are your wants and deepest needs being disregarded? Do you wake every day to a life that exhausts you and requires so much more than you feel able to give? Are you caring for someone physically or emotionally that depletes you and are you wrestling with guilt for resenting the person you love? Are you overworked? Underpaid? Undervalued? Do you feel unwanted, unloved or unknown? Are you your own worst enemy? Are you under the curse of believing that awful lie that you are not good enough, not pretty enough or wonderful enough for anyone (yourself included) to love?
What a tragedy beloved.
What would it be like to fall down at His feet and surrender it all- your deepest pain and longing and to ask boldly for a heart which could overflow with the hope, peace and joy only a God who lives within could supply? What would it be like to reach past what your heart longs for this side of heaven and to begin reaching for solutions that cannot be held in hands. To reach for satisfying and sustaining measures of heavenly hope that can touch those raw and bleeding places with peace? To trust that His precious promises will be worked out in your life in beautiful ways bursting with goodness.
As I dance with my own grief in the days ahead- I am praying for you too my friends.
The Lord is our Shepherd. We have everything we need.
Welcome Home Grief- I’m ready for you.