“I am never going to let anyone get close enough to me to cause this kind of pain ever again.” That’s what I vowed soon after the death of my husband. And, I meant it. I would avoid the excruciating ordeal of losing another deeply loved person at all costs. I would guard my teenage children with a passion and they would be my life. That would be enough. I had fallen in love once and it was wonderful, but the fear of loss and that punch-in-the-gut feeling was too much to endure again. And with that, I worked diligently at shutting that part of me down.
At first, it wasn’t too difficult. I threw myself into activities that didn’t require much of “me.” I was a football mom, a band mom, a wrestling mom. I even volunteered to help with track meets and I wasn’t a track mom. AT church, I led a Bible Fellowship class within our youth group and I directed the Children’s choir. In those moments when activities didn’t fill my thoughts, Grief took over. There were many friends that were supporting me and trying to help me get on with life. Unfortunately, I tended to focus on those that offered support and then weren’t really available when I needed their help. This was further evidence, in my mind at least, that I shouldn’t let anyone into my life. They would only let me down or disappear from my life. I had to be strong and self-sufficient. I would take care of Zac and Gracie. I didn’t need anyone else. I continued to shut down.
I discovered that you can’t just shut down pieces of yourself. It’s an all or nothing venture. While I was doing a very good job of keeping myself “safe” from other people, I was also distancing myself from friends that I wanted and needed. 1 John 4:8 states “Whoever does not love, does not know God, because God is love.” In my attempt to never be hurt by love ever again, I had distanced myself from all love: including, the love of my God.
A friend reminded me that the pain I felt after Terry’s death was proportional to love that I’d had for him. I wouldn’t give up a minute of the time I had with him in order to hurt less. So, although I’m still determined to be strong and self-sufficient in order to take care of my family and myself, I’ve come to the realization that I have to leave myself open to the danger that is inherent in loving others. Love doesn’t have to include romance. I’ve come to value the love that is part of a dear friendship. But, love will always include the risk of being hurt. That’s the risk we have to take. It’s a risk well worth taking!
My God-sized dream for 2013: to grow in my love for God and people.
Since I live in the Houston area, I spend time in traffic. I’m always amazed (and at times irritated) by the liberties taken by some of my fellow drivers. When merging onto the freeway, there’s always that one driver that just has to cut in front of me; even though there are no cars behind me! Just this morning, traffic was particularly heavy because of rainy weather, I saw several cars wait until the last-minute to move into the right lane so they could make the next corner. In fact, one driver waited so long, he made his right turn from the middle lane having never made it into the right turn lane. Fortunately, the driver in that turn lane was watching and avoided their potential crash meeting. I’m sure the middle lane person had a REALLY important place to be and that superseded any appointments of those drivers that he cut-off with reckless abandon. He NEEDED that short-cut!
Our world is full of short-cuts. we have learned the short-cut keys to use on the computer to save key strokes. Call ahead to be put your name on the restaurant waiting list before you even arrive. Cut thru neighborhoods to avoid traffic. Check out the latest “miracle” diet that guarantees quick weight-loss. We buy microwaves, turbo ovens, pressure cookers, and any other device that is FAST. We rush into physical relationships based on emotions and personal desires. Faster is better. My time is important, I need to maximize it. I AM IMPORTANT!
And then I read Psalm 27:14. “Wait for the Lord; be strong and take heart and wait for the Lord.” Wait. Really? There are no short-cuts with God. God has a plan for my life. And, no matter how much I beg, whine, or complain, that plan will be revealed in God’s time. I am to wait for Him. I am to develop my relationship with Him. When I attempt to jump ahead of the line and get MY way, I miss important parts of the journey. And, I usually end up circling around to the back of the line, anyway. Wait. Just Wait. Such any easy concept and yet so hard to accomplish.
In 2013, I’m learning to wait. How about you?
A friend posted this question recently and it has haunted me ever since: “If everything else collapses around you, and all you have left is Jesus, will he be enough?” My initial reaction is to answer with a resounding “YES!” That’s what’s expected, right? But, is it truth? Would I be like Stephen in the New Testament and take a stand for Christ even if it meant death? Or, am I more like Peter: big talk, but when the time comes deny I even knew Him?
In 2005, the life I knew and loved died. My plans for the future, my dreams were all destroyed by the simple words: “He’s gone.” Those words took all of the air out of the room. And, truthfully, it took years to learn to fully breath again. Outwardly, not much had changed. I still had my job. I still had a home. I still had two kids, my parents, my extended family. I was surrounded by friends. But HE was gone. I was now a single mom and I did not have a CLUE about how to move forward. I was paralyzed in a world that refused to slow down.
During those dark months, I struggled with what I believed. Music that had always been a balm to troubles was just too painful. I questioned everything I had said I believed over the years. I approached my stated doctrines much as I had approached proofs in geometry and dissected each one. I walked miles around the dining room table in the silence of the night and begged God to make the pain stop, to just bring my husband back. I questioned God over and over. I cried out in anger that I just didn’t understand why. I even provided God a list of people who He should have taken instead of my husband. I never lost my faith in God, but I questioned everything.
As I have moved through my grief, I can stand confidently and tell you what I believe. It’s no longer based on head knowledge that just spouts the right answers to the questions. It’s from my heart and soul, borne from many tearful and painful days.
So, if everything else collapses around me, and all I have left is Jesus, is He enough? I can say “yes”. It doesn’t mean that I will not be sad or upset. I reserve that right! It’s just that maybe, I will be a little more like Stephen.
I don’t like to fail. I don’t like to look silly. As a result, I very rarely attempt anything unless I have a pretty good idea that I will do well at it. I’ve been told I probably missed out on a lot of fun things, but I just saw no need to take a chance on failure. As an adult, I find that I have a similar response to setting goals. This year has been no different. At work and in private, I’m being urged (and in some cases required) to set goals. I. Hate. It. Everything I read, seems to ask: “What is your purpose?” “What is your dream?” or “What is your goal?” And every time, I draw a blank. I just don’t know. Is that bad? I put off any required goal setting to the very last-minute. I don’t want to fail, so I don’t want to document the possibility of failure. Why take a chance?
Several years ago, a friend asked me where I wanted to be in five years. I was recently widowed and could honestly say that every goal or dream I had for the future was buried with my husband. I had a hard time seeing into the next week, much less imagining the next five years. In fact, the very idea of the future was just too painful at that time. So, I stopped dreaming. I stopped planning. I just moved from one day to the next. I guess I didn’t totally stop all planning. I still had to manage a household. I had kids that needed support and guidance. But, my goals were often day-to-day survival. I’ve progressed to a little more long-term planning. But sometimes, I think I’ve forgotten how to dream.
A recent blog by Holley Gerth, has challenged me to find my God-sized dream. I honestly don’t know what that dream looks like in my life. I’m asking to God to show me my dream, to give me the courage to actually dream. Am I brave enough to dream again? Am I willing to look silly in order to dream? Am I truly ready to expose my heart again to dreams and goals that may result in pain along the way? I think I am. I hope I am.