I wrote this on October 6 – two days before the third anniversary (crapiversary, re-birthday, you pick) of Mark’s death. I’m part of an online book club that is reading Richard Rohr’s “Breathing Underwater” which is about the spirituality of the 12 Step program(s). The first Step is to admit you have no control over the chaos that is your life, your addiction(s) (and BTW, addictions take MANY forms); and then subsequent Steps take you into surrender, into releasing the illusion of control. It is a powerful book. These are my thoughts, as we moved through the first few chapters.
This is a terrible time of year for us; in spite of all my efforts to stay sane, to reject the “artificiality” of loading one day with more weight than the other 364 days we are forced to live without Mark: I’m very vulnerable. It doesn’t take much to rock my boat. And yet stuff happens and keeps happening. All the way from minor irritations to (what feels like, at least right now) major catastrophes. I still, deep down, want to believe I now hold a “get out of jail free” card. “Man, my kid died and so, God, [since, you know, I get to call the shots!] I’m expecting you to make sure the rest of the road is kind of flat and smooth.”
Except that doesn’t seem to happen.
How do I find my way to solid ground when it feels like I’m drowning in a stormy ocean?
Yesterday, I went for a long bike ride before going to work because I was NOT sanguine, not peaceful, not grounded. I was in a terrible state of mind – it’s where I go if I am not careful. I started out feeling overwhelmed and unprotected, and within seconds it turned into being really angry and resentful. So it was good that it actually started raining (of course it rained, when ALL I WANTED WAS A #$@*%!! BIKE RIDE), because that hid my tears and drowned out my angry mutterings. “What more do you want of me??” was the general theme; it was honest but not pretty.
Exercise is so helpful to the process of untangling things. I knew, I knew I had to come to a different place; during my ride I re-realized a few things:
- The anger and resentment thing may feel “justified” (MY SON DIED AND PART OF ME DIED AND I DON’T UNDERSTAND WHY OR HOW THAT HAPPENED) but it is pure destruction. It is a beast, anger; if we do not deal with it, recognize it, release it, it can become gigantic, obliterating all else. It can become a weapon with which we stab others and ourselves. I can feel the strength (the false power) of that same beast in me – in that state, all I can see are problems, accursedness; there is no gratitude or joy. I can only escape the pain temporarily through drugging myself with a project, busy-ness, food, alcohol, shopping, you name it.
- Anger is hurt in disguise. Who am I hurt by? Angry at? That’s easy: me and God. Ah, okay – when I’m vulnerable and have zero reserves and more bad things happen, I knee-jerk back to my old mindset, the one I have worked so hard to move away from: that god is a distant, endlessly displeased taskmaster, waiting for me to be perfect before stepping in (which means he never steps in, never saves). That god took my son, perhaps as punishment for my sins and faults, because I’m a terrible person….a mom-fail. It has taken me so much work, ongoing work, to leave that behind, but it still follows me, a predator waiting for a crack, a chink in my armor.
- I can be fearful, terrified of more things going wrong (some of which might also be my fault). and in that fear, I try desperately to control, to deliver the outcomes I think are “right.” I am, in essence, playing God — furiously waving my magic wand over my/our lives and expecting God to deliver my wishes. When that doesn’t happen: more despair, anger. I see how that mindset blinds me to God’s quiet, ongoing work in the lives of those I pray for. I need to be working more in the direction of “Thy will be done” – not, as Mark would amusingly pray as a small child, “MY will be done.”
- SO I KNOW I need to let it go – all the anger, the resentment, the fear, the illusion of control, but I am really stuck. Powerless. Only God can reach into my chaos and perform soul surgery. And yet I could not be humble about it. I oh-so-graciously said to the guy who, you know, created the whole Universe: “Just TAKE it! Fine! Take the anger!!” And He did. For that day. Enough grace, enough manna, for today. Peace came more swiftly than I could have imagined. It helped that I found two quarters, two dimes and two pennies as I rode along; I didn’t feel alone.
- I then remembered something I had read, pointing out that when Jesus calmed the storm on the lake, He was both in the boat (with the terrified disciples who thought they were about to drown) and in the storm: completely in control. You could say He IS The Storm. That thought almost made me stop the bike and sit on a curb. What a shift in perspective. Perhaps these things that happen, no matter how we label them (i.e., even the “bad” stuff that scares us could actually be “good” in God’s eternal perspective) are not without greater/deeper purpose. Whether God enacted or allowed “X” – even if it hurts us – because His perspective is so much higher than ours, or whether God takes X (which really is awful, even to Him) and weaves it into the bigger tapestry of His ultimate Good, He’s still there in the bigger picture, making all things new, doing a new thing.
I know, I know: I’m a “grieving mom” and need to cut myself a break more often, but honestly, I’ve been this way forever…stubborn, stuck in certain ways of thinking that do me no good whatsoever. Why does it have to take me so long, so many repetitions (!) to learn these essential, inescapable truths? Aren’t you just a little bit tired of it, too?
Everything seems to continually boil down to, to point to one thing: TRUST. Can I learn to trust God all the time? Can I TRUST that God is GOOD, in every moment, and quit beating my head against life as it keeps on happening (because that has been working SO WELL)? Can I trust that God is in and through every single thing and has plans that accommodate all that I am, all that we are exactly as we are right now; plans that are…perfect? Can I quit trying so hard to control everything and SURRENDER?
Yes. Imperfectly, inconsistently (because that seems to be the way I dance): Yes. I may still need to tattoo it on my wrist, or staple it to my forehead, though.
The next day, the day between our wedding anniversary and the anniversary of the death of our only son, Steve and I went appliance shopping. And I actually found the humor (perhaps a little dark, dry humor) in all of it.