Thankful to be a Widow in US

Last night I watched a program about widows in India that absolutely stunned me.  Widowhood is the most neglected issue in India.  Becoming a widow there is more than a living death because India’s society and culture views her as a bad omen.  She is forced to live a lonely and depressed life.

Remarriage and acceptance for an Indian widow is very rare.  Her health is affected due to malnutrition, poverty, and lack of medical aid because her family kicks her out.

Ostracized by society, thousands of India’s widows flock to the holy city of Vrindavan waiting to die. They are found on side streets, hunched over with walking canes, their heads shaved and their pain etched by hundreds of deep wrinkles in their faces.  Every morning these ladies go to a special “temple” where they chant the name of their god for 3 hours so that they can receive a bag of rice and 6 rupees in order to subsist until the next day where the process is repeated all over again.

These Hindu widows, the poorest of the poor, are shunned from society when their husbands die, not for religious reasons, but because of tradition — and because they’re seen as a financial drain on their families.

They cannot remarry. They must not wear jewelry. They are forced to shave their heads and typically wear white. Even their shadows are considered bad luck and if an event is planned and a widow is anywhere nearby, that event is immediately cancelled.

There are 34 million Indian widows and 8% of the total population consists of widows.  Only 2,5 % of men are widowers.  Deprivation causing mortality is 85% higher among women who are widows.

After watching that program, I am thankful to be a widow in the US.  Our country and our churches aren’t perfect, but I am not kicked to the curb by my 4 daughters and do not have to go to the city of widows carrying a few clothes in a bag and wait to die.

Loneliness of the Heart

The heart voices a kind of loneliness that can never be completely filled, answered, or quieted as long as we live.  This loneliness awakens us to our emotional and spiritual longing for God.

Have you ever seen a sunset that struck your heart with its strength of color spread all over the sky and ground?  The part of you that is struck by such movement and beauty is the same part that aches with the recognition of how incomplete you are.  In the aching, your heart recognizes the need for the One who made it.

This loneliness for more goodness and fullness quite often comes in moments of celebration — a child’s birth, a twenty-fifth anniversary, a graduation, a marriage.  The goodness of celebration, which must be felt to be truly known, will end.  In our hearts we want to go where the wonder, celebration, passion, and relational fulfillment never stop.  We want to go to the source of this goodness.

When my oldest son was about three, I remember showing him his first rainbow.  Instead of stopping in the wonder of it, he began walking toward it, saying, “Take me there, Daddy.”  His heart was lonely, longing to be more a part of the beauty.  He valued it.  When he found out that I couldn’t take him there, he ached in his waiting for what he could not completely have, but what he knew he was made for.

Chip Dodd/The Voice of the Heart

How Loneliness Speaks

Loneliness often speaks to our need to be with and know ourselves.  It reveals our need for solitude.  We learn through solitude that we need to stop activities in order to give ourselves a chance to hear our hearts and listen to what they are saying, sometimes waiting to get clarity.  We do this through stopping, listening, waiting, resting, planting, and trusting.

We need to rest for the heart to regain strength, replenish hope, and prepare for the next step.  We need to plant, tending to the seeds of desires, needs, longings, and hope within us.  And we need to trust that we are emotional and spiritual creatures who need time out from the world’s incessant urban clanging.

Valuing our loneliness through solitude does not necessarily lead to serenity.  Sometimes we learn in loneliness to put our sword and shield down and cry our guts out about the battles we’ve waged and lost — dreams and hopes not fulfilled, friends missed, intimacies not honored, opportunities not taken, and struggles with God not seen through.  But by struggling in solitude, we eventually rekindle the passion that led us into battle in the first place.

Chip Dodd/The Voice of the Heart

Sowing Tears to Harvest New Life

There is that phrase of the Psalmist’s song:

May those who sow in tears….

~Psalm 126:5-6

All these tears, all this rain. And yet… there is sowing, there is planting.

True, we may cry, but we press on for the crop.

We may sorrow but we still sow. And though we are broken, we still bend and begin; we do our work though we weep.

We tell our hurts we must still do the task at hand if we hope to harvest; though we may not feel like it, the fields need seeds.

So we hang out the clothes as we try to hang on, and we stir the pot as all the pain spills, and we still sow though in tears, and let go of every seed, burying hopes and hurts in faith, and out of loss, new life will unfurl, our tears watering rows.

Ann Voskamp/A Holy Experience

Stepping Into Hope

“The experience of hurting, reaching, and trusting nourishes your faith because it really makes you question whether or not God cares, and it exposes your hope that God will meet your needs.  You step into that hope that God can do for you what you cannot do.” 

Chip Dodd/The Voice of the Heart

Perils of Being a Widow and Single Again

Becoming single again throws a widow suddenly into a place of great vulnerability.  We have lost that title of belonging – MRS.  That safe bubble of  our husband’s protection has been burst.  Not only does the way a widow views other change, but the way others view her changes also.  She looks at men and women differently and finds out that they are looking at her differently as well.  Assumptions are made by some and suddenly no matter how great the pain and grief that she is experiencing, she is viewed as “single again”,  “available”, “in the market” or “on the prowl”.

Recently I have heard 2 different widows share that they have just learned that this is the way that they are being viewed by some of the people they believed were their friends.  This has gotten me to really thinking about that.

If a widow comes across as needing help, she may be viewed as a threat.  If she has a warm smile or personality, she may be viewed as inviting.  If she makes any changes at all in her weight, her hairstyle or hair color, or in her clothing style, she is “on the hunt”.  Now she not only has a big black “W” for WIDOW stamped on her forehead, but she has added a big red “A” for AVAILABLE.

There may be a few widows who are purposely sending out these vibes, but there are many of us who are definitely not intentionally doing that.  We are not the least bit interested in finding another husband.  We just want OUR husband back with us.

Those ladies who are either insecure in their marriage or insecure in their own selves are more than likely the ones who are looking at widows as a woman to be wary of.  The men who are single or unhappy in their marriages and looking for someone better are probably the ones who are thinking that a widow is suddenly free and looking for a new man to take care of.  For most of us, nothing could be further from the truth.

So, how do widows cope with the stigma that is thrust on us when our husbands die?  How do we ensure that we are not sending out wrong signals and vibes?

I Corinthians 7:34 says that the unmarried woman cares for the things of the Lord, that she may be holy both in body and in spirit.  This scripture speaks of a single lady focusing on God and being pure and clean not only in the way she takes care of and dresses herself  but in her personality and character and in the way she conducts herself.

When a woman becomes a widow, she has to find a new identity.  Most of us do make new changes and others may find that threatening.  We no longer have to be pleasing to our former husband, but we do need to continue to focus on being pleasing to God.  While in the process of making those new changes, we need to guard against coming across so differently to others that we send up all kinds of red flags.

What if we haven’t changed our everyday life or our appearance whatsoever and are still viewed by some as a possible threat?  What if our good name may possibly become tarnished by some fearful insecure woman and there is no one who will stand up in our defense?  And even if someone does stand up in our defense those unkind words have already been spoken and some damage may have been done to us and/or our children.  What then?

Once we or someone else has done all to exonerate us, it is time to step back and let God be our Husband.  After all, He has promised that, hasn’t He.  We live in a sinful world and there will always be those whether Christians or not who will assume things about us that are not true.  Our job now as a “single again” lady is to be careful to present ourselves as pure and clean lovely Christian widows whose sole purpose is to glorify God with the rest of our lives.

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