It's early in the morning and I'm thinking about what it means to lose people. Nice way to start the day, huh? :) I don't know. It's part of life... we're part of it. It's part of us. None of us has been untouched, though some to greater extents than others. Somehow, the holidays make the losses come more sharply into view.
There have been moments in the last few days which have brought the whole theme of death and loss sharply into focus for me. We had a healing service the other night at church-- it was a precious night. It was completely unlike any healing service I have ever been to-- my background is truly charismatic, but my husband and I have found ourselves knitted into a church that would not necessarily identify itself that way :). It is a body of believers who truly, deeply love God and who believe everything the Bible says, as a rule, but so far I haven't seen anyone swinging from the chandeliers (and any folks who've gone to church with me in other states/countries know that if there had been a chandelier around, people would have been swinging from them and breaking limbs-- ahem, Pam....). I've been to many healing services and they were loud and sweaty and the worship was invigorating and the air, electric. So many times, sitting/standing/lying on the floor at those services, I wonder how anyone can resist Him. How anyone can let anything stand in their way, blocking them from this.
Anyway, the pastor announced that we'd be having this service at vespers. He taught on healing and a young boy, a prodigy really, was playing hymns on the piano. It felt so old fashioned. So honest. So... pure.
People filed forward, kneeling at the alter for the laying on of hands, the anointing of lavender-scented oil, and I heard sniffles, short gasps of quietly controlled crying, and the low voice of the pastor as he repeated his prayer over and over... I knelt with my mother and two dear friends flanking me, each of us before Him, hearts full of prayers for all kinds of things, and I remembered again and again that He is close to the broken-hearted, and knew, like I know, that He keeps pressing closer to me than I know. My heart is better today than it was a few months ago. There were nights, a few months ago, that I could not imagine living with the agony I was experiencing in my heart-- though my heart will ache for Benjamin until I hold him again one day, it is not like it was...and if you are at the beginning of that journey, know that it isn't simply that the pain fades-- there is one Who can minister peace to your soul. It's real. It isn't an act of mind over matter or self-delusion. His supernatural touch is what has saved my life this season.
As I went back to my seat, I closed my eyes and enjoyed the way the sanctuary feels at night and the closeness of a handful of believers gathered for one reason. I listened to the old hymns, enduring through so many years because so often they are simply, profoundly true, and heard the tears of people around me, mingling with my own.
So much loss. Such grief and suffering. There is only one set of shoulders able to help carry our burdens. My testimony is that He does.
But the depth of loss.... to know that the one we love is gone, even if it is better to be in the courts of God, worshipping before Him all day, it is agony to lose the ability to touch the person we have lost. To hear my child's cooing or crying, to smell his fragrance, to look into his eyes and to see and be seen. For a woman to lose her husband, her companion when everyone else is asleep.... For a daughter to lose her mother, that most unique of all connections-- the womb you spilled from, the woman who nurtured you, the one who loves you like no one else does... These are losses I have seen in the last few months, and just as others cannot imagine what it would be like to lose a child, I cannot imagine what it would mean to lose my husband, parents, brother, sisters-in-law, nieces, close friends.... Each relationship has a unique shape in our hearts.
How do we walk through it?
I didn't walk through the loss of Ben. I crawled. I wept. I sat up late at night, staring at a television screen I didn't see. I was afraid of the dark for a while. I couldn't see a commercial with a baby. I would walk into the center of his room, hang my head and groan with longing. My most oft-cried prayer? "Oh Goooooooooooooood .... help help help help help."
I'm so grateful for a God who knows what I mean even when I don't.
So lately, when I think about loss, my mind gets all jumbled up and all the words seem to push to the front of my mind, all trying to get out at once. So I prayed this yesterday: "Lord, You know." And I allowed myself to sort of feel each thought and imagined myself sort of pointing to the thought and looking at the Lord-- see that one? I'm praying and thinking that. And that, too. Oh, He is such a friend.
Where are these ones we love? For now, it's sometimes not comforting to know that they are in the presence of the Most High-- I'm glad they're safe, but the grief is earth-bound: I want my friend's mother to be with her on Christmas day. I want Wendy' mom to sit beside her, wherever it is that she always sits, on Christmas morning. I want her hands in Wendy's hair and her eyes to be lit with joy over her grandchildren. I want her family to have her. Oh God, oh God, oh God-- help help help help help. I want her husband to have the woman who has kept his bed warm.
I want them not to be alone.
I want them not to ache, as all of us who have experienced loss do, at three in the morning, arms empty and souls craving.
We were not made for this. We were built, designed, created to never taste death, but we are drawn to it in so many ways.
But You promised to not leave us alone. You said that You would send us a Comforter.
You knew that we would need Comfort.
Loss is so deep. So black. So unforgiving. So I pray that You minister comfort, that You minister Your very self to us this season. That You apply the balm of your presence to us as we wade into this, changing the channel when Publix commercials threaten to push us over the edge, or when diaper ads tug at our hearts. Oh God, that we would cling to You-- knowing that we can't get them back, but we can get to You.
And that this is faith, too: hanging on like crazy when it feels like the waves are going to overwhelm us.