Joy and I have struggled a lot over the last 11 months; worry and not knowing through the pregnancy, planning for potential hurt once our baby was born, endless days standing helplessly next to a hospital bed watching Maggie’s hurt, and finally a death and a funeral. At times we felt incredibly loved and supported, and at other times we have felt the sting of loneliness, almost as if we died with her.
I’ve learned that expectations are dangerous. I know what I expect from family, friends and church family as we slog through the mire of grief. I hold them to a certain standard, even if I haven’t told them what that standard is. It’s easy for bitterness to grow when others don’t stand up to my expectations, but I now know I haven’t told anyone what I need.
I talked with a good friend on Sunday about this. I expressed how detached Joy and I are feeling and he told me what I already know and have been talking about for months. “We just don’t know what to say,” he told me.
The American culture doesn’t know how to grieve, and we certainly don’t have any idea about how to support others who are grieving. I’ve drawn a parallel to Christianity, and I hope this makes sense. This is a great generalization based on my experiences, so please know I am not pointing fingers. I am pointing out the things I’ve seen in my life and the others around me.
People around us don’t know what to say, so they don’t say anything. If we disappear for a few weeks they don’t send cards or messages. They don’t stop by to check on us. They would rather not try, and possibly feel awkward, then try to at all.
Isn’t this the way we are as Christians? It’s really hard to know what to say. ‘I don’t want to possibly drive someone away or scare them off, so I’ll keep my distance or just not say anything.’ All too often I find myself being that guy in my Christian walk. I rationalize my apathy instead of doing what I know is right.
I’ve known for years that a major struggle for me is that I care more about what people think of me and my actions that I care about what God thinks of me. It’s a sad thing, but it’s often true. I would rather fit in than have a moment of discomfort to honor my God.
I am convicted that this is yet one more lesson I’ve learned through Maggie’s death, and I’m sure it’s meant for me to share with others. Look into yourself and ask, “Is this action or lack of action one of self preservation, or is it one of God’s glorification?”
A hundred years ago when someone lost a family member, friends and family would come over and “sit with them.” They would be there quietly showing support and helping out where it was needed. My friend Kevin calls this the ministry of presence. It’s certainly important in loss, but I think it’s terribly important in our Christian walk as well. Just be there in relationship with people. Show up. When the opportunity to say something appropriate comes up, say it. But there’s no reason to force a sermon on an unbeliever who doesn’t know you are trustworthy the same way there is no reason to force a, “God needed another angel” on a grieving parent.
I haven’t written in a while, and I know why. I’ve been hiding from my hurt and trying to fill it with everything but attention. I’m starting to face a lot of it now, so you may see a new post every couple of weeks instead of every month.
I’m planning a solo backpacking trip in November. It’s my vision quest. I’m leaving television, internet, games, tasty food, books, friends, my wife, my dogs, and everything else I’ve used to self medicate behind. I’ll bring my notebook (made of paper, not a laptop) and my bible on a five-day hike. I think of Elijah and his mountaintop experience in 1 Kings 19. He was scared and empty, so he went to the wilderness and waited on God. This is what I plan to do. Please pray for this time. I am in deep need of intervention from our God. My heart hurts and my soul is weary.
For those of you still reading, thank you. My hope for healing is in knowing that God uses my pierced heart to show others his work. I am a beaten sinner, but I know God still loves me and uses me for the good of His Kingdom. This is why I still write, love and believe.