No More Separation

We love because he first loved us. – 1 John 4:19

How I wonder about that far-off land! I wish I could catch a glimpse of it as Moses was allowed to catch a glimpse of the promised land. He led others to it but in the end,  he was unable to enter into it with them. He could only view it from a distance. 

I also feel very close to that promise land, as if I too have come to its border.  I have led others through the long wilderness journey of cancer and have arrived at the border with them, but I am unable to cross over. It is not my time. I can only look on from a distance. I feel the authority of the Lord’s hand weighing down on my  shoulder, both comforting and restricting me as I watch them go.  They cross over and slip away with a last sigh.  In a moment they are gone and all that was physical about them is left behind. Their bodies, appear as empty worn out shells, discarded and abandoned like a forgotten glove left behind.  A mystery. A reminder.

We are now physically separated. No longer able to touch. No longer able to hold conversation together.  No longer able to hear the other. No longer able to embrace. No longer able to see their smile outside of memory or hear them laugh. Even their scent slowly begins to fade from clothes and pillows. Their favorite spots remains empty now and no longer even acknowledges they had often frequented it.  All trace of them vanishes and is gone except for mementos that silently speak only to the person who carries them.

Physically they are gone. Yet something new awakens, an awareness of their presence. A presence without form. A presence without words. A presence without sight.  Physically we are separated unable to touch but spiritually in Christ there is yet life. We are still remotely connected. We are not completely severed but wait in anticipation of being reunited again. As I know my own spirit lives within my body unseen, I know their spirit lives without the body unseen and waits now even as I wait  for this separation period to end.

One thing I have learned about grief is you only grieve those you love.  When a friend of a friend dies, we may become somewhat saddened and express our condolences but we ourselves are not deeply grieved. We did not know them. We suffer no pains from their being separated from us or this world.  However, when someone we know and love dies, our soul is ripped apart by the separation. A part of us is amputated and we struggle to maintain ourselves to survive daily. Inwardly we struggle in our spirits from our loss. We face extreme fatigue from being forced to carry the dead weight of our spirits sagging within us throughout our daily routines. 

Death is the ultimate separation. The Bible speaks of our being spiritually dead and separated from God because of sin entering the world and into us. Spiritually we died and were separated from God Himself. The idea of being separated from God can hit us as factually as hearing that a friend of a friend of a friend has died. The truth causes us no grief for in our hearts. We feel nothing. We do not grieve for God for we never truly knew Him or loved Him.  

However, God himself knows us and loves us deeply. He loved us before we first loved Him. God grieves us. He feels the weight of our loss and separation from Himself even if we do not grieve our loss of Him. Only the living grieve.  God grieved the separation between us and Himself, between our spirits and His Spirit. He sent Jesus to end the spiritual separation to give us a spiritual life through the Holy Spirit for us to be reunited to Him and to come to know Him.

It is as we begin to truly know God that we begin to love Him and as we begin to love Him we begin to grieve our separation from Him. We become awakened and finally start to feel the pain of His absence from us physically. We want to see His face. We want to hear His voice. For once in our lives we begin to realize our magnificent loss. We  begin to grieve God and our separation from Him and begin to look forward to heaven.

Grief reminds us of this great separation between God and ourselves, between heaven and earth that we must temporarily endure.  Grief reminds us that we are living apart from someone, from someplace.  It causes us to lift our eyes up to look beyond this world and to look in the distance for but a glimpse of the other. It  awakens our curiosity of that far off land making it more and more familiar to us,  as all our friends and family are slowly moving there one by one. Grief does test our faith. However, instead of destroying our faith, it can strengthen our faith and our relationship with God as we come to a new understanding of His own grief over the separation of sinners from Himself and the great love He has toward us that He would send his own son Jesus to build a bridge between us and Himself through the work of the cross. 

Finding My Way Through Grief

I will praise the LORD, who counsels me; even at night my heart instructs me. – Psalm 16:7

I had a dream about a month after I returned home from Arkansas after care giving for my sister during her 10 month battle with cancer that helped counsel me through a very dark period that I endured afterwards. The grief over the entire year’s events, the loss of her, the loss of my father earlier that year, even the loss of my 17 year dog finally found opportunity to lay it’s full weight on me once she was gone and I returned home.

I found comfort in the dream as one finds comfort in having a map when they feel lost . Perhaps it may help another find their way out of grief as it has helped me.

I dream that I fell down into a very deep and dark underground tunnel. Not a speck of light could be seen. Everything was pitch black, absolutely nothing of my surroundings were visible because of the thick darkness. However, I somehow knew I had landed in the midst of an amusement park. It was an inner awareness I could not explain. I knew I was surrounded by rides, tents and stands, but I could not even make out their slightest outline. There were no sounds and no movement. The amusement park was still and completely deserted. The darkness was so complete it engulfed me. I felt the floor beneath my feet but I could not see it. For a moment I wondered if this great darkness was but an amusement itself. Was it an illusion that I had to find my way out of? Was there an end to it?

I started to walk forward through the darkness slowly making my way, feeling my way with my feet one small step at a time. I wondered how long the tunnel would be like this?

After some time had passed and I had progressed some distance through the darkness, I came to have a small light in my hands, like a small personal candle. The light was very small and not very bright, but it lit my hands and brought me comfort by having it to hold onto in the dark.  I continued my way through the tunnel holding that tiny light in my hands as I walked cautiously forward.

I kept walking until I found myself on an empty street on a small sidewalk lit by street lamps. There were several glass storefront shops on either side of me lining the streets. The little shops were all closed and deserted by their owners but their windows were gently lit with lamps shining down on various items and novelties the shop owners were displaying to anyone passing by as they walked along this street. I began to curiously look into each of the windows as I walked and their miscellaneous items and amusements began to catch my eye and distract me as I walked forward.

The tunnel became more like a very dark evening, as if I were taking a midnight walk alone down it’s streets. It was very deserted and empty of any other soul but my own. However, I was surrounded by the handiwork of others so I began to feel in a sense that I was not completely alone. Other people had been here, worked here, even made it somewhat of a pleasant place to be despite the darkness and deserted nature of the place. However, I began to miss life, the breeze, the birds, the rivers, the heavens and sky above me and people. There was no life here, only empty places and lifeless objects left behind. Tied to them were only memories of life but not life itself.

I kept walking forward through the dark tunnel. The further I moved forward the more light I could see. There were street lights and more lit up storefronts in front of me but these were open. People were coming and going. People like me who have found their way out of the dark tunnel. They were very busy amusing themselves with items found in the stores, with conversations, coffee shops and food. There were many new shops ahead of me lining the streets that were open. The shop owners mingled among the people in conversation over their displays. It was the dawn of a new day.

The world was broader and eventually the tunnel was gone. I began to lose myself in daily amusements along with the others. I don’t know how much time passed before suddenly the ground gave way beneath my feet and I had fallen again.

I found myself once again at the very beginning of that dark tunnel. Not a speck of light could be seen. I was surrounded by amusements but there were no amusements, just darkness and the earth beneath my feet. I knew in a sense that it was all a great illusion. The awful darkness could not hurt me. There was no fear but emptiness and I had to find my way out of it again. I did not want to move but I had to. I begin to slowly step forward one small step at a time.

I recognize the tunnel. I did not want to be in it. I recognize the little light that eventually came and comforted me and guided me along the way. I held onto it once again. It was all I had for sight and understanding of where I was. It alone pierced the darkness even though it was weak. It did not allow me to see far, but it allowed me to see enough. I recognized it as the word and promises of God.

I made my way to those deserted storefronts again with their great windows and soft lamps shining. They offered me their own light as I had so little of my own. They brought me comfort with their previous presence. Their window displays spoke to me in silence leaving me alone to observe what they left behind for me to find and see. These were the books on grief I had been reading. They had been here before. They were no longer here now. They had left their lights on for me by publicly sharing their stories. I was alone but not alone. Their words encouraged me to trust God and counseled my grief when no one else could because they shared and understood my suffering. However, it took time for me to come to a place where I was ready to listen to hear their stories.

And in time, I began moving forward again. Seeking live comfort. Seeking distraction and daily amusements. Enjoying life and then suddenly I was falling again…

The dream repeated itself three times. I would have to make my way through that dark tunnel only to fall again into it’s depths and have to start over. Was it with each new loss that I fell again each time? Or is it the nature of grief itself, just when you begin to think you are finding your way out of it, in a moment you can suddenly fall and grieve like it was the first day all over again. There is no comfort at times like these. Even the light of God’s word and his promises provide little relief. But then there are times when God’s promises, our hope of eternal life and heaven, are the only bit of understanding and light you have and holding on to it is how you make it through each time one step at a time.

 

10 Things Not to Say to Those Who Are Hurting

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It’s tough watching someone you love suffer and being helpless to help them or to know what to say. We always want to do or say something to lessen their pain, to encourage them and to help them. However, our good intentions can go awry and instead of causing less pain, we can increase anothers pain through insensitive words or timing. We have a tendency to say things that naturally come to us in order to comfort those around us. Our words may be true enough and bring comfort to ourselves but the person we are directing them towards may be caused greater additional pain by them instead of being comforted. Our words touch super sensitive areas of the heart that are bruised, wounded, out of joint, unnaturally exposed and bring others tremendous pain unknowingly to us. We walk away smiling and unfortunately leave those hurting behind grimacing from our efforts.

When dealing with the human heart, it takes precision and wisdom of an experienced physician to bring about comfort and healing. It has been said that some of our greatest traumas and battles are not really those we experience outwardly but those we are experiencing inwardly. Our hearts have been inwardly amputated through loss, they are being smothered by the weight of grief, are paralyzed by fear, are sick with anxiety and worry, are burning with anger, are infected with bitterness, are slow moving being clouded with doubts and confusion.Continue Reading

It’s Not Fair

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A year and a half ago, on March 23rd, 2014 my cousin Tessa, age 27, was killed in a head-on collision by a drunk driver as she was on her way home. She died instantly leaving behind 4 surviving children. The criminal case for it ended just last week.

Her death has impacted our entire family greatly, and still impacts us every day with the loss of her laugh, the loss of her voice, the loss of her opinion, the loss of her touch, her hugs. Every day, it still feels like there is something new to be missed and freshly grieved. Every day is full of her absence, in the big things and in the small things.

My husband  and I relocated to Dallas 16 years ago not knowing we had any family in the area.  Approximately 5 years after our move, I was excited to learn I had an Aunt and three young cousins who lived nearby. They were as hungry for family as we were and soon joined our weekly Sunday lunches after church.

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When You Don’t Recognize God

North Wind
At the Back of the North Wind

“If you can’t see His way past the tears, trust His heart.” – Charles Spurgeon

It is one thing to have wounds inflicted by an enemy, another by your closest friend. At times I felt betrayed by God in grief.  Why God? Why did you allow it?

The enemy laughs. He uses my own heart to taunt me, “Is this your God? Your friend? Your high counselor? Is this who you serve? Is this who you have committed your life to?

Yes” I quietly respond to the assaults. “Though He afflicts me, yet will I trust Him.”

I admit, I am in the dark. I cannot see. I don’t understand why. I don’t know why He allowed somethings this tragedy to happen. Time has passed but I still can’t understand why. I’m still trying to wrap my mind around it all.

I try to concentrate and hold on to what I do know. I do know that my God is sovereign.  He is aware. He allowed it. He filtered it. He is all good and all loving. He is perfect in all His ways. He could have prevented the accident, He could have spared her life. Just a few weeks prior he had saved and spared her life from another accident. But not this time. This time for reasons I don’t understand, He took her in an instant, in a twinkling of an eye she was taken and we were left. Her place knew her no more, her home knew her no more, her children knew her no more, her husband knew her no more, her mother knew her no more, her sisters knew her no more, her friends knew her no more and I knew her no more. Her life was gone and we did all we could to gather what was left behind of her, to salvage every precious memory and token unless they would somehow disappear too.  Yet will I trust Him though I do not understand Him or recognize Him in allowing this.

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Rainy Day

I am running in slow motion today. My mind feels like a record player with its audio speed settings set too low. All my thoughts are stretched and drawn out. They are so slow that at times it seems as if they stop and come to a complete standstill at times. I catch myself staring off into space and losing track of time.    Simple every day items and tasks that once  took me mere seconds to carry out without a second thought, I’m now tripping over.  It took me 10 minutes just to stuff a single envelope and the small fact that the billing address showed through the little window when I was done was a matter of great triumph to me.

I know I need to move, but every moment seems to take so much thought and so much  concentration that I would rather just sit and stare and let the world move forward without me.  My heart has come to a standstill. And if this is my heart right now, I can only imagine hers. As she goes home to stare at a beautiful empty crib, that has never been used. Stacks of diapers that will never be worn.  Baby bottles and baby clothes that need to be cleaned for the very last time.  My heart breaks as it can only imagine what she is going through and how dark her future must seem.

At least the weather today seems to be oddly appropriate with its torrential downpours that we have been experiencing along with its somber gray skies.  There is some peace and consolation  in the idea that the sun refuses to shine today as if a small piece of the world recognizes there has been a major upheaval within it and someone is missing  from within it. The world may not notice, but I know you notice Father, you know, you care and collect all our tears.  Even as the rain comes to mend the parched and cracked ground from this years hot and dry summer, so also the down pouring of our tears have also been sent by you and are working even now towards  healing and mending our hearts.

Lord, you are a foundation that never moves, no matter how much our world shakes around us.  You alone give us our stability. Strengthen us according to your word and allow the downpours to bring forth healing and new life in your due time instead of a flood of further destruction that sweeps so many others away in such circumstances.  I praise you because it is you who keeps us steady and standing, and not our own strength. You alone sustain and carry the weak and weary providing us with shelter and rest in the midst of our storms.

They are like a man building a house, who dug down deep and laid the foundation on rock. When a flood came, the torrent struck that house but could not shake it, because it was well built. But the one who hears my words and does not put them into practice is like a man who built a house on the ground without a foundation. The moment the torrent struck that house, it collapsed and its destruction was complete.” – Luke 6:48-49

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