Monday, February 24, 2014

What It Feels Like to Move On

Nine months she's been dancing in heaven; bet it feels like eternity, bet it feels glorious.

Nine months now, I've thought of her almost daily.  Nine months now, my daughter has welled up in tears at bedtime asking, "Why did Miss Savannah have to die?"  I still have no good answer to that question.  The answer, "Because God decided it was time for her to go home with Him," falls flat and hard like stale bread after being repeated so often.  I'm to the point where I just want to tell my daughter, "I don't know," and give up on trying to explain God.  But that would be giving in to the anger and the resentment, and even though I don't know, I do trust, so if I relay anything to my daughter, I pray she believes I trust God made the right decision whether I like it or not.

As for me, well, I can think of her now and smile at the corners of my mouth.  The tears still tickle behind my eyes and in the back of my nose, but they don't spill and fall and flow at her every thought.

I can see her beautiful, beautiful face posted by still-grieving friends and smile that I was privileged enough to have known such a beautiful soul here on earth.  Her beauty shines out of the joy she carried wherever she went.

So, I guess, I'm to the point it feels good to remember her and love her and appreciate all the time I had with her, however too short it may have been.  I can feel grateful that God gifted her as part of my life, as part of my story.

I think the phrase time heals all wounds is a lie though.  

For those not as close to her, time might heal the wound completely.  But for the rest of us, the ones in her closer inner circle, I've come to accept there will always be a nasty scar that aches when the weather turns bad or burns and tingles a little when the dead skin underneath is poked and prodded the wrong way.  And for her family, her mother, her father, her sisters, her brother--I'm pretty sure the wound will never heal completely.  Anything can accidentally reopen it and cause it to bleed again, even if just a little.  That's a reality I do not envy them, and I pray specifically Jehovah Rapha (God of healing) is their God daily. (Psalm 22:24; Job 5:18)

No, time will not heal all wounds, but God is sufficient to sustain all wounds. (2 Corinthians 3:5)  His presence in our lives is the ultimate salve of comfort. (Psalm 23:4) His words are the icepack for the swelling.  (Psalm 18:30) The love of His people the bandage needed to protect. (1 Thessalonians 5:11) He has not failed me once in these past nine months.  He has not let me drown in the pit of despair or stay stuck in the muck of sorrow.  No, He has continually set Himself before me and inserted Himself so poignantly that I cannot ignore His overwhelming Self.

When I place my eyes continually on Jesus, I cannot see anything but His glory.  Even when I close my eyes, His glory still shines in the dark, image burned into my retinal being.

No, He has been faithful to place before me His plan.  A plan that seems crazy and over-the-top, but His plan nonetheless.  A journey that I had hoped Savannah Veale would have taken with us at some point in time, even if just for a summer.  I would have adopted her as one of my own in a heartbeat. But no, God's plan was that our family take the next step to California completely on our own, no comforting people from home to join us, no crutch for me to lean into other than Christ alone.

And maybe many of you moving on from this death or other deaths in your life are being asked to do the same thing.  Lean hard into Christ alone.  Support yourself, your decisions, your thoughts, your desires, your everything on Him alone.

Maybe you're still miserable because you've been angry with God.  Why do it His way when you've already given up so much? experienced so much loss?  And while this is a completely normal, rational, earthly response, the fact remains, you will remain miserable.  God is big enough to take the full wrath of your anger.  Let Him have it...then let it go.  Forgive God for designing life different than you planned.  Forgive yourself for blaming God, for being mad at God. Forgive and move on. (So easy to type, so hard to do...another post for another day...)

And when you find yourself moving on again, don't try to do it alone.  You may not be angry at God anymore, but you don't have to be lonely either; you don't have to be a shell of the person you once were.  You can give yourself permission to live life, no, to even ENJOY life.  And when you truly desire that joy in your life again, when you're heart is desperate for the spark and life and hope and purpose to return, guess where you will have to find it?

Right back in the arms of the God who's been there all along. The same God who had the power and right and authority to take things out of your life, also has the power and right and authority to place new things into your life. (Job 1:21, 5:18)   It's a hard pill to swallow sometimes, but for me, I have to sigh and fall into Him even harder and throw my hands up in the air and say, "It's Your plan God.  Not mine.  I really wouldn't want Your job anyway." Acceptance.  And when you finally lean fully into Him, He begins to open your eyes to all the blessings swirling around you that have been there this whole time, and then when you lean a little harder, learn to trust Him a little longer, you start to experience all the things He is continually making new around you. (Revelation 21:5)

And life returns.  And you wake up one day, in the midst of all the grief, and you smile.  And there is joy.  A joy that blooms in the midst of the muck.  And that is why followers of Christ must lean fully into Him through all the trials of life, so the world will see we are the joy that blooms in the midst of the muck.

Joy is a fruit of the Holy Spirit, a natural byproduct.  The Holy Spirit is the Spirit of God the Father and Jesus Christ Themselves.  When we fully lean into Christ, lean into the identity of who we are in Him, we experience joy, but don't be fooled, we possessed joy the minute His Spirit dwelt within us. Possessing a piece of chocolate and experiencing a piece of chocolate are two TOTALLY different ideas. (For lack of a better analogy and want of a simple one.  Joy is so much better than chocolate!)  When we experience joy, the people around us see Christ walking among them. 

The followers of Christ are the only source of true joy this lost world ever has the hope of knowing.

Can you imagine never knowing joy?  Real joy.  The inner joy that keeps you singing even when life has you chained and imprisoned in the moment? (Acts 16:16-40) The kind of joy that invokes praise in the midst of grief, pain, the hard?(Acts 7:54-60) Can you imagine never knowing that?

Those who don't follow Christ have never known that joy, and never have hope of knowing it without Him in their lives.  What they think they know as joy is a far cry from truth.  This world sells them a lie, and sometimes, even as believers, we buy the lie of happiness, success, fame, fortune, charity, denial of self for the good of the many, good works, possessions, ministry, our children, our family, other relationships--the list goes on and on and on.  But what Satan tries to fabricate in our lives as experiences of joy are simply fakes and distractions because they don't even come close to touching the experience of the real thing!

What does it feel like to move on?  It doesn't feel like the end of a storm.  It's not necessarily a sense of relief.  It's not even necessarily the feeling of the lifting of a burden.  Savannah Veale will still be dead when I think about her again the next time, but moving on feels like when that thought comes, when the grief rises, I choose in that moment to lean HARD into Christ.  I mean, I put my full weight right into His arms and His person, and I grab onto the scriptures He's given me through the years, and the knowledge of His unchangeable character that He has revealed in my life, and I lean HARD into Him. No holding back, not an ounce of support on my own two feet, most of the time I stop dead in my tracks, and now sometimes instead of just leaning, I'm learning to do a complete trust fall right into His arms.

And only there, in His presence, in His capable, able arms, in the midst of the hard, in the midst of the leaning and letting go, in the midst of the grief, the hurt, the pain, the difficulty--right smack dab in the middle, with all of it still whirling around me, in the eye of the hurricane of those emotions--I HAVE JOY because I HAVE CHRIST.

Plain and simple.

And let me tell you something, when I have Christ, my countenance, my inner being, carries a strength in Him that springs directly from joy--even in the midst of the hard. (Psalm 28:7)

So the next time you see someone who is struggling (and let's just be honest, aren't we all struggling, all the time, with something, albeit small or big?), the next time you see someone in a situation where they should be struggling, they should be crying in a corner, bent and broken and defeated by their circumstance, they have every right to complain, grumble and criticize, and yet they smile slowly, not forced, but knowingly and tell you God is good, God is sufficient, God is able, God is enough, it's not easy, but God gets me through the day--consider yourself blessed and favored because you've just encountered real joy, you've just been smiled on by Jesus in the flesh.

I must learn better to recognize it, appreciate it, and duplicate it because actually experiencing joy in my life is what it feels like to move on.

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