Sunday, January 05, 2014

Beautiful Grief

I saw him today. 

His picture, that is. 

I went to my husband's computer to find a picture of a dear friend who just passed away, and there it was. I tried not to see it ever again, but I did. At first I thought it was Jackson or Annabeth in a hospital bassinet, but when I looked closer it was a baby with olive skin and black eyes wearing a white hat. I had put the Baby Gap hat in my purse to take home from the hospital and wash and then I never got to go back. It sits in a drawer in the stripped-bare nursery. 

Half a second later I was crying. Most of the time when I cry, it comes on slowly. But now it comes in a blink. 

Last night I visited a precious friend I've known for as long as I can remember. Her name is Vicky. She and her husband Louie were part of the core team of our church plant. They were one of a handful of older couples who showed us great mercy by joining our team. Their daughters are my friends and are close to my age. Louie passed away suddenly on Friday. He was sweet and hilarious and an adoring husband, daddy and grandpa. He loved Jesus. The quiet of his absence will be very loud for this family. 

While I was visiting with Vicky I thought about the demand our culture puts on us to be okay. I wondered if she was already feeling it. I wanted to stand between her and the Lie and slay it. I wanted to yell, "This is the worst thing she's ever gone through! There's no way she could be okay right now. This is terribly sad!" 

I wanted to fight for her. 

But a few days ago I wanted to fight myself. 

I was drying my hair in front of a mirror. I was having a sad day. A mad day. The expression I saw in my eyes was one of self-hatred.  

I hated myself because I could not control my emotions. 

I hated myself because I was rejected. 

I hated myself because I'm supposed to sing "Blessed Be the Name of the Lord" with my hands lifted to heaven and smile through my tears. I'm supposed to say how sweet and intimate my fellowship with God has been since I was crushed on October 14, 2013. 

It's not going down like that. I'm glad it does for some people. Those people have been given very special grace. There have been some moments like that, but largely this has been ugly and brutal. 

Perhaps I witnessed someone having a Beautiful Grief Day and I thought that's how it's always done. I read the amazing testimony she wrote and thought that's normal for every day. Why would I expect less from myself? I'm in ministry, after all. This Beautiful Grief should be natural for me. 

Um, no. 

This is not how I wanted to grieve, God. I wanted to be good at this. I didn't want to be mad at You. I didn't want to lash out at my husband and kids. I didn't want to use words that would shock people and let them know how rotten I felt. I didn't want to be cynical. 

The bright spot in this season is that I am really, really in touch with God's grace. I'm freshly aware that my relationship with God depends on His Son's perfection and not my own. This was something I came to know when I was a college student trying to get my very sinful life turned around. Now I'm a 34-year-old pastor's wife, just as relieved to be given grace as I was then. She who has been forgiven much loves much. Thank You, God. Help that love outweigh my questions and confusion in infinite measure.