As I have shared this journey, I have been conscious of a sense of responsibility. I’ve wanted to be 100% honest, but not without also holding out the hope I’ve always felt, even if very very dimly at times.
That honesty compels me to confess I’ve almost lost that hope many, many times as I’ve struggled to come to terms with this awful truth in our lives (as well as the awful truths faced by so many we love, who suffer with us and/or for other reasons) and I think this has not gone unnoticed by some of you who’ve read along, who’ve expressed both concern and encouragement. Thank you for caring so much — really. And I can say this: time and again…time and time and time again, I do and will always return to God because “to whom shall we go?” (John 6:68). I cannot think of what else I would do.
I’ve moved on from where I sat for many years, stalled in my spiritual development, thinking I needed to get my sh*t together first before God would deign to notice me. Now I know God doesn’t mind – and probably prefers – that I show up a complete mess because at least I’m totally honest in messiness: flat-to-the-floor, empty-handed, weeping, asking why-why-why…and sometimes, like last week, yelling in my fury and immaturity, “you’re A JERK!” Because more pain being thrust upon us just doesn’t seem like something a good God would do. And yet it happened. And will happen again. And again. And I needed to figure out what to do with this REAL reality, vs. the false construct of thinking nothing else bad could possibly happen.
Mark died on a Thursday. This year, on ‘that’ Thursday (the 6th, not the 8th, but still), at about the same time I’d gotten the call telling me Mark had been hit by the car, I found out Steve was not at his conference in Texas, but in an ambulance on the way to the ER due to another sudden, dangerous nosebleed.
He was released within hours, but this time without the “nasal rocket” [tampon], which left me terrified at the idea of Steve bleeding out on the airplane – tens of thousands of feet from medical help, stolen hotel towels (to stem the tide) or not – as he traveled home the next day. I paced the kitchen floor, crying hot, angry tears. I talked to Beth P and she whispered, through her own tears, that she didn’t know why this was happening either, not on this day, not when we were all just so so sad all over again about Mark. I texted my college friends, my tribe, and asked for their prayers. I was overwhelmed.
But mostly I was FURIOUS.
WHAT THE ****, GOD? IS THIS YOUR IDEA OF A JOKE?? I mean, the TIMING. THE TIMING. Why not just disembowel me, while you’re twisting the knife in an open wound? Oh – forget me. What about SARAH?? You’d take a poke at Sarah’s father after taking her BROTHER? Who the **** is in charge?
I had to understand. I HAD to try and understand, to get perspective or lose my mind. I thought of C.S. Lewis’ book, “The Problem of Pain” and began ransacking our basement bookshelves in hopes we had a copy.
Wait….look: a C.S. Lewis devotional (where did we get it?). I turned to October, to find that many of the excerpts for the first few weeks of this month are from that exact book, the one about pain (and others are from his book about grief, called “A Grief Observed”). Huh. I remember that earlier in the day, I felt God’s synergy at work again: on a walk with Beth O and Ann, we ran into a woman they both happened to know – for Beth a friend recently made, and for Ann a former co-worker from more than 2 decades earlier; and then we found out that Ann knew Beth’s boss in a former job (a former life, really). Coincidence? Nope.
I sat and read. And then I added his wisdom to that of others I bathe in every morning. I am reminded that I’m angry at the wrong “person.” God does not do evil. I am reminded that I am a beloved child, the work of The Creator’s hands, and…I AM NOT GOD. I cannot know what He does, or yet see what He sees — the long view, the eternal perspective that one day I will share.
I see that life here on this planet is about light/dark, positive/negative… there are two sides to every coin (ha). Gravity keeps us grounded to earth and yet gravity is also why Mark died. Love — deep love — is full of great pain as well as great joy. Steve’s bleed wasn’t quite as bad as the last and he knew what to do and got the help he needed…and there are ways to try to address it (cauterization) (ouch), but I also need to remember he has a blood disorder (actually 3 blood disorders) and time is precious and we cannot lose track of how important each day is, each day we have together. And so, in the agony of that Thursday morning, once again, was a gift.
And slowly I turn…oh, we are so weary…once again. Limping back in God’s general direction, to try and trust; and slowly, almost imperceptibly, I find my way back from the brink and closer to the peace and reassurance I need to keep going, for at least another day.