It has taken me a week to write this post. I began it and lost the momentum several times, then set it aside and thought to let it go, but when I opened my laptop this morning at the prompting of my Savior, it was there on the screen from where I had walked away from it several days ago, and I know it must be finished and posted. I wish I could say that I have had a new and deepened relationship with Christ over this last week, but the truth is that grief has eclipsed everything. And I know it hasn’t ended, this roller coaster ride we have found ourselves on. At this moment, I have been given the gift of clarity, of connection to my Creator, the balm and comfort of His peace, His touch on my heart. I pray that in the days and weeks ahead we remember that the dark is temporary, the morning is coming.
Time is our enemy. You think you have a lifetime ahead of you to do all the things you want to do, and find out too late that your time is cut short. We are reeling from the headlong rush into the plate glass wall of time. It shattered around us and stopped us in our tracks.
I have spent the last month with my daughter on the journey she has found herself on, involuntarily, unwillingly. That journey came to an end at 3:30 on March 3, 2022, when her beloved husband passed from this life into the next. She is in that in-between place that exists in the cracks of time. As the in-between time closes, she will be picking up the pieces of her life and carrying some of them with her into her new journey. A time of sorting and inventorying and packing up and clearing out will begin before she knows it, and always before she is ready for it.
I have never seen the heartbreak that I stood as a witness to that day. All of us in that cramped hospital room, offering up the pieces of our broken hearts. I was afraid of that time. I have been afraid of the after of that time. I was mad at God over the potential of that time. I’ve asked Him why, I’ve begged Him to save the day, to snap His fingers and reverse all the damage done to my son-in-love’s body. I know He could have. But somewhere inside of me, I didn’t think He would. I didn’t think that would be the next journey my daughter walked.
God moved so many roadblocks on this journey. So many times He came through for us with flying colors. I wondered why He would let us down at the end. When it became clear that his body was failing, that he likely would not survive, I lashed out at our Creator. I was trying to take some bags to my car and couldn’t find the stinking thing. Level after level of this massive parking garage saw my huffing and puffing as I schlepped bags from point A to point Z in search of my errant car. So much had happened in that morbidly eventful day that the time I parked it the night before seemed a decade ago. I stomped back onto the elevator to head back down to a level I had already checked and asked God out loud to please help me find my car. Then I said “I don’t know why I asked You that, I’m mad at you! You never do what I ask You to do!” It took a little while before I felt like hanging my head and telling Him I was sorry for being mean to Him.
I had to walk back into the hospital knowing that my son-in-love was in a desperately frightening situation, and that there was very little hope being held out by the medical team involved in his care. I was distant and restrained within my heart, and I didn’t know where I was going to go from there. I couldn’t imagine picking up with my life as it was in the before, because the after was just too starkly different. I wondered how my faith would change, how it could survive this onslaught at all.
When it was clear he was not going to recover, I became unsure that my daughter would. I never dreamed I would have my own crisis of faith. But I did. Walking the halls of that hospital, sitting in the waiting room in the wee hours of the night, I wondered what life would look like in the after, and how I could continue to tell about how loving and wonderful our Creator Redeemer is when I couldn’t seem to find the words to comfort and reassure my daughter. There were no words. There was nothing I could say, no verse I could quote, no essay that would soothe this horror she was facing. I was not enough for this. And I couldn’t find Him for a time. I had begged Him, we had begged Him together, they had begged Him to change this, to heal him, to make it better. But the answer was no. How could we go forward with that? How could I encourage her to hang on to Jesus after that? How could I hang on to Jesus after that?
But I knew I couldn’t go back either. Nothing that was before could compare to the peace found in a right relationship with my Creator. I remembered saying to my Father on my day of returning that He was my only choice. I had tried everything else and nothing worked, so I had no choice but to try Him. I realized at some point during the dark night of the valley of the shadow of death that that was still true. I still have no other choice but Him.
I couldn’t see ahead to what the future would look like. I couldn’t see ahead to the next day. I couldn’t see how He would have me serve Him outside of supporting my family, but in the immediate, He had me serve right there in the hospital room. He had me pouring out my heart of love for that young man, his broken hearted parents and brother, his devastated wife. There was grace in that hospital room, and it was beautiful. There was love in that room, and it was more than the love of family, it was the love of Jesus. It was His hand on our shoulders, our heads on His heart; His tears falling into our hair, ours wetting His shirt. It was His strength in the moment of my son-in-love’s departure that we would be able to cry out our grief. It was His love and hidden mercies that sustained us in that room.
The crisis of faith turned out to be not a crisis at all. He is still the only option. He is the way, the truth, and the life. He is still the scarred hands that took on the sins of the world. And He is more than a sacrifice, though that sacrifice paid it all for all of us. He is love. He is quiet strength that comes from that well of connection to our Creator, that access we have through Him. He is the joy that seems hidden in the moment but is woven together with compassion and comes from knowing that our loved one is not gone forever, he is just waiting for us to join him.
There’s a song by Elevation Worship called “Here Again.” That song was playing on the way to the hospital for the last time. The lyrics of the song are all beautiful, all meaningful, but one phrase of that song has resonated in my heart for days now. “Not for a minute was I forsaken, the Lord is in this place.” Even in the darkest moment when all is frightening and overwhelming and the heart inside your chest is shattered into dust, you are not alone. We were not forsaken in that hospital room. We are not forsaken now and will not be forsaken as we take steps into this new reality. Not for a minute.
Hidden manna, hidden mercies are all around us. The grace of His love for us is all around us. His strength is all around us. In the little things and in the big, in the dark moments of despair, of grief running in rivers down our faces, in the laughter of shared memories, in the reforging of old friendships, in the deepening of relationships, He is there. Not for a minute are we forsaken.