Wednesday, December 09, 2015

The Paradox

I have come to the gradual realization, that grief and healing aren’t polar opposites.  Neither are joy and sorrow.  The truth is that you hold both simultaneously.  Perhaps nothing has illustrated this so clearly for me than Christmas.

I love Christmas time.  I love the fresh smell of greenery, hot chocolate, and the house when my mother is cooking her Chex mix.  I really love the way all that Christmas stuff tastes.  I love the sound of Christmas carols.  I love to bundle up in a blanket and to wear sweaters.  But I especially love to see all the white lights, shining or twinkling in the darkness.  The way they stand out, the amazing amount of light that you get from such a tiny bulb. The way that when a whole strand of them is on a tree it looks ten times better than it did before.  Come to think of it, it’s a little like the light of a Church, of each individual shining together in a world that is just so-so at best.  I like the way a single candle flickering in the window looks.  It is so inviting, it just draws you and looks like hope.  Again not unlike a child of God in a cold hard world.  So when I tell you I could totally skip Christmas this year it’s not because I just could take or leave Christmas time in general.

It would be so easy to skip Christmas.  And oh so justified.  It seems so fake to project a joyous Christmas attitude, when I’m not feeling it.  And beside Christmas in Florida is just bizarre, the shorts and flip flops, the really green grass everywhere.  And unless you are going to run up your electric bill to get it cold enough in the house, sweaters are out completely of the question.  Not to mention, we are in the middle of a move and a new job, it would be understandable to just leave off all the usual hoopla.  But it’s more than just that, Christmas is a time of wonder, of joy, a time when the impossible became possible.  And the truth is that it’s hard to view the world with that childlike faith, because there isn’t much wonder in my world these days.  I can remember the Christmas a month before Britt was born, I can remember the expectant wonder, imagining what it must have been like in those days leading up to the birth of Christ.  I can remember singing “how sweet to hold a new born baby” the first Sunday after he was born, and consider what it must have been like for Mary to hold Christ as a child.  I have often thought about, as His mother, how much she understood of what was to come.  But this Christmas there is just an emptiness, a longing for my child, the one who was suppose to be my Christmas baby, the one who won’t be.  Oh it helps immeasurably to hold other’s babies, if only for a time, but it’s only for a time.

So many of the women in the stillbirth groups just skip the major holidays the first year.  It’s too much to be normal and take part with their families.  But we have three other little ones in the house so the show must go on.  And in this is the paradox of holding both joy and sorrow magnified.  We decorated the tree last week, and they children lit up at the sight of it.  As I enjoyed and was warmed by all those glowing white lights, as I handed the kids their first Christmas ornament and went through telling them about each of their ornaments, who gave them each one; I was poignantly reminded of one little girl who I would do this with.  As I hung and arranged the stockings, leaving a space for one unfinished one at the end, I really was pleased with how it all looked.  I love the arranging and decorating.  It’s something I don’t really get to do much of.  But as I did that I could not only see the empty place above the fireplace, but the empty spot in our family.  Moving the elves around this year has been solely for the kids benefit, and in years previous, probably more than half of what I do has been as much for my fun as theirs.  But last night, I found myself for the first time this year, really having fun with it.  Even though I know there is one little girl who will never be amused by my the elves antics.

I love the traditions we have, there is something beautiful and comforting about routine, even in change as vast as the one we are currently undergoing as a family.  It is so good to know that some things do not change. And yet these things feel different now.  I can still see the wonder of the season through their eyes, as they wait and speculate on how in the world their elves will be able to bring them snow to Florida.  Even if I cannot see much wonder through my own.  Even if my own world view is struggling with bitterness and skepticism.

The grief isn’t always so overwhelming though it is always present in some fashion.  It would be truly unbearable if didn’t come in waves.  You maybe floating in the ocean, repeatedly battered by waves, but you aren’t continually under one.  I may be running this metaphor into the ground, but it’s really the best analogy I’ve found.  And Bro. Chris last week finally gave me a scriptural support for this paradox.  In II Kings 4, the prophet Elisha so often passed through Shunem that a woman there built him a little room on to her house that he would have a place to stay.  Elisha desired to do something for the Shunammite woman but she told him that she had no need of anything, but Elisha found out she had no child, and so God blessed her with a son.  Some years later he fell ill, and then died.  And she went to the man of God.  First she tells her husband “It shall be well.”  Then she tells Elisha that “It is well.”  And both of these things are true.  It shall be well one day in Heaven, and through faith we can even say that it is well now.  But then verse 27 and 28 read, 
And when she came to the man of God to the hill, she caught him by the feet; but Gehazi came near to thrust her away.  And the man of God said, Let her alone; for her soul is vexed within her and the Lord hath hid it from me, and hath not told me.  Then she said, Did I desire a son of my lord?  Did I not say, Do not deceive me?
I have often returned to this story lately.  It was one I thought on for a long time the night before we went in to deliver Abigail.  One that in my very weak faith I held on to a last shred of hope as they did one last ultrasound before starting our induction.  I knew that even then He could restore my child, this one that I desired.  Mount Carmel where Elisha was isn’t exactly a short trip away from Shunem.  Her child was dead for some time.  I have also often returned to it since Abigail’s burial as I’ve struggled to know that it will be well, and to be able to say that it is well.  I have missed that even as she says and know that it is well, her soul is still vexed.  Bro. Chris pointed out that she knew and felt both of these things.  When we sing “It is well with my soul” it doesn’t diminish or remove from our very real pain.  Gary pointed out just last night that like us the song writer first lost his livelihood then his children.  It is well, doesn’t mean that we don’t feel the pain and loss, but that we “sorrow not, even as others which have no hope.” (I Thes. 4:13)

While I really hate the person I have become.  While I often feel like I’m being held hostage in here, by someone else.  While I don’t like living with grief.  I trust that this is not forever, that this won’t even be permanent in this life.  While there will always be grief and absence, I trust that it will not always feel like this, that it will not always affect me like this.  While I will be changed I trust that this current me, isn’t going to be the finished product.  I trust that one day the things that I laugh at because they are suppose to be funny, really will be funny again. That the things that are joyful won’t also be painful.

Like the rest of my life, my desk area in our bedroom is a work in progress.


Dani said...

Here's an excellent explanation of my metaphor.

MrsJOFCIII said...

Although I think it will become obvious, I'm going to go ahead and identify up front that this is Kathryn from Mt.Carmel. (I've contacted you so many different places and identified myself that way so many times I'm starting to think I'll just incorporate it right into my name, like Anne of Green Gables, but Kathryn of Mt.Carmel.)

This makes me think of the song Im sure you know, "God's Promise"- "strength as our days, rest when we labor, light on the way, grace for our trials, help from above, unfading kindness, undying love/ Though we have mingled sunshine and rain, clouds decked with rainbows, joy mixed with pain, let us still trust His mercies." I wish I had something better to offer you than just a familiar song. An interesting thing I was taught a few years ago about the song "It Is Well" is that the emphasis is not simply "it is well" but "it is well with my soul." No matter what happens to my body, my family, my friends, my church, my mind, my nation, or my anything, it is well with my soul because my soul is secure in Christ. (I'm thinking of John 10 and Romans 8 here.) I trust that it is well with my soul, and it is well with your soul, and it is well with Abigail's soul, all together in perfect union with Christ in eternity (like we talked about the other day.) if we could just get out of time we could experience it. I hope I'm quoting I John 3 correctly "Beloved, NOW are we the sons of God, and it doth not yet appear what we SHALL BE; but we know that, when He shall appear, we shall be like Him, for we shall see Him as He is." (Emphasis obviously mine.) it is well, even now; somehow it is both what we are now and what we shall be; we are glorified, past tense, per Romans 8. It is comforting to me in praying for yall to think of a place outside of time, which by virtue of being outside of time, both is now and shall be, where there is no hole in your family.

You know, I don't think I would get anything but a blank look trying to explain this to Brother Jonathan or anyone else either...I know what I mean but it kinda reads like nonsense.

Anyway I suppose I've rambled enough now. We are praying for all of you. Glad to hear you can have joy even in your pain!

MrsJOFCIII said...

Also, here is a sermon that included the best explanation of why Romans 8 says "glorified" past tense I have ever heard. It was just one small part of the sermon, not the topic of the whole message, but hey, it never hurts to listen to a wonderful sermon!

Dani said...

I like the Anne of Green Gables parallel. :D

It makes perfect sense, and yes it is well with our souls. No matter what. The challenge I suppose is to reconcile my outlook and my feelings with my knowledge. And the verse from John 3, is a beautiful one. One that I have not thought on since losing her, but should spend some time studying on.

It was a real comfort to hear you say on the phone the other night what I had already been thinking about the reality of Heaven existing outside of time. Makes me feel like we are together even now.

MrsJOFCIII said...

I'm glad that it makes you feel that way, because that is what I believe- we are all together, most importantly with our Saviour but also perfectly related to each other, now in eternity. it's almost in my mind like eternity is a place more than a time. But it's nice to feel it, not just believe it.

Did I post a sermon link here too? I tried to but I don't see it. I'm not the best at smartphoning so I may not have succeeded