Long and winding road

The last six weeks I have felt the pressure of a silent blog.  In July, after a wonderful time with family over the 4th and some insights from being in the small country church that my uncle pastors, I had a pretty solid piece to post.  Even though I was away from my regular choir, that Sunday I enjoyed singing songs with the congregation that took me back to my childhood days of familiar Bible songs and old hymns that hadn’t passed through my vocal chords in a long time.

But I just wasn’t able to post what I wrote.  It was fine.  It would have been okay, but the problem was that it wasn’t coming from where I really was at the time.

Weeks later, it feels like not much has changed.  It has nothing to do with writer’s block.  I’ve had plenty to say.  I just haven’t known how to say it.

Back at my home church a couple of weeks ago as I sat with my choir again, the priest outlined some spiritual dichotomies in her sermon:

Hope vs. Fear

Faith vs. Doubt

Truth vs. Deception

Fear, doubt and deception have been rattling around in my head and heart a lot lately. It’s hard to write about that because these dichotomies also relate to the fact that I’ve been grappling with a familiar friend again:  Grief.  Grief it seems is not done with me.

You know grief.  Grief comes from all those broken places—the things our fallen world gives evidence to.  It’s the too-soon death of someone, the shattered marriage, the senseless crime against the innocent, an unhealed disease in a helpless child, and numerous other painful realities in life.

But our world does not stop for these things.

I’ve come to understand that I have greatly underestimated grief.  There have been numerous times when I think it’s over, and that grief will come to visit no more.  I’m not talking about guilt or feeling unforgiven, though sometimes that is a natural side dish to grief. No, I’m talking about the long arch that grief seemingly requires us to follow and the process that it takes to go through it.

This last year as I’ve been focused on starting over again, I’ve been especially ready to be done with grief.  I have times when I feel like my old hopeful self, and then out of the blue like a crushing boulder that un-welcomed friend returns.

It’s hard when you are striving for a bright new future to give grief enough room or time to work itself out.  We tell ourselves, and others, well-meaning things like, “Life must go on.”  True enough.  But grief demands attention, and we can’t ignore it.  We can call it other things; we can make excuses, but grief will still have its way through us.

In a strange way though, grief really is a friend.  I’m convinced that I would not be as dependent on God as I am today if it weren’t for the pain that I’ve journeyed through.  A few years ago, I was leading a conference while dealing with a lot of tough stuff in my personal life.  Though I didn’t share my story, as it would have been unprofessional in that setting, I was often moved during the times we all came together to worship and pray.

At one of the worship times, I led prayer from the platform and cried a bit.  Weeks later someone who had attended the conference was critical of my emotion during that prayer.  I know that God was working in me and through me at that event. Unfortunately, the raw and tender places we find ourselves in during hard times can be unsettling to others, especially if they have never been broken.

To this day I distinctly remember that in my private prayers after the conference that I thanked God for the raw place I was in, and I asked to never be so comfortable and distant in my approach to Him that I lose touch with His awesome love and power. That is what I prayed earnestly and yet, lately I find myself really longing for the feeling of something new—I yearn to feel like I did before the brokenness.

When grief keeps calling in it’s relentless way, I sometimes can’t tell if God is breaking me down even further so that I will trust Him more or if because I’m trusting Him more, I’m under enemy attack. As Paul related:

“We were under great pressure, far beyond our ability to endure, so that we despaired even of life.  Indeed, in our hearts we felt the sentence of death. But this happened that we might not rely on ourselves but on God…” (2 Cor. 1:8-9)

My prayer on good days is very focused on God being in control of all of my concerns.  On the bad days I pick the burdens back up.  I hold on to them fiercely and stupidly. I go back to analyze the bad choices, the painful things that seem like harsh realities, and I circle high above the bones of issues that are picked dry still looking for better insight as I obsess over “whys.”  Sometimes I grieve because I know exactly why, and those are perhaps the hardest moments of all.

I’ve been told this dance is normal.  It’s tiresome though.  Many times I feel like I’m clawing my way back to myself. I passionately want to learn from my missteps and heartache.  I know that the learning won’t help me necessarily avoid future pain, but I want to grow stronger in ways that make me love more deeply, share faith more confidently, and live a content life while striving for Christ to be at the exact center of my life.

For me to get real about this means doing these things without the hope of a husband, without the security of a good job, and without the promise of many old dreams somehow coming true. Somewhere in all the things I’m getting right and wrong in life, I’m glad that I can say that just living for Christ is my ultimate dream.

But submission looks great on paper and is much harder to live out.  Some days are a test, a tug of war, over my tired dreams that He is painfully reshaping into His exact purpose.  As I pick up the verse from where it left off:

“But this happened that we might not rely on ourselves but on God, who raises the dead. He has delivered us from such peril, and he will deliver us, on him we have set our hope…” (2 Corinthians 1:9-10)

After the sermon we sang All My Hope on God is Founded, and this simple verse spoke to me (emphasis mine):

All my hope on God is founded; He doth still my trust renew,
Me through change and chance He guideth, only good and only true.
God unknown, He alone calls my heart to be His own.

If you haven’t been broken, you may not relate at all to what I’ve shared here.  And that’s okay.  Someday you may.  If you do, be sure to give grief it’s due.  Fighting grief will get you nowhere.  Instead, try to look at your time of working through grief as a long and winding road back to hope.  That’s where I am…on that road somewhere. I’m finally chasing after a hope that is real, and with God’s help I’ll see it through. Amen.

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6 Comments to “Long and winding road”

  1. What a beautiful, transparent post. Thank you for sharing a piece of the journey…

  2. Kim, what a great commentary! Thanks for sharing your struggle and being transparent about the process! You’re the best!
    Chuck

  3. Kim,
    What a clear verbal picture of grief. Thank you for being willing to enter that place and then courageously giving it words. 2 Corinthians 1:3-4. “Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, SO THAT we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we have received from God.”
    I used to think I knew what God’s comfort looked and felt like. I thought it was a feeling of peace and safety, like a big celestial hug. However, like you, I’m discovering that more often his comfort doesn’t rescue us from the pain but encourages us to look and learn through the pain. That’s what you’ve done through this blog. You have allowed God to work through your own place of brokenness for our comfort, our encouragement and good. Thank you…
    I’m standing and applauding dear friend,
    With much love,
    Carter

  4. Beautiful, vulnerable expressions, my friend.

  5. Another line from that wonderful hymn:

    But God’s power, hour by hour, is my temple and my tower.

  6. Thank you for sharing this hard, personal journey Kim. I know it can help others who are feeling the same way. Praying that God gives you that moment by moment peace and strength to move onto the next moment….and to thrive and not just survive.

    I have been finding power from a simple phrase I heard:

    “Give up all hope of a better past”.

    As you always say to us, “God’s peace”.

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