In my grief I’ve been thinking a lot about Paul in the Bible. And two Scriptures come to my mind the most. First, was when Paul asked for this thorn to be removed, he says,
“8 Three times I pleaded with the Lord about this, that it should leave me. 9 But he said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.’ Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me. 10 For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong.” 2 Cor 12:8-10
And also when Paul talks about pressing forward when he says,
“Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, 2 looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God.” Hebrews 12: 1-2
In these two excerpts from Scripture, I see that Jesus is our strength and our motivator. He is what sustains us and who is our example. The pain we feel in this world is often not removed for our benefit but left for us to endure for our benefit. The experience of God’s grace in our weakness is truly a gift because it is so powerful in grief that it is unmistakable. The calm, the strength, is truly other-worldly and can only come from Him.
I had one of those moments just this afternoon when I got to the grocery store and I remembered my Harry standing at the meat counter, talking to me about which kind of meat he wanted to buy. Silly. So ordinary. But the thought almost made my knees buckle. Because in the same moment I saw a couple fighting over which bread to buy. I wanted to scream at them and tell them to love each other instead of argue. Tears streamed from my eyes and I had no breath left to breathe. I was paralyzed and stuck in that memory and in near rage…much like a rage of a storm on the shore, like a wave crashing hard against the sand. And before I knew it I sucked a bunch of air into my lungs as if God restarted my heart and I let out a long slow breath and I knew God was with me, telling me it was ok to be sad. And I knew He was right there with me telling me to take another step and keep grocery shopping…keep living my life. In HIS strength…not my own. And so I did.
When I think about the weight of grief, It does feel so incredibly heavy. And while I know it’s ok to be sad, I also know that it’s not ok to live there in my sadness. God doesn’t want that for me and I know Harry wouldn’t want that for me either. At some point I must come to terms that I am here on this earth without my person and I must run my race with endurance looking to Jesus because Jesus endured the cross…so very much worse than missing the person I love. There is a bigger picture here…there is more than my pain…and eventually God’s bigger plan for my life will play out and I must embrace the future as much as I cherish the past.
This is what my head is telling me in my sadness. My heart is honestly extremely grateful for a love that could rise above hurt, and addiction, and divorce. My heart has experienced true love. And it was incredibly rich and big and excruciating. But worth it. I got to love someone. I will never regret our quiet, intimate moments that we had together that will be special to me forever.
This past week I was called to my hometown because my mother was very ill. Watching her suffer through two surgeries and seeing her physical weakness reminded me how precious every day is. And how spending our days making a difference in people’s lives is the most important thing we can do in this life. Being there for my mom, for my sisters, and with my sisters and sharing hugs, heartache, and hurts with them is part of being alive. It is also excruciating. Life is the hardest lesson you’ll ever learn…
This year I have endured my boss suffering a severe head injury, having to put my dog down after 11 years together, my ex-husband dying suddenly in my arms at church, and my critically-ill mom being in and out of the hospital since March. My friends have been incredibly supportive and often say, “You’re going through so much…I’m so sorry, I hope you get a break soon.”
Honestly, I would really like that too. But I don’t want to miss out on what God has for me in all of this pain. I am so much more focused on heavenly things instead of things of this world and I think that is the good that God promises in Romans 8:28. Even in suffering God works together everything for our good.
I have to admit I’m not really there yet…I’m not at peace with his death. I still smell his clothes, and try to remember how his skin felt. I’m not ready to let him go. I remember Harry telling me that it was all worth it because I brought him to God. And him saying, “I would trade a year of my life to sit on the couch with you like this for one more night.” I’d hit him every time he’d say that but he said it often. Our last night, we did just that. We sat on the couch talking and watching a movie just like we did when we were dating and falling in love. Only this time we sat quiet and knowing that we didn’t need anything more. Somehow I think we knew.
One of my final moments in his apartment, I looked into his remote caddy, and found some index cards I had written on during our first years we were married. I had a gratitude jar and he pulled about five of his favorite ones and kept them. One of them said this,
April 16, 2015
Harry – you are the love of my life – WE will fix whatever needs fixing. Because our dream of sitting, holding hands and loving each other when we’re 70 is going to happen. Never doubt it. ❤ ME
I exploded in tears when I read those words I wrote so many years ago, knowing he was gone and I would not have him to hold when I’m 70. It was a note full of hope. It really exemplifies our relationship because I was always the cheerleader trying to get him to see our victory. I never did doubt it. I really did think we would end up together in the end. As long as he was alive he was my heart no matter what. As much as I tried to let him go…he had me.
It makes my heart happy to think that even in all of his struggles, and failures, and times when I know he wanted to hate me…he kept that note to motivate and inspire him. It makes me realize how very much he loved me too. It wasn’t that I was a foolish girl standing by her man who didn’t appreciate her. No. Harry did love me just as much or more than Ioved him. I know this.
My solace is that we both knew this and that even though we didn’t get to grow old together, we will see each other in heaven and I will get to embrace his soul into mine once again someday.
Harry was many things to many people. But to me, he was my love. And somehow I must move on. Perhaps the world has it all wrong. Love is not only that happy, airy, light feeling of bliss. Love is truly meant to be excruciating.
God is love and remember that Scripture that said, “who for the joy that was set before Him, He endured the cross…” The word excruciating comes from Latin excruciare, from cruciare, to crucify. It means unbearably painful, or extreme agony. But for Jesus it was a joy for him to endure. To truly love someone is painful and yet it is a joy at the same time.
Our children, our parents, our spouses…He calls us to show them love and to forgive the hurts and when the time comes…to suffer and endure the pain of loss so that we will be made perfect in our weakness. Beauty from ashes. And God’s will is not just for us to be free from pain and heartache once we are in heaven, but to experience freedom in this life from the FEAR of pain and heartache. Let it do its work to perfect us and make us more like Him.
Let pain do it’s work.
I am preaching in this blog to myself. Because I need to hear it. I need to remember these things. I will read this post back in a few days, weeks, months, perhaps even years from now and I will be reminded and counseled by these words.
Life is excruciating for a reason.