- He kept reminding me to listen, listen, listen to Him and to respond to what He was saying! Once the "time of tsunami" was done (the season where you are too stunned to do much of anything--about two months for me) He started speaking very clearly, urging me to listen and trust and do what He was saying. Sometimes that meant leaning into an emotional moment, other times it meant moving away from it. Sometimes that meant making some hard choices about letting go of something, other times it meant permission to treasure something and carry it into the future. The bottom line was for me simply to listen and respond. Too simple, eh? But it is that simple, yet as I have said many times, simple is best but not usually easy!
- He led me to embrace reality. He showed me that there are two realities that I needed to embrace simultaneously: First, there was the reality of my loss and of the permanent change that came as a result. One example of how He did his is that He had me take off my wedding ring very early on. At first I wondered why He had me do that so early, but I quickly noticed that my feeling the "missing ring" was His gift of reality to me. Every time the odd sensation of the missing wedding band came, I was gently but clearly reminded that Jettie no longer lives here on earth and that my life has changed forever. And there have been many more ways in which He has had me embrace the "cold, hard reality" of loss. But far more important and more beautiful than this, He has led me to embrace the reality of Heaven! I wrote a little about this on April 19, but I want to elaborate a bit more on how this helps so much by citing two quotes from a remarkable book, Room of Marvels, by James Bryan Smith. "When we cry, 'Come back,' it is for our own sake. We never stop to consider whether their return, if it were possible, would be good for them. We want then back to restore our happiness. But in truth, we could not wish anything worse for them." (p. 56). "As Christians we know--or at least have heard--the glorious words of Christ and his people about their future life in the presence of God. But, frankly, few really believe them. To really believe them would mean acting straightforwardly and spontaneously as if they were true. It would require being confident that with every pore of our being that any friend of Jesus is far better off dead. It would be to rejoice, in the midst of our parting sorrows, over the indescribably greater well-being or our loved one who has moved on 'further up and further into' the greatness of God and his world." (Dallas Willard in an afterword on p. 187). To these quotes I add what Father said to me soon after Jettie's transfer to Heaven, "You don't have to grieve Jettie's suffering and pain because I have transformed them!" This word, given every time I tried to go to the places of trauma and pain, constantly pulled me back to the reality of Heaven, and I cannot overstate the power this has had in bringing me out of the valley of weeping!
- Third, He brought many others into my life who shared my sorrow and gave counsel and encouragement as needed. Everyone says to those grieving, "Don’t journey alone," of course, but the truth is that there is a tendency to want to go off in a cave and lick our wounds. Yet God blessed me with many who gently pursued me, prayed for me, listened to me and spoke timely words to me. And along the way, I learned to lay hold of these gifts of grace when they came to me. One of the most powerful healing moments in my entire journey came through a passing remark by my friend, Tony, who simply noted his realization that Maxine's (his first wife) "assignment on earth was finished." Those words were taken by the Holy Spirit and transferred directly to my heart: "Tom, Jettie's assignment on earth was finished." And something remarkable happened in that moment that allowed me finally to release to God all my questions about "What else could I have done, Did I fail, etc." (Thanks, Tony, dear friend!). And there were many more timely words from many others, of course. And because God has called me to a listening posture, I think by His grace I have caught at least some of them, and in catching them my heart has been healed! Listening seems to be a real key here, eh?
Wow, this is a long blog entry! But I needed to get these things in place, I think. I offer them to you simply as an encouragement. As I said in the beginning, everyone's process is somewhat different, but I believe that God's grace in calling us to listen, respond, trust, embrace reality and invite others into our hurting places will help anyone who is in the valley of Baca (weeping--see Psalm 84:6).
Praying that Papa will draw you so close that you cannot miss His whisper...
Tom, one of Papa's little boys