they say the hardest part of grieving comes months down the road. now, i don’t know who “they” are or what authority “they” have to speak to such an intimate, excruciating thing such as grief, but i do know they are right. i know they are right because i am months down the road, and this is the hardest my life has ever been.
on my birthday, two short months after i said goodbye to my mom, my friend marie wrote a long facebook post. in it she said, “when your world came crumbling down around you that day, i was prepared to fight the devil for your faith. i was prepared to spend hours trying my best to convince you of God’s faithfulness, goodness, and love for you in the midst of your pain. but i didn’t have to.” the other day, seven long months after i said goodbye to my mom, marie sat next to me at starbucks and said she was prepared to fight for me, and that she would. because now, seven months later, she has to.
i’ve been trudging through the book of exodus lately. i’ve been walking with the israelites on their journey through the wilderness. and when they start on their way out of egypt, God takes them on the less-conventional course. there’s a shorter way, but that way is paved with battle. God shows His mercy is taking them through the wilderness instead because they aren’t ready to fight, and God desperately does not want them to turn back to egypt. so, he takes them through the wilderness where He can show them that rather than fighting through them, He will fight for them.
it seems to me now that that is what the wilderness was really about–experiencing God fight for His people.
is that what my wilderness is about too? you see, i look for my story in the stories i read in the bible now in ways i never have before. i look for my story there because i am grabbing for that assurance that i will be okay. i am clutching for that assurance that there is redemption in my story too. and just maybe if i could see it in those pages, then this hope might not be quite so hard after all. so i think about the wilderness. and maybe i’m not ready to fight. maybe this is a season where i can simply experience what it looks like to have a God who fights for me. and maybe that is exactly why marie sat next to me and said those words. maybe she is one of the ways that God is showing me that He is fighting for me.
a few sundays ago we sang “Christ is risen” in church. well, i only managed to sing part of the song because i was left silent by the words “o death, where is your sting?” i know the song has nothing to do with me or my circumstances, but let me assure you that when you have come face to face with death in the way that i did seven months ago, there is no question about where the string is. the sting is here. it is with me. it is in me and through me and all around me. it is there in the morning when i wake up. it says with me through the day. i feel it with my friends. i feel it with my family. i feel it when i read the bible or when i read for class. i feel it on my hardest days. and i feel it when i get awards and experience the sweet taste of good days. and i feel it when i lay in bed at night, tossing and turning. there is no question mark for me. no, i know the string of death; i know it well.
and let me also assure you that i would rather feel that sting than all of the apathy and loneliness that seems to come with it all of these months later. you see, the other thing that really struck me from that post marie wrote for me for my birthday is when she said that her favorite thing about me is my relationship with God. in light of that, i’m sure you can only imagine the way my heart sank as i sat next to her at starbucks and told her that i feel nothing toward Him. reading the bible for me now is so unlike what it used to be. i don’t miss it when i don’t. and i, in some way or another, manage to dread it when i do. i felt the tears fall down my cheeks as she told me not to give up even if i felt like giving up. and i guess it wasn’t until that moment that i realized that is exactly what i feel like doing–giving up.
i wonder what there is for her to love about me now in this.
i wonder if that will ever be her favorite thing about me again.
what do i do now? i can’t express in words the ways that it hurts to feel like i have let her down in this after all of the years she has invested in me preparing me for dark days such as this. i can’t express in words the ways that it hurts to feel so little toward my God who loves me so richly and deeply and passionately even in dark days such as this. and i can’t express in words the ways that it hurts to know i have to ask for help.
i need help in this.
because it was my favorite thing about me too. and i feel so lost without Him. and as that day seven months ago rolled over me, all i wanted was to suffer well. all i wanted was to glorify Him, even in this. and i haven’t been suffering well. and i haven’t been glorifying Him in this.
and i guess that leaves me back in the wilderness with the israelites and experiencing what it looks like to have God fight for me. because i have to trust in the midst of this pain that that is exactly what is happening now. He is fighting for me, and He won’t stop. He’s taught me so much about prayer in these seven months; He has prepared me to ask for help from Him. He’s taught me so much about the church in these seven months; He has prepared me to ask for help from them.
i, at some point in the past seven months, wrote a post about how i didn’t feel like this was a period of dissatisfaction, but that it instead felt like a period of disconnect. it wasn’t about not being satisfied in God; it was about not feeling like i was connecting with Him (hearing Him, feeling Him). i’d go back to find the post and put a link to it, but it’s not good for me to look through those posts. not yet. the reality is, however, that this has become, if it wasn’t before, a period of extreme dissatisfaction. i’m not satisfied in my relationship with the Lord, and that makes this the worst season i have ever walked. john piper says people who don’t delight in the things they praise are hypocrites. maybe i’ve become one of those in the past seven months. or maybe i just haven’t been praising God in this. i want to. i really want to figure out how to do that, even in this.
so i’ve been dwelling on 2 corinthians 6:10: “sorrowful, yet always rejoicing.” i think i’ll keep dwelling on it for awhile.
i’ve also been dwelling a lot lately on this idol i’ve developed of productivity. i think it started when i needed a break from grieving. i took up busyness as my form of coping. and it helped for a time. it let me catch my breath in some regards. but i realized recently that it had become about more than coping for me. i turned to school work because i could produce something, accomplish something, feel the reward of something. and i wasn’t getting any of that in my time with God. my time with Him felt wasted, useless, and unrewarding.
the reality is that we live in a culture that values productivity. and when i put my value in that, i managed to miss out on the most valuable thing that there is — Him. i had managed to become a martha after so many years of being a mary. and i know now after months of sadness mixed with awards and honors that even productivity at its very best fails to satisfy too. and i know now after months of sadness mixed with awards and honors that it is best not to miss out on Him, even for all of that.
i realize this is scattered. that’s how i feel most of the time. that’s how i feel now. i want to work through this. but the working through will be messy too.
my stepmom told this story at dinner about people who do back to back iron mans. she said they were people in a small, elite group. they gave their lives to that end. and all i could say, despite how absolutely incredible of a feat that is, was “that sounds so . . . satisfying.” i said it sarcastically because it didn’t sound satisfying at all. i mean, once they accomplished it, what more was there to do? i wonder what those people do now. i wonder what new goals they set. and in my scoffing, i can’t help but realize that maybe they are just searching for the same thing i’m searching for. and i can’t help but realize we are all searching in the wrong places.
in quiet trust i will march bravely on.
in quiet trust i will not give up.
no, i will not give up.
today’s margin note: living in grief is learning to be helpless. trust through the pain that God is fighting for you. trust through the pain that God is surrounding you with fighters for the days when you are too weak to fight. don’t give up in the hurting. and don’t waste time searching in other places for things that only He can give.