Monday, October 26, 2015

After 19 Years

1991-12 MAJSAfter 19 years, you'd think I would have overturned every stone in the grief process. You'd think there's no new territory to cover, right? You'd be wrong.

Over 19 years, I've learned grief has no ending except your own death. I don't advocate that, of course! So in the mean time, I learn to wear my grief like a sweater. Some days it is too hot to wear it, and I try to shrug it off. Other days, I'm freezing without it and it's the only thing that makes me feel comfortable.

The good news is after 19 years, it doesn't scratch and cut me nearly as much as it used to. The itch has worn off, the snags have given my garment personality, and I am comforted by the pilling and nubbies that have developed from wear and tear.

But then I remember his smile, and I lose my breath. And I hear his voice still echoing my nickname in my memories. I think of all the things we missed out on: the births, weddings, and celebrations as well as the deep valleys. Today, the sweater itches a little more. But after 19 years, I've grown to expect that on October 26.

Here's one thing I hope none of you ever say to someone else again: "It's time to just get over it." After all this time, I know there is no such thing as "just getting over" devastating loss. When you love someone deeply, love creates a hole when that person is gone. I've been living with a hole for 19 years, ever since my brother Jackson died.

If you're living with a hole too, I hope you know you aren't alone!1989-10-08 MMS, MAJS, EAS, MAS at West Point

Thursday, October 8, 2015

Stitching My Scarf

IMGP8332I am struggling with a burden I shouldn’t be carrying.

Someone I know hurt me with her words and I felt tossed aside and grace-robbed. I quietly began to tend my gaping wound. I begged God to put stitches in it, and He did.

But before He could finish, I took the needle and thread from His hands. I kept stitching on my own and created a woolly, heavy scarf.

I stopped stitching my wound for healing and started stitching for self-protection and to justify my anger for this woman. She hurt me! She went after me like a predator! So every time I remembered that wound, I slipped on another stitch. Every time I heard her name, another stitch. Every time I heard how she wounded someone else, another stitch.

I’m ashamed to admit I’ve been stitching for almost two years now. Two years!

My scarf is unnecessarily immense and I keep gleefully adding stitches, simply for the sake of knitting and not for practicality. Here’s the thing about scarves: they’re good for winter, for protection from cold. But in summer, they are stifling and can put us in danger of strangulation.

God is helping me see the absurdity of wearing a scarf in summer. He’s asking me to allow Him to unravel some stitches by showing me what forgiveness looks like. The theme keeps appearing in conversations, texts from friends, books I’m reading, and songs on the radio. At first, I bristled at the idea of forgiveness. Wouldn’t that make what she did right?

“No,” God says. “Forgiveness doesn't invalidate your hurt or sanction her attack on you! I won't unravel and erase your hurt, and I won't negate what she did to you. But could we make this garment into a shield of protection for you instead of a scarf that strangles you? Can you remember that I alone will cover you and hold you? Take off your scarf and let me heal you.”

Very intentionally, through prayer and submission, I’m asking God to take the needle and thread from my hands. I’m asking Him to transform my scarf into a simple scar. A scar reminds me wounds are real, but a scar won’t choke me like a scarf could.

Stitches are for wounds and garments. The healing my heart needs is the kind that comes from Light shining in my darkness, not the healing that comes from a needle and thread.


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