I don’t want to be known just by our loss.
I want to be known by our life.
I remember last spring when it felt like winter was never going to end here, in Minnesota. It was supposed to be springtime but we were still waking up to snow. Some complained. I maybe would have too, but at that point in life complaining about the weather felt rather shallow; my heart was buried in (and complaining about) deeper things. At the time I thought, I can handle more snow even though it’s supposed to be spring because I know that spring will come eventually. It always does. But I was having to tell my heart the same thing, that the depth of grief I felt couldn’t possibly last forever.
It seems strange to me how prone we are to get worked up about something that we can’t control (like the weather or a million other things). Last spring when winter lingered I felt that if, for even one moment, I let my heart be buried in the cold and snow, I wasn’t sure it could ever be rescued. So I made snow angels. And one night I went for a midnight walk up and down the snow covered street in front of my house just to take in what I hoped was to be the final snowfall of the season. It was beautiful. I remember thinking there can be beauty on the darkest winter night. Sometimes you have to look hard for it, but sometimes it’s so obvious that the dark and cold only serve to make it stand out more.
Grief over circumstances we can’t control (ones we didn’t play a part in causing) is a bit like enduring a long winter. We didn’t invite it. We didn’t want it. We don’t like it. And we can complain. But spring will come eventually. And we can look to see if there is beauty and glimpses of light that exist amidst all else that seems dark. Sometimes there isn’t any to be found; I’ve been in those dark places. But sometimes there is.
“For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven…” (Ecclesiastes 3:1)
For me, there is something deeply good about the change of seasons–summer to fall to winter to spring–over and over again. It awakens me, it wards off the mundane and it reminds me that there is purpose behind each season. I know that there are places all over the globe that don’t experience the seasons in quite the same way we do here. But I’m grateful that earth spins at a slight tilt, causing this part of the globe to see all four seasons. I’m grateful that God has placed me here to experience it. And I’m grateful that what I see outside resonates with what God is doing (and has done) with my heart over the years. But there is a new struggle now when the change of seasons comes. There is the painful reminder that time has passed without Jeremy. My heart is repulsed by the clock that ticks, the seasons that come and go and the dates we pass by as I watch the boys grow. I have found I don’t always want to move onward. Over the past few months I’ve had this reoccurring thought that if grief were the season of winter, I don’t know that I’m all that opposed to it anymore. Maybe I’d be fine if it just stayed winter.
The grief that was once unknown to me, and what I feared, I now know well. I know what it is, how it feels, how to live in it. But I also know that in loss there is risk of letting grief rename me, instead of Christ. And while I have actively fought against this over the past two years, it’s hard to leave the familiarity that grief has become. In relation to parts I and II of this post, I have found myself wondering…is there risk of grief itself becoming my companion in the place of Christ? Could the tears, the prayers, the hope of better days to come and the remembering somehow get in the way of actually experiencing life beyond grief? Maybe.
And then there’s this: Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted. (Matthew 5:4). I’m no theologian; I have not studied what is at the root of these blessing statements. But I’ve known God’s comfort in my mourning and I will tell you there is an immense blessing in being comforted by God. It’s unmatchable. Shall I keep mourning so I can keep knowing His comfort? Could it be that this once awful winter has turned into scenery that I’ve become satisfied with? Is there risk of ignoring His invitation to move onward–to be known by my life, not by my loss–in an effort to preserve a season that wasn’t meant to last forever? Maybe.
Every year looks a little different. I guess they should; don’t the years always look a little different? God is always at work. He is always making us, moving us, preparing us, restoring us. We will all have lingering winters; we will have autumns that aren’t nearly long enough. But I believe that God is intentional with His timing and intentional about what needs to happen in our hearts. I don’t know what God is doing in and through me in the midst of my grief. But I’m sure He’s doing something.
The thing is, we don’t always know or understand the mystery behind the seasons we experience; only God knows those secrets (Eccl. 3:11). This is why, in the midst of changing seasons, what matters most is that I am His, that my affections are found to be towards Him and that I refuse to be known at all apart from Him. I don’t need to linger longer in winter for the sake of knowing His comfort. Rather, I can pursue gaining every ounce of Christ that I can in every season. I can trust His hand and good intention behind every circumstance I encounter with Him. And I can live a full life–not necessarily a life without loss, but one that is more full of Christ despite what I’ve lost.
You make known to me the path of life;
in your presence there is fullness of joy;
at your right hand are pleasures forevermore. (Psalm 16:11)