It has been eleven months now. Eleven months since the life I had carefully maintained shattered with just once spoken sentence from another. The life I had loved for its beautiful messiness. That had been glued together many times by me, by God, by determination. A life that I had deliberately prayed for and pursued in an effort to have what I had never had, to fill what I felt was a void that needed filled.
Yet, God saw a different life for me and has gently shown me glimpse of His work. I now know that I was not a victim of a person's choices. But rather, a person's choices were filtered through the Hand of God and allowed to unfold so that God's pursuits for me can be fulfilled. We can fill our voids with all sorts of ‘stuff’ in order to right what we feel has been wronged, to sooth what still aches from decades past, to quell the longings of today’s dreams.
But if God is not filling that void, no amount of idols, dreams, wishes, and fixes will make it right. “All things new” can truly only come from the One who makes all things new.
As my head and heart continue to emerge from the darkness, I continue to look back in order to move forward. I glance back with Jesus at my side so that I can be challenged to learn, to grow, to heal, to reconcile. I do not do this is in regret, in shame, in bitterness or anger. But because I do not want to bring that old ‘stuff’ with me into the glorious future God has already ordained.
I only want the new dreams He teases with me with through the passions of my soul. I want to be a bigger lover of those around me, with a deeper empathy for the hurting, the outcast, the underserved, and the lost. I want to be a better sojourner, traveling companion, friend, and family member.
The darkness I had been living in – that grief that was unlike anything I have ever experienced – did not allow me to see anything except the pain of the moment, the lies of the moment. I honestly could not see my hand before my face, as they say, because the tears and fears and uncertainty simply did not allow me.
I am blessed beyond measure with some of the truly best friends in the world. Thanking them seems so insignificant, so not enough, for their continued vigilance of bringing little beams of light in my darkness. Their touch, presence, love, and even annoying reminders of hope, were my lifeline. They did not expect me to do it perfectly. They let me be whiny, needy, and unreasonable. I am forever indebted to them for their little flashlights of direction in my dark wilderness.
Rabbi Wolpe connects the plague of darkness in Exodus 10 with our need of those friends. “… the Egyptians could not see one another. To see the other is an act of empathy and a gesture of love. Dispel the darkness.”
I could not always ‘see’ them in my darkness, but their empathy and love dispelled my darkness.
A broken heart and spirit is a confused compass when trying to live life while grieving. It sends us to and fro… continually fluttering to find True North. Thankfully, my True North is found in a Sovereign God. Thankfully, he used many of His kids to guide me back to Him again and again.
A rhythm I have found myself in through these past months, a rhythm of healing and purpose, is the balancing rhythm of ministry and solitude. Being a hospital chaplain and pastor affords me a multitude of unique opportunities to represent God to fellow grieving people, people caught up in their own trials and uncertainties. I love this ministry God has called me to. I cannot imagine doing anything else and I cannot believe He gave me everything I needed to continue in that ministry when I felt as if I could not even continue in life.
Yet, I often find myself craving and rushing home to settle into God’s embrace and the healing peace of the Holy Spirit. The solitude with Him is the magnetic force that aligns me back to God as my True North.
I was reminded recently of Jesus’ own grief journey. When Jesus learns of John’s death, He withdraws to grieve. But then even in grief, he returns to the people to carry out the ministry, to feed the 5000. After ministering, he returns to solitude with God. We need the dance of seeing each other; of living the life God has for us today… and then returning to and being alone with the Trinity.
Jesus knew the importance of the rhythm.
I will do well to remember that.
Grief comes in many forms and is the result of an array of losses. Whatever your loss may be, I truly hope that you find your rhythm of healing. That you are patient with yourself and give your soul all the time it needs for the darkness to dispel. Hold tight to the warriors in your life who fight for you, pointing you again and again to God. Who allow you to weep and yet still count you as a fellow warrior.
Christine Cain says of her cancer journey “I reached out to and surrounded myself with faith warrior chicks who only spoke faith, hope, healing, strength and courage into my life. In the middle of a battle, you do not need “worriers.” You need WARRIORS who will declare, decree and confess the promises of the Word of God over your life."
And so it is eleven months later, my warriors by my side, some close physically, some close through their hearts. Eleven months later I have learned much about my Self, my God, and His purposes. I have new dreams emerging out of the God-created passions of my being. I am still on the healing side of the grief but I am now able to realign my compass with more Holy Spirit power within me and less of a reliance on my fellow-warriors.
The darkness feels no longer like a plague. Rather, it is now more of a quiet restful place where God is present.
And in there I am staying tuned to hear His voice, to follow the Divine Compass, on where to travel next. I may not know much… but I do know this. It will be a journey to and with those hurting, underserved, and outcasts that need some fellow warriors.