Sunday, December 6, 2015

Grieve: Face to Face with Eyes Open

It’s really easy to want to close my eyes and turn away. Much easier than looking into the face of the paradoxical Father of all Comfort. For if I recall the two most important words my pastor admonished me to never forget, I wonder how God’s sovereignty and his love can truly coincide. Always remember, he said. No matter what, “God is sovereign, and He loves me.” But the sovereign God who loves me who would cause my soul such anguish at loss makes me question this love. Severe Mercy. He whispers in my ear. It is a severe mercy that he took my Grandmother when he did. Severe to my own soul and the soul of my family – a piercing of everything that we held dear and true, a cutting through and cutting off of something, someone rather, that we held so dearly near to our hearts. Mercy toward the one taken. Great mercy. Mercy that she is out of this chaotic and frightful world. Mercy that she is rejoicing in the presence of the Savior. Mercy that I cannot comprehend.

God is Sovereign. His control is supreme. And yet he does things that confuse me – even confound me. Or he doesn’t do things that confuse me even further. Job was more righteous than I as he proclaimed that the Lord gives and the Lord takes away. Blessed be the name of the Lord. He didn’t go in search for answers. Simply the knowledge that God was in control was enough. Oh that my soul could find such rest.

God loves me. Nothing can separate me from it. Height, depth, present, future, angels, demons, death, life – no, none can sever that tender love and compassion. It is because of his great love for me that I am not consumed, for his compassions never fail. (Lam 3:22).

When more questions rage than answers and my soul is faint at sorrow. I must remember. I must. Though a mystery to my eyes bound by earth’s dimensions. God is Sovereign. And he loves me.

And I open my tear-filled eyes to gaze at my Savior. I see tears in his eyes as well. I know you do not understand right now, my child. I care. I’m sorry this broken world has caused you such sorrow. His heart breaks for me. I see the tender compassion as he looks deep into my heart. Continue to grieve my child. I will hold every tear. I will take every question. Grieve. I am here. Grieve face to face with eyes open. Looking to Jesus, the author and perfector of my faith… I am sovereign, and I love you more than you know!

Friday, December 4, 2015

Grieve: Face to Face

I always looked forward to taking family pictures. I loved seeing the smiling faces and how our number seemed to exponentially increase each year – that’s what happens when you are one of five siblings. Each year, new babies or new bellies getting ready for the forthcoming child. The excitement of a new family photo was only diminished by trying to fit everyone in and keeping the littles smiling and looking at the camera. No bunny ears, please! Pictures, always joy – that is until this year. When our number, rather than increase, has decreased by one number. Our faithful matriarch met her Savior on Thanksgiving day. My grandmother, with Jesus rather than with us. It seemed so unfair! And just like that death has hit our family!

It seems surreal and removed when it happens to someone else. I try to sympathize, be present or involved. But it’s hard, and maybe you’re like me and would rather distance yourself because you don’t understand death: it’s unnatural. We as humans do everything we can to stay alive – and then something like this happens, something I cannot control, something that is as certain as tomorrow, but is ambiguous and overwhelming at best.

I try to run, but you can’t. Try to hide, but the thickest covers only suffocate the soul. Gasping for fresh air, maybe try to be strong. Some in the church would say that is the appropriate response to grief. Go numb for a while, look for distractions – those are easy to come by these days…facebook, anyone? Being distracted is easier than trying to figure out what my heart is really dealing with, anyhow. But the dyke of distraction can only hold back the flood of emotion so long. Something sparks a memory, and the tears break through. Emotions, overwhelming and threatening rage as fierce as a storm.

Questions are raised. Questions that haven’t come to the surface for years – the reality of mortality, my own and others, the questions of eternity and wanting to know that I know…..A new hunger for understanding the heavenly realm and longing to feel the nearness of Christ. But grief is a process, and I found myself in a battle – a battle of trying to be strong, to push through, deal with my anger, bitterness, rage, questions and finally land at some point of acceptance and move on. At least that’s what Elizabeth Kubler-Ross said should happen. Maybe they’re fluid and dynamic, but there’s a certain process to grief. After losing my first child and my grandfather within two days of each other and now my grandmother, I’m not so sure any more.

I’ve found myself at a crossroads of sort – and it’s a choice I must make. I can go on like I have been in my own strength and futilely attempting to control and direct my emotions. Or I can turn and gaze into the face of the one who is a Man of Sorrows and acquainted with grief. So often, I find myself turning my back on Comfort, himself. I run away from Peace seeking some sort of artificial replacement in this world. Surely he has borne my sorrows. After all, he holds my tears in a bottle.  Why should I be scared to allow him to see and hold my hurting heart? Why should I deny the pain of loss on this earth? Jesus Christ was familiar with the sting of death. He withdrew to grieve for a time on hearing of John the Baptist’s death. He wept at Lazarus grave. And his bloody sweat ran down his face as he was in agony over his own death. He soul rend and torn so that I, we, could find ultimate comfort in Him – the Prince of Peace.

It’s true. Death is not natural or normal. It was not a part of original design, but a part of the curse. I can rage over these things righteously. For my Savior grieves in the same way. When I look up into his face, tears clouding my eyes, I see the gentlest compassion and deepest mercy. The very nearness of Christ brings light and helps me to understand how his heart breaks with mine. And now I can see clearly too, the tears that fill his eyes as well.