Saturday, October 30, 2021

When Crosses Become Gifts

Sometimes I hate writing about grief because it's such a loaded subject. Yet it's such an important issue. This coming Tuesday will be 8 years since Becky went home to heaven. I just made the reservations at the Ethiopian restaurant for our family meal celebrating her life. I probably won't take any pictures that night nor will I blog about the evening; it's just too personal a subject for that. I am overwhelmingly grateful for the way God has sustained me through these years. I will always treasure the times I was driven to my knees because he too had an intimate relationship with suffering and pain. When I did the St. George Marathon in Utah, I had to drive through the desert from the airport to my Airbnb. I had forgotten just how long those desert roads can be. Life is like that desert road. Sometimes the barrenness makes it hard to see the wildflowers all around you. But they are there. Beauty is always there if we will look for it. Sometimes the hot desert wind seems like it'll never stop blowing. But the wind will eventually die down. It always does. For the first two years after Becky's passing I was on that long desert road in the darkness. My heart hurt. But even in the darkness of that night the stars still shone brightly. 

Feel free to write all this off as psychobabble if you like. I'm no psychologist. But I do know that I have gone through a metamorphosis in the past 8 years. During Jesus' earthly ministry he knew what it was like to be weary, hungry, homeless. The religious elite couldn't stand him, but the am ha-arez (the "people of the land," that is, the everyday man and woman) loved him. His suffering had made him accessible to them. It was thus that he "learned obedience" and demonstrated for us the discipline of suffering. 

To walk with Christ is to walk the way of the cross. To live and love is to be vulnerable. It means to open ourselves up to loss and pain. When I married Becky, I never thought in a million years that she would be the first one to go. Marriage, however, means the utter abandonment of all rights to the Master. It will mean pain. But the Lord has been so faithful. I have prostrated myself before him in agony because I know that he has gone before me and that there is a future and a plan. I have learned to love shamelessly, bravely, boldly, and daringly. To take chances. To surrender. What I've slowly come to realize over the years is that the people I admire the most are extraordinarily normal. They aren't superhuman freaks. They are just people who have ignored the temptation to take the easy route in life and instead are doing something with their lives despite the suffering and loss. I'm trying to make that my philosophy of life too. Becky and I had 37 years and 2 months together. And then the Lord in whom there is "never the slightest variation or shadow of inconsistency" gave me singleness as a gift of his love. Would I accept it? Would I thank him for it?

I did, and I have. I have found peace. I'm not saying that I'm never lonely. Or that I don't miss her. I do. But the peace that Christ offers comes through acceptance. At the feet of Jesus our crosses are changed into gifts. 

In the meantime, let's not forget to rally around those who are suffering, just as they do the same for us when we can't get up. Let's be there for each other. That's all we can do -- love each other and be loved.