“Lord, I told you my story and You responded. I shared my grief and You listened to me. Teach me Your ways. Help me understand the meaning of Your commandments so that I can meditate on them and talk about Your wonderful works. I am sad and tired. Say the word, and make me strong again. Build me up again by Your Word. Barricade the road that goes ‘nowhere’. Guide me with Your teachings and give me Your clear revelation. I have chosen to be loyal to You and I choose the road to ‘somewhere’. I follow Your rules closely, Lord. I grasp and cling to whatever You tell me. I do my best to follow Your commands, because You are the One who gives me the desire. God, don’t let me down. I’ll run this path You lay out for me if You’ll just show me how.” Psalm 119:25-32
Last week my world was rocked and forever tipped on its axis when my friend Kate lost her husband Rob unexpectedly and tragically in a paragliding accident. Tomorrow they will bury Rob’s body and even though I know his spirit is already flying with Jesus for all eternity, I have asked God to show me why this grief and pain is totally consuming me and why the tears threaten to flow every time I think of Kate.
Kate is not my best friend. In fact, until recently, although we had known each other for years, we were really not much more than good acquaintances. When we finally got around to spending some time together recently I discovered a woman who I loved immediately for the way she lived her life so honestly and transparently. Kate is authentic and I wish I’d found that out years ago. I don’t claim to know her really well and in fact I really only knew Rob as “Kate’s husband” – the man she adored for over 25 years. I knew him to be a loving husband. A brilliant Dad to four brilliant children. A Pastor. A man of God. A friend to everyone. To meet Rob was to meet a new friend.
Years of experience in ministry has shown me that people respond differently in situations surrounding death and my trepidation in writing this post is that I will be seen to be making Kate’s journey and Kate’s grief all about me. So I want to say right up front that I am fully aware that it’s not “all about me” but what Rob’s death has exposed within me is a deeply hidden, never spoken fear. I believe God has used this tragedy to put His finger on an issue in my life that needs to be revealed and brought into the light.
The question is why has my world been so rocked? Why has my grief been all-consuming and over-whelming? Why have I shed more tears than I thought possible? Why has this hit me so hard, when it’s not all about me?
Because Kate is living my greatest fear.
Right now Kate is walking the most difficult journey of her life. It is an uneven, winding path. A path with no designated steps or no signs up ahead telling her which way to go. It’s a rocky path. And her journey has been my greatest fear for 20 years. My (irrational) fear is that Kate’s journey would someday be my journey. That it would be me having to explain to our four children that my husband, the man I adore, the loving husband, brilliant dad, Pastor, man of God and friend to everyone has just died. It it this fear – indeed, this nightmare – that I live through each and every time Tim comes home later than planned or arranged. It is this (awake) dream I have when my over-active imagination has me choosing photos and thinking of what will be said in a eulogy at his funeral. This week I have felt consumed by a guilt that the journey Kate is walking wasn’t meant for her, it was meant for me.
[Yes, I am aware how screwed up this thinking is.]
So I made a decision this week to process what was happening and why I was feeling like this and as part of processing these fears, thoughts, emotions and feelings I did three things. I admitted and shared my fears with Tim, I talked to my best girl friend and I spent time with God.
Tim hugged me, cried with me and held me tight. No words were necessary. That’s all I needed.
My best friend Johanna gave me the sort of advice that has seen her consistently win the role of Best Friend for over 25 years. She shared her story. A similar story of fear that her husband would die young just as his own mother did. She knew where I was coming from. She didn’t laugh at me. She didn’t brush off my fears. She simply said “Give it to God.” She reminded me I am not in control of Tim’s future. I am not in control of his life. I am not in control of his destiny. I am not in control of the plans or purposes for his life. I am not in control of how long he will live and when he will die. God is in control. And she told me that unless I face this fear head-on and confront the enemy who is holding my future at ransom, I will not be able to move on past my grief. Not now and not next time. I will not be able to get past my own tears and pain to be any sort of support to Kate or anyone else. Unless I find peace about life and death, I will forever be sucked in and locked into a vortex of fear every time someone I know and love dies.
As I spent some quiet time with God, He reminded me that whilst it’s okay to empathize with Kate, her grief and pain – her burden – is not mine to carry. And it’s not okay for me to think that her pain should have been mine.
I am so thankful for His promises that He will lead the blind by ways they have not known, guiding them along unfamiliar paths. I am so grateful that He promises that He will turn the darkness into light make the rough places smooth. His Word tells me that these are the things He will do. He will not forsake Kate and He will not forsake me. (Isaiah 42:16)
As I hand my fears to God, I realize (again), that it’s all just an issue of trust.