It’s been 37 days. It seems, at the same time, both short and long. A blip and an eon. In the way of grief from tragedy, the balance has changed in those 37 days from all grief to mostly grief with some joy, to grief and joy in equal measures, to joy with a lot of grief, to a lot of joy with some grief, to all joy. And then there are days where it’s all grief again.
There is a sharp divide around a tragedy. The before and after rarely look anything alike. There is a lethargy that seeps in and takes hold, like mud on your shoes. Every step is difficult, takes so much effort, and the mud sucks you back down every time you try to move forward. Fighting against it is tiring and overwhelming.
I have struggled with so many things over the past 37 days. Balancing my grief with caring for my daughter in hers is hard. It comes in waves, and sometimes those waves take us under. I have struggled with picking back up with the “normal” things. I didn’t want to, and still have days where I don’t want to. I don’t want to do normal things because it feels like abandonment. It feels disloyal. It feels wrong. I have struggled with the joy brought from spending a great deal of time with my daughter, grandsons, and my son-in-law’s family, and the closeness it has brought to all of us. We are forging a unit of interwoven lives and it is beautiful, but then it will hit me out of the blue that he’s missing and it breaks my heart.
I have struggled with the changes this event has brought in my own life, because I’m inherently selfish and self-centered and sometimes all I can see is what is right in front of me. I look at the life that emerged from my divorce and the last calendar month bears very little resemblance to that quiet and solitary existence. And while I wouldn’t change anything I’m doing now, it still requires adjustment from someone who doesn’t adjust well.
I am just now getting back to being able to study and write on a somewhat normal basis. My work, the job that God Himself gave me and which I enjoy so much, takes up a great deal of time, and the time outside of work is spread thin over my family, the basic need for sleep, and other obligations that were put in place prior to this season. It has stifled my ability to access the creativity that God has given me, and that’s a worrisome reality. Once again I find myself in need of more time.
I wonder sometimes what God is doing with this season of my life. Because it bears so little resemblance to what was before, I have a difficult time merging the two realities. I can’t see what will come of this, how He will use this toward His purpose for this life He has loaned me. I look at the things God has done in my life, the things He has led me to do, and I don’t know how they figure in to this new reality.
There’s a saying I’ve heard that says “don’t doubt in the dark what God has shown you in the light.” Easier said than done. What am I supposed to do with all the building blocks I felt certain God had placed in my life? They’re all sitting around, like a construction site just waiting for the contractor to show up with his crews. I believe God has something in mind for them, I believe He is not finished with the life He gave me yet. I just don’t see how He’s going to use what He’s put in place considering this gaping hole in the ground around my heart.
I realize it’s early days yet in the aftermath. I realize intellectually that I’m grieving not only for myself but also for my daughter and grandsons and other loved ones. I realize that life goes on, but I don’t want it to. Not without my son-in-law. I see-saw back and forth between reasonable and rational, and stubbornly clinging to the pain and accompanying lethargy.
And with all of that, I’ve learned some things. I’ve learned that I truly do believe that God is good. I believe it with all my heart. He must be. He can’t be otherwise, and I believe it. I wrote a couple of months ago in a post called “The Story I’ll Tell” that I wanted to be able to say that my God did not fail. And I can say that. The worst happened. The heartbreak is incalculable, the pain immeasurable, but God did not fail. I still love Him, and that’s not through my own strength or faithfulness, but because of His.
He is good. I think that’s been one of the hardest things for me to truly grasp, truly believe throughout my life. Prior to Him getting ahold of my heart, my concept of God has always been of an angry, distant Being just waiting to punish me for my failures and flaws and sins. I have superimposed my impressions of others in my life onto Him and assumed that’s how He really was. I have spent years missing the point, missing the heart of Him. He has spent over a year and a half introducing Himself to me, correcting my misconceptions, and I am so thankful.
I’ve been worried about how I would defend God to those affected by this tragedy, to those dealing with their own tragedies and losses. I’ve had a low-grade fear that I wouldn’t be able to convince anyone of His love and goodness and mercy, all the things He has shown me since He brought me back to Himself. He is teaching me to let that go. To let Him defend His own name. To be still and know that He is God.
I don’t want anyone to be mad at God. He’s my Person. He does things, allows things that I don’t understand, that hurt, but He’s still my Person. He’s still my Savior, He’s still good. He’s my Rock and my fortress. He’s the One I run to when I’m scared. He’s the One who is always there, who will never leave me. The only One who will never let me down. Even when it feels like He’s let me down. He is love, and I’ve experienced it, I’ve felt it, I’ve been changed by it, am being changed by it.
It’s not just that He’s there when we need Him, because that implies there are times when we don’t. It’s not just that He’s an ever-present help in times of trouble, it’s that He’s ever-present. It’s not what He can do for me, it’s who He is. It’s Him. I love Him and I want others to fall in love with Him too, because it will change your life. I want to follow Him, I want to walk behind Him, in His shadow, because I know right there is the safest place I can be.
I don’t know what He’s doing, and I don’t know where He’s going. I don’t know how He is going to tie everything together to work for His glory and my good, for the good of my daughter and grandsons, my daughter’s in-laws who have become as much my family as hers. But I know that His hand is on everything. I know that He is at work. And I know that He is good.