Archive for August 31st, 2012

We are the object of attention—until the day after the funeral. That’s when everyone’s life returns to normal. Everyone else’s life, that is.

But not ours.

It’s like we’re on the outside looking in. We humans want to fit in, we’re miserable when we don’t. And in the aftermath of grief we don’t belong. Anywhere. We’ve been stuffed in a sack, shaken up and dumped out. Forever changed.

There’s good news and bad news about grief. The bad news? We will never be the same again. The good news? We’re on the way to our new normal.

And the trip can take a while.

The days and the months, perhaps years, creep by and we long for the way things used to be. We choose to isolate or hide behind closed doors so that others can’t see our pain. Or we zoom here and there, filling life with any and everything. Pretending we’re okay. Trying to not think, because thinking hurts.

Family and friends prefer the hyper-active you. Because they want their old friend back. Like you, they want to pretend you’re alright too. But try as you may, the old you is gone. Forever.

Death has brought you face-to-face with a life-changing reality: life in this world is brief.

Things of this world have filled our lives, our relationships, even our worship. Most of us have lived as though this is all there is. In this age of want-more, get-more, we have tethered ourselves to the here-and-now.

Until someone we love dies.

Then our gears are stripped and we come to a screeching halt. We are backed into a corner and forced to decide whether we really believe what we have said we believed all these years. Can we look beyond the immediate to the eternal? That is a major cross-road for each one of us traveling this road called grief. It’s the intersection of a street called Earthly Delusions with the rough, still-under-construction detour named New Normal.

When our daughter died, I wrapped myself in robes of self-righteousness and parroted, “Oh, I know she’s with God and everything is fine. I’m okay. Really. Why no, I’m not angry. With God? Don’t be silly.”

And for two years I walked that I’m okay—you’re okay road ‘til one evening a family dispute raked the scab of the lie off my hypocritical words and I bled rage. The glass full of iced tea flew from my hand and splattered against the wall and I heard my voice scream, “You could have stopped this, God. But You didn’t.”

Ah. There it was. I told Him I didn’t understand and I didn’t like what He had done. But in the deathly silence that followed I had to confess to God, I was angry. Like He didn’t know.

And you know what? God didn’t send a lightening bolt to strike me dead. He didn’t turn His holy back and walk away. He didn’t condemn me.

He opened His arms of love instead, and I crawled into His lap and sobbed. And He comforted me like a loving father comforts his child after the temper tantrum subsides and the child is remorseful.

Because of  His truth and my repentance, those moments produced my first glimpse of hope and joy in two years. How? When the light of God’s truth shoos away the darkness, it illuminates and cleanses the place where anger and bitterness have thrived. Then the power of His Spirit moves into the open spaces and begins to teach us the lessons that, up to now, we’ve refused to learn.

I began learning those lessons in the following months, and my attitude changed. I was convicted of the self-righteous things I had said and the proud ways I had acted in the past. And as I acknowledged my own needs, compassion for others filled my previously cold, indifferent heart.

God brought people into my life, week after week, who were also experiencing the ravages of grief. I could sympathize with the emotions their losses perpetrated. And I was able to comfort them, because God had comforted me. I saw God work in all of our lives and my emotions were refreshed.

Through a series of unusual circumstances God brought me to GriefShare. Then He opened the door for me to lead a support group. At last my new normal was a work in progress.

I came to understand that like a thermometer, happiness was based on my surroundings. But joy springs from my heart and controls my attitude, in spite of my surroundings. Like a thermostat.

Did the pain go away? No. But I learned that joy and pain can co-exist in my heart. 

Pain is the roto-rooter God uses to increase our capacity for the well-spring of joy to continually bubble-up in our hearts. Day by day, I chose to trust God to lead me forward into this sea of new life. Day by day joy became the key to my endurance. And it still carries me forward, day by day.

When our joy is rooted in people and things that perish, grief will become our identity. But when the tap root of our heart’s joy is anchored in Jesus Christ, He will carry us safely through the storms and tragedies of life. And we will grow and blossom when He sets us down to walk in the new normal on the shores of life again.

“The wilderness and the desert will be glad, and the Arabah will rejoice and blossom; like the crocus it will blossom profusely and rejoice with rejoicing and shout of joy. Encourage the exhausted, and strengthen the feeble. Say to those with anxious heart, Take courage, fear not.  . . . But the redeemed will walk there, and the ransomed of the Lord will return, and come with joyful shouting to Zion, with everlasting joy upon their heads. They will find gladness and joy, and sorrow and sighing will flee away” (NAS Isaiah 35:1-4a, 9b-10).

Where are the roots of your joy planted today?

PRESCRIPTION: Go to www.griefshare.org and click on Find A Group. Fill in your zip code and select a group near you. Make plans to attend and let God work that new normal in your life too.

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