Tuesday, June 24, 2014

In the Middle of the Mess (All This Glory)

I never really know how to begin a blog post, especially when I let this much time go between posts! But here goes. . . I must say that the past six months have been filled with more emotion in more directions than I could even begin to describe. So before I can write anything else, here is just a little insight from others who have lost a spouse to give a glimpse into what it can often feel like in this season of grief:
"I remember being lost at nearly everything in my life for more than a year post loss. I remember failing miserably at the little things in my life like returning an email or answering a phone call. Often times the energy it took to write an email or carry on a conversation was more than I could take, and so it just went left undone. Grief is exhausting on a level I can not put into words, my body was tired, my brain was tired, my soul was very, very, tired. It may have appeared on the outside that all was well, but on the inside I secretly wanted to escape every aspect of my life that resembled life before loss." 1
"It turns out that Hollywood has grief and loss all wrong. The waves and spikes don't arrive predictably in time or severity. . . It's not sobbing, collapsing, moaning grief. It's phantom-limb pain. It aches, it throbs, there's nothing there, and yet you never want it to go away." 2
"Grief is like a long valley, a winding valley where any bend may reveal a totally new landscape. . . not every bend does. Sometimes the surprise is the opposite one; you are presented with exactly the same sort of country you thought you had left behind miles ago. That is when you wonder whether the valley isn't a circular trench. But it isn't. There are partial recurrences, but the sequence doesn't repeat." 3
"For in grief nothing 'stays put.' One keeps on emerging from a phase, but it always recurs. . .
How often -- will it be for always? -- how often will the vast emptiness astonish me like a complete novelty and make me say, 'I never realized my loss till this moment'?" 4
"People in grief think a great deal about self-pity. We worry it, dread it, scourge our thinking for signs of it. We fear that our actions will reveal the condition tellingly described as 'dwelling on it.' We understand the aversion most of us have to 'dwelling on it.'. . .  'A single person is missing for you, and the whole world is empty,' Philippe Ari├Ęs wrote to the point of this aversion in Western Attitudes toward Death. 'But one no longer has the right to say so out loud.'" 5
None of these descriptions seems sufficient. Yet each helps paint a little bit of a picture of how I feel or have felt at times. I think it is good to see them in words, especially when our society tends to want to ignore grief and pain or at least "get over it" as soon as possible. But the truth is it takes time for reality to set in, and that reality is even harder now than it was a few months ago.

Time and again I find myself coming back to the question, "So what does 'grieving with hope' look like here?" I always think of that phrase because of the Scripture in 1 Thessalonians 4:13 as well as the Steven Curtis Chapman song "With Hope" from several years ago. Then Beth Moore expanded on the verse in her newest Bible study by saying, "So let us grieve when we must, but God forbid that we grieve as the hopeless do." 6

God forbid that we would grieve as the hopeless do.

That thought continually resonates with me and stirs up in my soul, but I don't always know how to live it out. At first it seemed more simple-- of course I have hope for my husband. I know he is with the Lord. I know I will see him again someday. And truly those are HUGE comforts. They give peace to my heart and provide for joy in the midst of pain. 

But as time goes on, the more difficult task seems to be finding hope for myself. The reality of the loss sinks in more and more every day, and it feels like grief is just beginning. My entire life has changed, and very few people have any understanding of that. Even fewer want to talk about it or listen to it (again). The loneliness is overwhelming and at times consuming. So often I feel like the only thing I want in the world is just to see my husband's sweet smile when I walk in the door. . . to have someone to hug me and sit with me when I'm ready to relax at the end of the day. Someone who just always wants to be with me. And that's on a good day! When I'm hurting or discouraged about something else (as the rest of life somehow goes on and doesn't seem to let you only grieve one thing at a time), I suddenly realize how much comfort and security he had provided for me in lots of different ways. Now that is gone as well, and it can feel like too much.

So why do I write all this, and where is the hope? I've felt more called to write than ever recently yet less capable of writing than ever, too. As I finally decided to give in and open up my computer, the thoughts started pouring in again-- "How can you try to give anyone else hope when you're in the middle of a mess and often can't see the way out yourself?" 

Ugh.

But in a moment the opening lyrics to this song I hadn't heard in quite some time came to the forefront of my mind:
In the middle of the mess, there is majesty.
In the middle of my chest, is the King of Kings.
While the world was waiting on
A change to come along,
Light broke in
Coming like a song.
from All This Glory by David Crowder Band (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xPUOjtTzyQY)

I was reminded that even in the middle of all of this, there is the majesty of God's light shining. 

And even now there is still the mystery of "Christ in [me], the hope of glory." (See Colossians 1:27.) The King of Kings desires to live inside of His children. . . How can we not be encouraged?

To undermine the difficulty of it all would also undermine the greatness of the hope that we have. So we can be honest about the struggle and the messiness of it to let His majesty more fully shine through.

In one of the teaching sessions for Children of the Day, Beth Moore quoted her pastor (and son-in-law) Curtis Jones to say, "Whatever you're going through, leverage it for the Kingdom." It was a simple statement but one that has continued to stick with me. I don't always know what this looks like from day to day. But I do know where my hope is found. And I can always share that. 

"And hope does not disappoint us, because God has poured out His love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit, whom He has given us." (Romans 5:5)

I can't resist one more Beth Moore quote to conclude, as it is so fitting: "Faith is a game changer. Know that to your bones. . . 
We are not just like everybody else breathing the world's toxic air. Our flight has been hijacked by hope." 8

Yes. I am so thankful. . .
And I pray that the light of hope in Christ always shines through for His glory.

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1 Michelle Steinke, onefitwidow.com/a-new-me/
2 Cancer Doctor Peter Bach on Losing His Wife to Cancer, New York Magazine, "The Day I Started Lying to Ruth"
3 C.S. Lewis, A Grief Observed, p. 60
4 C.S. Lewis, A Grief Observed, p. 56-57
5 Joan Didion, The Year of Magical Thinking, ©2005, p. 192
6 Beth Moore, Children of the Day, ©2014, p. 105
7 Beth Moore, Children of the Day, ©2014, teaching session 2
8 Beth Moore, Children of the Day, ©2014, p. 22