I Remember

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The Dust Bowl of Loss

(Excerpt from Life As We Would Want It..Life As We Are Given by Ken Gire)

Steinbeck’s description of the Dust Bowl is what the weather of the heart is sometimes like for someone who has endured a great loss  A steady wind blows over you, opposes you, oppresses you.  The wind grows stronger, whisking away what little soil that surrounds the few rootlets of spiritual life you have left.  With the wind comes stinging reminders of how different your life is from everyone else’s.  Other people talk together, shop together, dine together, laugh together.  And the taken-for-granted normalness of their lives stings your face so raw you can’t bear it.  Your bloodshot eyes burn from the windblown grit.  Your tears wash away the grit, but not the burn.

To escape these stinging realities, you huddle yourself in your house.  You wedge cloth around the doors and windows, anything to shut out the outside world.  But a thin layer of dust covers everything.  No matter how thorough you are in your dusting, there is always something you have overlooked, always some reminder of your loss.

You lie in bed at night, staring at the ceiling.  Your thoughts are incoherent pieces of a puzzle you have grown weary of, yet can’t get rid of.  The headache won’t go away.  Or the guilt.  Or the regret.  You’re out of tears, out of prayers.  You’ve waited in silence, wept in silence, wondered in silence.  You wonder if anyone is up there, beyond that ceiling, if anyone was ever up there, or if it has all been just so much pious talk and positive thinking, reinforced by the peer pressure of your religious friends.

Outside the sky is darkened.  The night is black.  Light from heaven, once as sparkling as a star-studded sky, cannot pierce the airborne dust.  What little light you have within you doesn’t spread very far, either.

Through the night the wind continues.  The night is long and it seems the dawn will never come.  Finally the dawn comes, but no day.  A gray sky veils the sun and God, who once seemed so radiant, now seems a dim red circle that gives little light.

Eventually the wind subsides, the dust settles, and it is safe to go outside again.  What then?  How do we reclaim the Dust Bowl that our life has become?  Where do we even start?

We start by realizing that reclaiming the land doesn’t happen overnight.  It didn’t happen overnight in Provence.  It didn’t happen overnight in Oklahoma.  And it doesn’t happen overnight in the wind-stripped terrain of our own lives.

But is does happen.  And it begins to happen when we pray.  Each time we pray, we plant a seed.  It takes years to sow them.  Even more years to grow them.  That is how we cooperate with God in reclaiming the landscape.

In Quietness and Confidence

(Written 14 months into my grief journey.  I find that now almost 3 years later I am not plagued with the “Why?!” questions so much anymore. My questions now are “How?!  How can this be a good plan for me, Lord?!”)

“For thus saith the Lord God, the Holy One of Israel, In returning and rest shall ye be saved; in quietness and in confidence shall be your strength: and ye would not.  Isaiah 30:15

As I awoke this morning, the first thing I said to the Lord was to please help me to somehow know that His plan for me is a good plan.  Immediately the phrase “in quietness and confidence shall be your strength” came to mind and I decided to further investigate to see more clearly just what that means.

In returning” means in withdrawal.  It means retirement.  I have to be able to withdraw now from the wife chapter of my life and retire.  Usually a person retires because they choose to retire, but I did not choose to retire from wifehood. That is a difficult thing for me to do after being a wife for two thirds of my entire life.

The phrase “and rest” speaks of having a quiet attitude of rest.  Hmmmm…an attitude is something that I decide in my mind.  It is something that I feel.  It is a personal decision that I make. I have to decide to have an attitude of rest.

As I withdraw from the wife chapter in my life and retire taking on an attitude of rest from it all, I “shall be saved”.  I will be victorious in widowhood.  What does that mean?  I do not begin to know how to be victorious in widowhood.  In THE WIDOW’S MIGHT Jan Thompson says, “When He (God) requires of you a new route, a detour you don’t want to take, He will provide the guidance and grace to take it.”  On the other side of that new route is freedom from the need to understand what has happened and from despair. It is a place of new beginnings.

Then comes the phrase “in quietness”.  Say that word “quietness”.  Just the sound of it evokes peace.  It is a place of undisturbedness and tranquility; a place where you can just close your eyes and breathe  How a widow longs for such a place.

Last is the phrase “in confidence” and that means trusting.  There is that word that I have been struggling with for the last fourteen months.  My husband’s death shook my trust in God to the very core.  Our prayers were not answered the way that we wanted them to be answered and Bob was not healed here on earth.  God chose to heal him in heaven and heal him for eternity.  That broke my heart.  Now I have to choose to trust that God’s way is the best way and believe that His plan is a good plan for me. The alternative is to stay in a place of confusion.

God, the Master, The Holy of Israel, has this solemn counsel: ‘Your salvation requires you to turn back to me and stop your silly efforts to save yourselves.  YOUR STRENGTH WILL COME FROM SETTLING DOWN IN COMPLETE DEPENDENCE ON ME  – The very thing you’ve been unwilling to do.’” Isaiah 30:15  The Message

Father, help me to so want an attitude of quiet rest that I will trust You.  Help me to take that first step onto the Bridge of Faith where I no longer have that need to understand and am not plagued with confusion.  You have required of me a new route and have put me on this detour that  I didn’t want to take.  Give me the strength to continue taking one step at a time across that bridge toward the victorious life of widowhood – that place of new beginnings.

Pie Crust Promises

Pie crust promises are promises that are easily made and easily broken.  How many widows have been given those kinds of promises after their husbands have died?  I would venture to say that most of us have.

I’m going to be right here to walk with you through this.”  “We’ll have you over to eat next week.”  “I’ll check on you tomorrow.”  “I’ll help you any way that I can.”  Those are just a few of the pie crust promises that a widow hears.

Now not only is she dealing with the deep pain of the loss of her husband, but she finds herself experiencing feelings of great anger because of all these broken promises.  In most cases she may never hear again from the person or persons who voiced those words to her during the most vulnerable time in her life.  She had expectations about how she was going to be treated by others and those expectations have not been met.  That widow now finds herself greatly wounded.

So, how does she deal with all those pie crust promises?  The first thing she needs to do is to realize that she cannot control what another person does and choose to forgive the person whether they ask for forgiveness or not.  Then she has to let go of those pie crust promises and the person who made them.  Easy to do?  No, not at all.  In fact, depending on her personality type, it may be very hard to do.  But, in order for a widow to move forward without bitterness, this is a decision that she must make and it may be a process.  If she finds herself hiding those hurts in her heart and taking them back out to go over again, then she has to forgive and let go again and again.

Why should a widow be willing to forgive and let go of those who have wounded her deeply?  Because it is so important for her to keep the communication lines wide open between herself and God.  She’s got to have all of the guidance and wisdom from Him now.

Think back to the time before you became a widow.  Did you really understand how a widow feels?  How many times did you make pie crust promises?

On to Glory

The Bible is a bridge spanning the deep river of life, built of steel and concrete by inspired workmen.  The foaming floods have never shaken it’s Adamantine foundation.  It has never needed repair and no one need doubt its security.  On its stone floor, worn smooth by the feet of devout pilgrims, millions have crossed on to Glory, and by it we must cross over if we would walk with safety.”

George W. McDaniel

Touch

This time of year is hard for me because it brings back memories of the last few months of my husband’s life here on this earth.  When I woke up this morning, I found myself lying in the fetal position with my arms wrapped around myself.  It’s hard when you are alone and don’t have the man that you married beside you to wrap you in his arms and comfort you and to say “I love you.

God tells us that He is the God of all comfort, but there are just times in our lives when we need God with skin on to give us a hug.  Human touch is one of the most important things to a widow and one of the things that we miss the most.  How good is feels when someone else in our family cares enough to just come up and give us a hug.

Hoisting the Anchor and Setting Sail

(Excerpt from LOOKING UP WHEN LIFE GETS YOU DOWN by Warren Wiersbe)

Paul used an interesting word for death; he called it “departure” (2 Timothy 4:6).  The Greek word is a military term: “taking down a tent and relocating“.  That’s what death is for God’s people, simply leaving behind the worn out tent and going into better and more glorious quarters!  It is also a naval term: “to hoist anchor and set sail.”  The farmers also used this term for “the unyoking of the oxen“.

Death for the believer means the burdens are lifted and the work is finished.

The Grappling Hooks of Unanswered Prayers

(Excerpt from Life As We Would Want It….Life As We Are Given by Ken Gire)

For two disciples, Christ’s crucifixion was an upheaval so great that the landscape in Jerusalem where it happened was too grim a reminder of their pain.  To sift through the emotional rubble, they had to get away.  The road they took was the road to Emmaus, a village seven miles away.

At sometime or other we have all taken that road, or else at sometime or other we will.  The road these disciples traveled sloped away from Jerusalem through desolate and uncertain terrain, a stark reflection of the desolation and uncertainty within them.  The Savior they so loved had been brutally killed.  With Him died their hopes, their dreams, their futures.  Something of themselves died, too.  And something of their faith.  Who knows what sorrow they carried with them on that road out of town, what they talked about, what they cried about, what they feared would happen next?  Who knows what questions they asked or what emotions surfaced when they asked them.

Gradually, over that seven-mile stretch of road, the answer to their questions became clear.  It happened like this.  As they walked away, Jesus came alongside them, walked with them, and engaged them in a dialogue about what had happened.  At first, they didn’t recognize Him.  They came to the outskirts of Emmaus, and still they didn’t recognize Him.  It wasn’t until they sat down to dine with Him, and He with them, that their eyes were finally opened, both to the identity of God’s Son and to the mystery of God’s ways.

Everything that happens to us should be brought into a dialogue with God, an honest and ongoing dialogue.  No experience should be excluded.  No question should be, either.  “Live the questions now,” Ranier Maria Rilke advised.  “Perhaps then, someday far in the future, you will gradually, without even noticing it, live your way into an answer.”

The answer may come in a seven-mile walk.

Or in a walk that lasts a lifetime.

It may never come.

And yet we go on asking, seeking, knocking.

One wonders why.

Our unanswered questions are the grappling hooks we use to scale the north slope of God, who seems at times an Everest of indifference.  The ascent is treacherous.  And maybe why we brave the climb is because we sense that abandoning the climb might be even more dangerous.

The Language of Prayer

Excerpt from Life As We Would Want It..Life as We Are Given by Ken Gire)

The language of prayer spans the lexicon of human emotion.  There are the light vowels of joy and the low gutterals of sorrow.  There are the gliding consonants of faith and the hard consonants of doubt.  The syntax is sometimes clear, other times convoluted.  The sentences are sometimes punctuated with exclamation marks, other times with question marks.  This is as it should be,  if it is to be an honest dialogue.  C .S. Lewis said that “we should bring to God what is in us, not what ought to be in us“.  The “oughts” will keep us from telling the truth.  They will also keep us from feeling the truth.  Especially the truth about pain.

We can be too careful with our words, especially when we pray.  We can be too quick to come to conclusions about what happened to us and why.  Too quick to make sense of it all.  Too quick to see God in it all.

When Jesus received news of John the Baptist’s death, He didn’t draw a lesson from it or talk about what good might come from it.  He went away by Himself and mourned (Matt. 14:1-13)

When Jesus realized the nearness of His own death, he went to a quiet place and prayed (Matt. 26:36-46).  Into that garden, where the shadows of death surrounded Him, Jesus brought His closest friends.  His soul, He told them, was “deeply grieved, to the point of death” (Matt.26:38).  He wanted them there, needed them there.  Desperately.

Jesus reached into the depths of His soul for whatever words He could find that spoke the truth of his pain.  Many of those words cut Him on their way up.  We are told that He agonized with “loud crying and tears” (Heb. 5:7).  We are also told that He fell to the ground, where He prayed fervently and sweated profusely (Luke 22:44)

This was no Renaissance painting.  This was a real portrait, a portrait of how we pray when the earth beneath our feet begins to quake.  We pray however we can, with whatever words we can.  We pray with our sweat, with out tears.  And with whatever friends we have who will sit with us in the darkness.