Nothing Can Separate…

This past Sunday marked 8 months since Travis went to heaven. Sometimes I wonder how that is possible, it does not seem that long.  Other days, it feels like it has been a whole lot longer.

I would love to say that we are doing well but in all truthfulness and reality, we are not.  It’s hard…it’s a struggle…and frankly, it’s just painful. It makes me think of the line from Sleepless in Seattle where Tom Hanks says that he chooses to get out of bed every day and breathe in and out and one day he hopes to find that its not so hard to get out of bed or breathe in and out.  That’s the day I’m waiting for…for me…for my children…for all those who miss Travis.

In the midst of that pain and struggle is another struggle…my struggle with God, with His choices, with my view of Him, my experience of Him, my knowledge of Him.  There has not been much communication between God and I or even anything relational between us, at least from my end. Right now, I just find it hard to be in relationship with a God who seems a little reckless and haphazard in His actions.  I am trying to reconcile that notion with having a relationship with Him.  I still believe in His sovereignty, in the truth that His ways and thoughts are higher than mine but I can not seem to accept the pain and suffering that His ways have brought into my life and the lives of my children.  I do not understand.  I do not get it and frankly, it just makes my head hurt sometimes to even think about it.

That has brought me to a place where I just can not seem to function in this relationship with Him.  I just do not have the energy, emotion or desire to be an active part right now in my relationship with Him.  I have not felt any guilt about that, it is just where I am. I figure that He knows that better than anyone and He is okay with that. I had experienced levels of this during Travis’ illness but it has been more apparent since his death.

About a month ago, I was reading a book about a man who had lost his mother, wife and daughter in an car accident.  This is what he said, “For months I felt shattered as a human being.  I could do nothing for God and had little desire to obey Him.  Night after night, I sat in my living room, unable to say anything, to pray anything or do anything.  I was empty of energy and desire.  All I could do was let God love me, even though I hardly believed that He loved anyone, least of all me. I had no idea how I could ever really believe again or if I even wanted to. I had no will or desire for it.  But somehow I believed that not even my weakness of faith bothered God much.  God loved me in my misery.  He loved me because I was miserable.”

My first thought was, “Wow! Okay, so I’m not the only one and this is normal for where I am.”  Then the passage from Romans 8:38-39 popped in my head.  I have always viewed those verses, in the past, in terms of the fact that nothing I ever did would separate me from the love of God.   I do not know why I thought of it that way but I just did.  After those verses popped into my head, I heard God say to me, “Tammy, you may never participate in this relationship with Me again and I am still going to love you and pursue you.”  What?! I had to think about that for a while.

On one level, it made sense.  When Christ died and even before we acknowledged Him in our lives, God loved us.  He pursued us even though we were doing nothing in return.  Somewhere in our walks with God, we get hung up on doing “our part” in the relationship.  Yes, obedience is born and should be born out of love but sometimes I think there is a subtle shift in our thinking that assumes that our part in the relationship keeps God doing his part in the relationship.  That could not be further from the truth.

All I can really say is that in that moment, it felt like the pressure was off…a burden was lifted.  I have not resigned myself to walking away from God or my relationship with Him but suddenly Him loving me and pursuing me is not dependent on what I do or even my inability to love Him in return.  Truthfully, it never really was.

Where does that leave me?  The next excerpt from this gentleman sums it up well, “…Still a problem remained.  God may have promised forgiveness and unconditional love.  But I wondered if I could trust a God who allowed or caused suffering in the first place.  My loss made God seem distant and unfriendly, as if He lacked the power or desire to prevent or deliver me from suffering.  Though I believed my transformation depended on the grace of God, I was not sure I could trust this God.  Was it even possible to believe in God, considering what had happened?” I guess I am also waiting for the day when I can answer that question too.

“No one ever told me that grief felt so much like fear.”–C.S. Lewis, A Grief Observed

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Christian Cliches about Death

I realize that this post may be controversial with quite a few in the body of Christ but I felt it important to post anyway.  Just because something has always been quoted or said in Christian circles does not make it Biblically accurate.

Unfortunately, I have heard my own share of comments during this time and it has made me very sorrowful that the Body of Christ responds to grief and sorrow in this way.  I believe that this is something that God wants to teach us.  I am fairly certain that Jesus/God has not said and would not say any of the following statements to a person who has experienced loss.

The following is a writing from a pastor who lost his daughter:

When a person suffers the devastating loss of a loved one, you should–however well-intentioned you might be-keep your mouth shut.  Or at the very least, you should think long and hard before you say anything.  Here are some things I recently heard that did not help, and frankly were not true.
1)  “The Lord gives and the Lord takes away.” Not a saying from God, rather it’s a poorly-informed Job, who was later forced to revise his opinion.  As it happens, it was Satan who devastated Job’s life and family.
2) “You’ll get over it soon.” Wrong.  I hope I never get over the loss of my daughter. I don’t want to forget her love, her smile, her joys, her sorrows, and so many millions of other things that formed the sum total of her life.  I do not intend to get over it.  I intend to get beyond it by the grace of God, but in no way forgetting what happened to her at the end of her life in this world.  There will always be a Christy-shaped hole in my heart. Period.
3) “Sorry about your lost loved one.” This is well meant, of course, but bad theology.  Christy is not lost.  I right where to find her.  She is safe in the arms of Jesus.  One of our good Christian friends shared this experience with me from her charismatic prayer time, this week: “The Holy Spirit came upon the prayer so mightily.  My heart was not heavy, like it was before that prayer, and the witness the precious Holy Spirit gave us was that Christy has made it home.  I know she is home, but the prayer made it very real to us.” Exactly right.  She has gone before us, but is not a lost loved one wandering in oblivion.  She is a found loved one who has found her home in Christ.
4) “Well, at least you still have your son.” I am indeed very thankful our son and our Russian daughter alive and well, but I don’t believe in compensatory theology.  Having other children does not make the loss of Christy any less hard to bear.  As John Donne says, “Any man’s death diminishes me, for I am a part of mankind.” All the more so when it’s a member of my own family.
5) “God will make up for this with a twofold blessing.” Again, I don’t think God is a practitioner of some sort of new math or compensatory calculus, running the universe.  God has not been a naughty boy taking away my sweet-pea named Christy, and he has nothing to make up for.  I certainly do believe God works everything together for good, for those who love him.
So I leave myself open to such working, trusting it will make me better, not bitter.