Unmet Expectations and Forgiving

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One thing that I have been wrestling with has been forgiving those of whom I had such high expectations after my husband went to heaven.  I thought that certain ones would be rallying around me showing their care and concern because that is the right thing to do.  I didn’t expect much – just a phone call to ask how I was doing and if I needed help with anything.  But, that has not happened and it has been a source of deep hurt and anger.

Yesterday as I was reading for pleasure in Robin Jones Gunn’s book entitled Wildflowers, I was struck by something one of her characters related from the story of Lazarus in the second half of John chapter 11.  After Jesus instructed that the stone be rolled away from Lazarus’ burial place, he told Lazarus’ sisters to “Unbind him, and let him go.’  The original word in Greek for ‘unbind’ is aphiemi which means to untie, to forgive, or to let go.

Aphiemi is used again in Luke 23:34 as Jesus is hanging on the cross and says, “Father, forgive them.” Or unbind them, untie them. “They don’t know what they’re doing.”  Those words pierced my heart.

Robin’s character in the book goes on to say:

“When I was studying this, I felt as if the Lord was asking me to roll away the stone that I had put in front of this relationship.  Just like Mary and Martha, I argued and told God that the whole relationship stinks because it’s been dead for so long.  I knew I should simply obey God instead of argue with Him.  So last night, in my heart, I rolled back that stone.  I have forgiven my dad…..I want to untie him and let him go.”

I realized that I have had a stone rolled up tightly at the front of my heart keeping in those who have not done what I wanted them to do.  In the process of keeping them all bound up, I realized that I’ve been keeping myself bound up in unforgiveness.  I had a decision to make.  Was I going to keep that stone there or roll it back and untie all those whom I’ve had bound up and in that process unloose myself?  Or am I going to keep holding onto all of those hurts?  Those people no doubt have no idea that they have hurt me so deeply.  I have only been hurting myself by hanging onto these things for almost 2 years.

Last night I opened up my heart to the Lord naming those who have hurt me, telling Him how they had hurt me, and forgave them.  Did I want to forgive them?  Not really if the truth be told.  You see, I felt like I have a reason to be angry at them.  They have fallen short in my eyes and my husband would be so disappointed if he knew.  But, I knew I had to do this for myself – not for them.  Then I asked God to forgive me for holding all that anger in for so long.

I have no doubt that there will be times when those people will come up in my mind and I will feel that pain and anger again, but I know what I must do immediately in order to keep that stone rolled away from my heart.

Help me, Lord, because my disappointments are so great and it still hurts so deeply.  Help me to recognize when I am allowing anger in again and give me the strength to forgive and keep on forgiving.

Getting Over It

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“Getting over it so soon?  But the words are ambiguous.  To say the patient is getting over it after an operation for appendicitis is one thing; after he’s had his leg off it is quite another.  After that operation either the wounded stump heals or the man dies.  It if heals, the fierce, continuous pain will stop.  Presently he’ll get back his strength and be able to stump about on his wooden leg.  He has ‘got over it.’  But he will probably have recurrent pains in the stump all his life, and perhaps pretty bad ones; and he will always be a one-legged man. 

There will be hardly any moment when he forgets it.  Bathing, dressing, sitting down and getting up again, even lying in bed, will all be different.  His whole way of life will be changed.  All sorts of pleasures and activities that he once took for granted will have to be simply written off.  Duties too.  At present I am learning to get about on crutches.  Perhaps I shall presently be given a wooden leg.  But I shall never be a biped again.”

C. S. Lewis/A Grief Observed

Songs in the Night

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Job is one book of the Bible that I have purposely not spent a lot of time reading because it has always seemed like such a sad book to me.  However, if there is anyone who knew and understood the grief that I am experiencing, it was Job.

You know the story of all Job’s friends who came to sit with him in his grief.  Only one of them spoke to Job on God’s behalf and that was Elihu who said, “But no one says, Where is God my maker, who gives songs in the night;”  Job 35:10

God gives songs in the night?  The meaning of the word “gives” in Hebrew is “provides”.  The meaning of the phrase “in the night” in Hebrew translates  “a season of protective gloom”.

God provides songs in this time of grief and it is a protected season of grief.  Not only is He  in this dark time with me, but  He is going through it with me and is protecting me.

I like to picture myself sitting on Jesus’ lap just as I sat on my mother’s lap as a child.  Jesus is bent over me with His loving arms around me shielding me.   We are sitting in a rocking chair and He’s rocking me back and forth and back and forth.  No one is going to take me out of His arms.  I am wholly and completely protected.  And He’s singing songs to me as we are rocking – songs of comfort, songs of assurance, songs that only my heavenly Father knows to sing to me.

It’s true that I don’t feel like singing in this time.  When I try to sing, all I end up doing is crying.  But, although the words are not able to come out of my mouth, I am finding that slowly the music is welling up in my heart and God is giving me songs in the night.

 

One Stanza at a Time

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“……the Lord rarely reveals everything at once.  No, He tends to move in our lives..well, much like a poem.  One stanza at a time.  What if you’re at the end of one line and you’re aching to know what’s coming next?  Then you trust.  And believe that whatever is coming next–whether it rhymes with the line before it or not–will work to God’s glory.  And that the whole poem, once completed, will speak of a life completely devoted to Him, even during the hard times.”

Janice Hanna

A Breath of Praise

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During the last months of my husband’s life at the end of his prayers, he would always say, “It’s all about You, Lord.  It’s ALL about You!”  His whole life was all about what God wanted and he focused totally on that at the end.

I find now that he is gone that my thoughts are even more on God than they were before.  Things of this world seem so trivial.  Never before has the truth that this world is not my home been more real.  Not only am I praying, “Help me, Lord” many times a day, but I’m also thanking Him many times a day.  Even the seemingly smallest thing causes “Thank you, Lord” to come out of my mouth.

After my husband died, I wondered how I could ever praise the Lord again for anything.  I felt that He had betrayed me in not answering our prayers for healing.  But, it was just a few days into my grief journey when I  found out what preparations Bob had made for me should he go first that the praise began again.  It was not a forced praise.  I did not have to choke the words out.  They just flowed out from my heart.

One day when it is my turn to see my Savior face to face, the greatness of it all is going to finally really hit me and when it does, my praise is going to be so great that it will not be able to ever again be contained.  My heart will be so full of thankfulness and awe that praise will burst out at all times.  To think that my husband and both my parents are there now experiencing all of that joy and peace praising God – what a picture that is in my mind and I feel excitement stirring in my soul for what is ahead.

Does “Religion” Make Everything Easy?

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I realize there are people who tell you that religion can make everything easy and who claim that any time a person prays, he is caught up in light and soars above his problems until they appear small and inconsequential.  But I don’t believe such words!  There are moments in the depths of human suffering when the soaring of ecstasy would be out of touch with reality.

John Claypool – Tracks of a Fellow Struggler

Letter from My Husband

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One of my assignments in the Widow’s Walk Grief/Growth Support Group was to write a letter from my husband to me telling me what I thought he’d want to say to me now if he could.  This is that letter.

Well, Bert (his special name for me), it didn’t turn out the way we believed that it would, but it turned out perfectly for me.  Heaven is…………..well, there are no words to describe it.  You have to be here to really get! It was worth it all just to be here with Jesus!

It sure didn’t take long for your Mom and Dad to join me.  I met them both when they came in. Your Mom is like a kid in a candy store.  If you think she took a long time when she was looking at everything down there when you took her grocery shopping, you ought to see her now!  She hasn’t stopped looking yet.  Your Dad is so full of life and is talking more than I ever heard him talk down there!  We’re all so happy to be out of those old earthly bodies and into our perfect ones!

Remember when I asked you a few days before I got here if you were going to be alright?  I’m so glad that you didn’t just curl up in a corner, pull a blanket over your head and quit.  Look at all that you have done for the first time in your life!  God knew that you couldn’t do this by yourself and He hasn’t left you alone in this.  He’s guided you all along through these processes.

He gave you the extra strength that you needed to go through those last 5 hard months with me.  I know you didn’t like being the one in charge.   It was hard on you taking care of me and seeing my body deteriorate, but you never complained and took such good care of me like I told you the night before I went to be with the Lord.  You showed your love for me in so many ways and I was so thankful for that. We had a good time together for over 36 years and I’m glad that we decided before we got married that we were going to stay together no matter what.

He gave you the strength to pack up our home and your parents’ home.  Did you see what He did for you the day of the garage sale of all the extra things from your Mom’s and Dad’s?!  He brought all those people there on a cold January day and had everything sold for you within 3 hours time!  I was laughing as I was watching from up here because there were so many people that showed up that it looked like you needed someone down there to direct traffic!  God has such a sense of humor!

God had two different people suggest you use the same Christian realtors to list the houses and property and then had just the right people right there to put contracts on them in 13 days time!  Can you see how God is working and is right there to be your perfect husband now?  He showed you the house in town that He had built just for you.  He saved that house for you for a year and didn’t put it in anyone else’s heart to buy it.  Remember when you started asking Him in Jan. 2009 for a better house and told Him what you wanted?  He gave you something better than you even asked for.  I know you weren’t planning on living in it totally alone without me.

Did you see how God sent you Carol to help you pick out things for the new house?  All those years that I worked on her sons’ lawn mowers for their mowing business paid off.  God used me to help them and He turned around and used Carol to help you.

Then He gave you the strength to be there for your Mom and Dad in those last 4 months with them.  I know that shattered your heart even more to see all that they went through and became unbearable there at the end with your Dad.  But, with God’s help, you made it through it all.  Did you notice that He sent your aunts and uncles and some of your cousins up from Texas to be with you and comfort you after each one of them joined me up here?  God knew exactly who you needed to be there with you.

Our daughters are there for you.  I asked Leah if she would take care of you knowing that she would.  She’s our “take charge” daughter and was so good to me and you.  She will help you to think things through.  Annissa is your encourager.  She knows exactly what you are capable of doing and will cheer you on in her own way.  Charity won’t let you get by with those negative words about yourself.  She’s working on that herself, you know.  Tshanina will help you if you will ask for her help.  She was so good to me those last hours when you were trying to rest and it was very hard on her.  She’s protecting you from all that happened very suddenly there at the end and has a lot of things to work through right now.  Never doubt that all 4 of our girls love you, Candy.  God gave them to us for just a time as this.

Ben is right there with you to help you with your finances.  He’ll give you good advice. I know you never wanted to deal with all of that, but you’ve seen that you CAN understand things that have to do with numbers.  And, God used Ben to send you to just the right car dealer to get a replacement for the old Maxima.  I want you to have a dependable vehicle to drive now since I’m not there to take care of it and make repairs on it.  You did a good job researching vehicles before you decided what to buy and made a wise decision about whether or not to buy an extended warranty.  You ARE making good decisions and are being wise in your choices whether you think you are or not.  I know how uncertain you have always felt about yourself.

Our girls need your influence in their lives.  I know that you feel like the roles have been reversed right now and they are the ones giving to you and being a mother to you.  You have more to offer them than you realize.

Love our sons-in-law.  I’m not there to have my special yearly garage talks with them now, but there will be times when you can say things to them that will help them in many ways.  I’m so glad that they have all rallied around you to protect you and help you.  They are treating you like I would want sons to treat you.  Can you see how God is working???!!!!

Spend time with our grandchildren.  Use those times to talk to them about the Lord and point out to them that life is nothing without Him.   God used you even during all of those hard days after I and your parents went to heaven and He will continue to use you in the days ahead.  I know how much you love each and every one of them.

It was good that you were able to fly out to Kansas City to be with Annissa when our new grandson Cole was born six weeks prematurely and six months after I came here.  She and Doug needed you and you needed them for those 3 weeks.  Isn’t that Cole something else!

I see that you have reached out and asked for help getting through this grieving process.  It’s okay that you are doing this.  You need that help.  You can’t do it all yourself. I know that you thought that you could and you were trying to, but this is more than you can handle alone.  You are putting your all into it just like you always do.  God will honor that and you are going to be alright.

Keep watching for all the things that God is doing in your life.  Don’t be afraid.  God loves you so much more than I do and He’s right there with you even when you can’t feel Him.  He didn’t fail you or betray you and one of these days you’ll understand that.  Trust Him, Candy.  It will be worth it all when you see Jesus!  HE’S WORTHY!!!!

I love you!  Smile!  Jesus is coming soon and one of these days we’ll be together again!!

Bob

Grieving Variables

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There are so many variables that play a part in each griever’s movement through the full grieving process.

1)  The griever’s personality and style of responding to unpleasant events.  Individuals who pull back from making decisions on their own will find their mourning extended, fixated, arrested, or perhaps stopped altogether until they are willing to change their behavior.  If an individual’s habit is to avoid painful situations and realizations, to draw back from working through difficult problems, then the length of the mourning will depend on how soon (and if) she or he becomes willing to change this habitual behavior and begin to engage in the grieving.

2)  The degree to which the lost person was a part of or involved in what gave the grieving person’s life order, structure, and meaning.  If the lost person was central to the organization of the grieving person’s life or to her or his sense of self, the mourning process is likely to take longer.  This means that it is not possible to make blanket judgments about what one individual’s death will mean to another.

3)  The nature of the loss.  Sudden deaths or losses, the death of a child or a young person, violent or traumatic deaths, and suicides present special problems in grieving.  Although knowing in advance does give individuals a chance to prepare, this advance preparation may not, in the long run, shorten the mourning period.

4)  The kind of support given by family and friends.  If those who are grieving feel loved, supported, and aided then the outcome of grief will reflect these favorable conditions.  If, on the other hand, family and friends are uncomfortable with mourning, if they act as if the grieving person should already be finished mourning, or–heaven forbid, but it does occur–they actually encourage the grieving person to remain helpless and dependent, then the grieving time will be extended.

5)  Past losses and the degree to which they have been mourned fully. 

6)  The amount of unacknowledged ambivalent feelings a person has toward the lost person.  Perhaps there is unexpressed or unacknowledged resentment and anger.  Perhaps there is guilt over disagreements and arguments that were never worked out.  Perhaps there is relief that the person is gone, even while there is sorrow, and the grieving person does not forgive herself or himself for this seeming contradiction.  Any or all of these feelings may trigger negative images of one’s own worthlessness, which must be worked through, thereby adding additional time and complication to the mourning.

7)  The social, economic, and personal circumstances in which the individuals must do their grieving.  People who have financial difficulties concurrent with the loss, who are emotionally upset about other issues, do not have good health from the beginning or become ill during the mourning process, or are constrained as a result of previous sex-role conditioning (e.g., men don’t cry; women are helpless in the face of making decisions) will find that these factors complicate their grieving.

Elizabeth Harper Neeld, PH.D./Seven Choices