His banner over me

Lord Jesus, You are here. Whether I feel You or not, whether I talk to You or not, You permeate the atmosphere. I know this is true. When my pleas begin—and end—with “Lord Jesus…” because I don’t have the capacity to form another syllable, You are here. When I lie down to sleep, You cradle ...

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Lord Jesus,

You are here. Whether I feel You or not, whether I talk to You or not, You permeate the atmosphere. I know this is true. When my pleas begin—and end—with “Lord Jesus…” because I don’t have the capacity to form another syllable, You are here. When I lie down to sleep, You cradle me. When my tears fall, I feel Your comfort.

Even so, I don’t know how to do this.

When I lost Mom, I felt as though You’d abandoned me. Later, I realized that if I didn’t feel You then, it was because I had pushed You away.

Oh, Lord, I want to lean on You this time. I want to abide in the shelter of Your wings. I want to draw my strength from You. I want to find joy and I long to worship you in the midst of it all.

But honestly, I don’t know if I can.

I’ve been functioning on auto-pilot. Facts, statistics, details. Because that’s all I think I can handle right now. Facts don’t require emotions.

But you know what else I know? Your banner over me is love. (Song of Solomon 2:4)

When I hold Dad’s hand in the middle of the night, soothing him in the wake of the hallucinations caused by his pain meds—when I show him love—You are here.

When we make his favorite foods or order carryout from Little Mexico, hoping to find something he’ll eat, Your banner of love is waving overhead. When he commented that the sunflowers I bought for his room reminded him of Van Gogh’s famous painting, I smiled because I already knew that, and You were here.

When we set our alarms to give him his meds around the clock, when we help him brush his teeth or adjust his oxygen or refill his water glass or hold his straw or call the hospice nurse with questions or respond to people’s messages or lie in the dark alongside him, tears streaming, unable to sleep, You are here. When we sit beside him, hearing the sounds of his labored breathing, checking his skin for mottling, watching him grimace in pain, squeezing drops of liquid pain medicine into his mouth, listening to the incoherent words he’s mumbling, even when we know he is no longer aware of us being here, You are here.

Wherever love is present, You are too.

Love isn’t the problem. This is: I am certain that I am not strong enough to do this. I don’t know how to move forward after the inevitable conclusion, even though I simultaneously long for it to hasten to arrive.

When Mom died, I felt as though there was nothing to tether me any longer. I felt like I was loose, lost, free (but not in a good way). I lost all sense of who I was when she wasn’t around to define me, to know me. I don’t know what losing Dad is going to do to me. Mom’s personality was strong, and I spent much of my life resisting her. It didn’t stop me from loving her, or calling her three times a day, but it was a different relationship than the one I have with Dad.

Because Dad and I have always just fit together. We enjoy each other. Understand each other. Notice the same things. We can sit together and be comfortable, whether we’re doing something or not. I can easily grasp the kind of unconditional love the Heavenly Father has for me because of the sweetness and completeness of the love Dad has always shown me. I have never ceased to feel adored and cherished and valued with Dad.

What do I do when he’s not here to show that to me any longer?

I try to rest in You, Lord. I want to lean on You, but the distance between where I am in this moment and where I’d have to be to turn to You seems impassable. In order to let You in, I have to lower my defenses. If I open my heart, I will have to feel pain. To get to You, I have to step out from behind this brittle wall protecting my heart. And I just don’t think I can do that, because in that split second of time between the two, it seems as though my heart might disintegrate. The vulnerability in that moment of transition might just obliterate me.

I want You, Lord, but I just don’t know how to get to You right now.

I’ll have to rest in the certainty that Your banner over us is love. Your love is freely and boldly declared, visible for all to see, marking me as belonging to You, just as our love for Dad marks us as belonging to him.

Love is Your defining characteristic. You are the source of all love and the embodiment of it. And there is most definitely an abundance of love in this room. In my heart, and in Dad’s, and in the hearts of those who are here with us.

So please, Lord, know my heart. Don’t abandon me or withhold Yourself because of my failings in these moments. Be bigger than I am. Stronger and more faithful. More true, more understanding, more gracious. More forgiving, more hopeful, more solid. More loving. More present. More certain, and more comforting, and more…everything than I can imagine or dream or articulate.

I’m so glad that You are my strength when I am weak, because I’ve never felt weaker.

When the end comes, let Dad pass peacefully from here, where he is cradled in our arms, to there, where he is cradled, forevermore, in Yours.

Please don’t ever let go of me. I will need You then even more than I do now.

And even though I can’t seem to tear down these barriers I’ve erected in self-preservation, I do know how much I need You and love You. I thank You for this incredible man who is my father, and I pray that I don’t need to find the right words in order for You to know that and hold me tight when I collapse. In that moment, please, Lord, whisper to me of how much more You adore and cherish and value me than even my dad ever did. Let me know that, believe it, and in those moments, let me feel him with me.

Because I will always be my daddy’s little girl.

And I will always belong to You, too.

Amen.

Perspective, or rough, raw thoughts on grief

Perspective: an artistic technique used to portray depth, to project the illusion of a three-dimensional world onto a two-dimensional surface. In perspective, the straight edges of any object follow lines that eventually converge at infinity. Normally, this point of convergence is along the horizon. When grief is trying to claw its way out of your ...

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Perspective: an artistic technique used to portray depth, to project the illusion of a three-dimensional world onto a two-dimensional surface. In perspective, the straight edges of any object follow lines that eventually converge at infinity. Normally, this point of convergence is along the horizon.

perspective drawing

When grief is trying to claw its way out of your heart, shredding your soul as it fights for dominance, when something unspeakably tragic happens, when it’s big and shocking and awful and overwhelming, words fail. Thank God we don’t need words to pray, that He hears us anyway. Because right now my words are broken, stilted, choked, strangled with pain.

This morning my daughter’s friend Mike died in a car accident on his way to the high school. A bright, shining boy. Scholar, athlete, friend. On top of that, he participated in show choir and school musicals and national anti-drug campaigns. His twin brother was driving the truck; neither wore seat belts, and now one is dead and one is alive. Our little community is in shock. Youth pastors and counselors showed up at schools, at homes. Parents opened their doors to roomfuls of grieving kids. Friends delivered food to these gatherings of kids, who are banding together in an effort to make sense of it. But they won’t. They can’t. All they can do is be together in an effort to share this load that is too heavy, that isn’t right, that isn’t fair.

As a parent, I want to shelter my 16-year-old daughter, shield her from having to feel this pain, having to embark down this road of questioning and aching and sorrowing. Her heart is too tender. This shouldn’t happen. But, dammit, it did. Lives changed forever. And for what?

Another friend of this same daughter has been in and out of court hearings and meetings with Child Protective Services all week. The kids got tired of the abuse, and when the dad hurt the younger sister this time, the brother called the cops. This is a sweet, sparkling girl who has spent a lot of time with our family. A lovely, vibrant young woman of strong character, bearing the weight of responsibility for her siblings. I had no clue all this was going on, yet now I’m hearing tales of parents with addictions, physical abuse, hateful threats and hurtful words and hiding in fear that someone would find out. I burst into tears of relief at the news that they got to go to foster care. Got to. I’m fairly close to the situation but not close enough to be right in the center of it. But, even from where I’m standing, it’s tearing me apart, from the inside out.

My dad had a procedure today to burn off pre-cancer cells in his esophagus. My mom died of cancer less than two years ago, so the tests and waiting and words tossed around by doctors have been scary. The wife of my dad’s good friend, who’s battled cancer for years but outlived mom, passed away this week. With Dad, they caught it in time, right before the label changed from dysplasia to cancer, but today’s procedure is pretty tough and apparently very painful, and the recovery is longer and more limiting than expected. It’s something he’ll likely have to repeat, on and off, for the rest of his life.

On days like this, when the meanings are lost and the emotions are jumbled and hope is battered and it is all just too much, all we can do is stand. The words may not come. How do you find hope? How do you go on? How do you pray? What could you even ask for that could matter? You don’t know whether to lash out at God or curl up under His sheltering wing. You don’t know whether to scream at Him or cry with Him. You just don’t know. Because nobody can know. Nobody can do this, nobody can bear it.

Nobody on their own power, at least.

There’s only One with the strength to carry it. Only One with the depth to understand it. Only One who can see that this is not the end. And that One is not you. Or me. So what do we do?

It may not always seem to be true, but there is always hope. There is always more. There is always something good. Sometimes we can’t see it, and in times like this we certainly can’t begin to wrap our heads around it. All we can do is point ourselves in that general direction, aiming our broken selves towards the Source of hope. Beaming up our pain, trusting that He can absorb it, and that when it returns to us, it will be forever changed by the enormity of the love He has for us, soothing our shredded souls as it floods back in. Filling us, healing us. Restoring us.

The only thing you can do, when your heart is broken and the tears won’t dry up, is turn your face to the horizon. Our perspective is temporal, limited, but God’s perspective is eternal. And one thing that artistic perspective and the eternal perspective have in common is this: all lines converge at the horizon. And that is where we have to look, because that is where we will find God.

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