Thursday, September 27, 2007

The Badlands of Grief

As a boy the first book outside of scripture that I read was about Robert E. Lee. The second was about Theodore Roosevelt. TR became a hero to me. His overcoming, energetic spirit inspired me. I remember some key events in his life like the fact that he was sickly and exercised his way out of poor health. I remember admiring a young man's determination. I remembered something else about TR. As a young Assemblyman in New York, with a very promising future, his life was suddenly shattered by the death of his young wife, Alice Hathaway Lee at 22 years old.

The thing that made an impression on me was how Theodore responded to his great loss. He simply fled. He left the child born to he and Alice in the care of his sister. He left his elected position in the State Assembly. He left the life of privilege to go to North Dakota and live on a ranch in the Badlands. He hunted, rode, roped and chased horse thieves and in general sought to rid himself of a great grief. He once captured three outlaws and took them to jail enduring forty hours of sleeplessness. Roosevelt was for me the essence of manhood. Physically strong, determined and yet, wholly unprepared to deal with grief.

I remember thinking as a boy, if I ever experienced something like TR did, I would also run to the Badlands. I must admit that, in my hour of grief, I have been tempted to run. I have been tempted to ride, work, and hunt my way through this wilderness of grief. There is something about grief that makes a man want to run to the Badlands. I don't know if it is the sense of injustice that often comes with sorrow. I don't know if the aloneness promises comfort or if you just want to risk your life in some reckless way because it is not as bright and hopeful as it once was.

So why don't I run to the Badlands? I don't have to, it seems like the Badlands have run to me. I do not want you to think I am judging my hero TR. I understand better than ever why he did what he did. I am also strangely comforted by the fact that he returned. He was never the same but TR went on to greater adventures and became the youngest man in history to serve as the President of the United States. The tragedy of his running to the Badlands was that he never bonded to his daughter Alice. She was the daughter of TR and Alice Hathaway Lee. She grew up with a father who would not allow the name of her mother to be mentioned in his presence. Sadly, Alice had the same name as her mother. Rejected, disconnected and terribly alone in life, the beautiful Alice Roosevelt was banished to her own Badlands.

I do not know what all this means. Grief makes us all victims. Our response to grief is as varied as our fingerprints or DNA. It is tempting to do something very self centered. Our response does however, have a profound impact upon us and those whom we love. Great men and women have been marked by such sorrow. God seems to use those who have been broken. Oh, God I am broken. I do not want to withdraw from life or responsibility or my family. I feel deeply wounded and condemned to the Badlands of the soul. In the midst of those powerful feelings, I trust in the Lord to be my help and to strengthen me in my grief.

Please pray for the Litton family. Please pray for strength and grace to endure these days. Less we give you the wrong impression, that all is well and we don't hurt as bad as we did a few weeks ago, we hurt, we weep and we feel lost without her.

Thank You for your prayers!
Ed Litton


Anonymous said...

Dear Ed,

I continue to pray for your family during this time. I know you are a very strong man and have the grace to live through these sad times. Your strength is only from the Lord and I pray he will give you comfort.

God Bless you for sharing your thought and strives, it really shows the man of God that you are to share such private pain.

Susan Cook
Tucson Arizona

Kasey Ewing said...

Pastor Ed,

We are praying for you and your precious family. From a family who God has healed them from their own Badland of Grief. Our hearts break for you - we know all too well the pain and heartache! We also know the incrediable healing that only God can offer our broken hearts. Press into it your badland, there you will find Him who will comfort you. I have been so blessed by all your blogs - what a great way to express your heart and minister at the same time.
KNOW we are praying for each of you!
The Ewings

Anonymous said...

Dear Ed,

I too continue to pray. My current pastor makes a point of teaching on loss and "deputizing" anyone who has experienced loss as ministers to others with loss. I have had loss, so I've been deputized.

I also know you are a strong man and are blessed with a heritage that has developed your strength. More importantly I know the sorce of your strength. Without God and the people and circumstances he places around you now, you would not withstand a spring breeze.

Today I pray you continue to cling with all your might to the one who is all your might. In this the cycle of life continues and you give your children a mighty heritage.

Margaret (formerly of MVBC)

Anonymous said...

Pastor Ed,
Thank you for reminding me, for sometimes we do tend to forget. The strength I see in you makes me wonder how I would respond if God chose to use the same extent of pain in my life.I want to say my faith is strong."I believe, help my unbelief."
Thank you also for being transparant and honest. My greatest prayer for you and your family and our church is that everything that God is using right now will not be in vain.
I know you must hurt beyond anything I could imagine, sometimes I try to imagine it were me in your place. May the peace of our God and savior comfort your heart that you can say "hallelujah" this life is temperal but life in Jesus is life eternal.
I love you my pastor,
Gary P. Bates

Anonymous said...

Thank you for sharing your heart. I know my family and I feel we're going through this with you. There's not a day goes by that you and your precious family are not brought to my mind. I know God is reminding me to pray for y'all. You have precious children. They are the result of you and Tammy's love, guidance, love for each other; and, most of all, your love for Christ. You all have a special place in my heart.

Anonymous said...

Dear Ed,
Other than scripture, there is nothing like the words of an old hymn to touch us deeply. I hope these words to the hymn, "Does Jesus Care" make you feel loved by our Lord more than ever before.

Does Jesus care when my heart is pained
Too deeply for mirth or song,
As the burdens press, and the cares distress
And the way grows weary and long?


Oh yes, He cares, I know He cares,
His heart is touched with my grief;
When the days are weary, the long nights dreary,
I know my Savior cares.

Does Jesus care when my way is dark with a nameless dread and fear?
As the daylight fades into deep night shades,
Does He care enough to be near?


Does Jesus care when I’ve tried and failed
To resist some temptation strong;
When for my deep grief there is no relief,
Though my tears flow all the night long?


Does Jesus care when I’ve said ‘goodbye’
To the dearest on earth to me,
And my sad heart aches till it nearly breaks,
Is it aught to Him? Does He see?

Oh yes, He cares, I know He cares,
His heart is touched with my grief;
When the days are weary, the long nights dreary,
I know my Savior cares.

I continue to pray for you and your family.

Laura Adams (MVBC)
Tucson, AZ

Anonymous said...

You and your family is in our thoughts and prayers. Brian can not wait to see you again when you come back to MVBC. His wife and kids are looking forward to meeting you. Have a great day!!
Love in Christ
Brian Kristine David Rebecca Leah Thomas

Tucson AZ MVBC

Anonymous said...

Pastor Ed,
Jock and I love you and we are continuing to pray for you and your children.

Sometimes I am unsure of what to pray for and The Holy Spirit whispers in my ear Psalms 18;
The LOrd is my rock and my fortress and my deliverer,
My God ,my rock,in whom I take refuge;
My shield and the horn of my salvation,My stronghold
I will call upon the name of the Lord ,who is worthy to be praised,
And I am saved from my enemies.

Thank you for sharing the most intimate parts of your grief.
We are blessed beyond words to have a pastor and leader like you.
May God continue to pour out His never ending Love and Blessings and surround you with His grace.


Anonymous said...

Pastor, once again, your words have left me speechless.

Those of us who have suffered the loss of a loved one know the badlands well. At times, it seems almost inconceivable that our lives could go on, that this evil world can keep on spinning, when our loved one is gone ... and yet it does.

We feel a sadness that threatens to undo us or engulf us, and we don't know which would be worse.

And yet, in our pain and confusion, through the tears, we cling to that Solid Rock, that firm conviction that goodness and miracles, though they seem so far away and impossible to discern right now, will indeed come to us again in the days ahead.

Just as He led the Israelites to Mara, to the place where the water was bitter, He is also with us in the bitterest of times, faithful to comfort us and teach us so that we might love and obey Him more and comfort and teach others.

Your willingness to share your heart so completely in this space is a profound act of obedience that has helped to bring all of us closer to Him. Believe me, He hasn't dropped a single one of your tears. Each one has a purpose, and our finite brains may not be able to fathom it right now, but it's true. His Word promises that He draws near to the brokenhearted, so lean into it, in spite of the pain, and trust Him.

I am reminded of that incredible scene, in "The Passion of the Christ," when Jesus literally embraced that cross. Remember that? The way His bloody fingers clung to it, almost eagerly? I think of each painful, excruciating step He took, and even as it breaks my heart to imagine what He must have endured, it strengthens me at the same time. Why? His pain was God-ordained. It had a purpose ... and our pain does as well.

Even as we weep -- for you, for the kids, and for ourselves and the family members we have lost -- we don't lose heart. Through you, He reveals Himself more and more.

STILL we will trust Him ... STILL we will follow.

"I would have fainted had I not believed I would see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living" (Psalms 27:13).

Eleanor Ransburg

Anonymous said...

You answered my questions.
I was wondering how you continued to maintain. Why you didn't just isolate yourself for a while-totally understandable, totally normal human reaction. No one could judge you for that.
If there was anything I could do to make grief go away I would-but it seems to have its own time frame and refuses to be rushed.Why is that? At times I wish it would just hurry itself along or at least let me forget but the depths of the emotions are still there.Does it get better?-eventually, gradually but then I'm not through it yet.

Anonymous said...

Pastor Ed,
I find myself daily checking your blogs to see if you have posted a new one. It is through them that I have been able to heal myself. Thank you for opening up and sharing your heart. I know that God is doing a great work in you and your family through all of this. Bruce and I have best friends that just recently, in the last two weeks, lost a child. They too are holding on to the One that is faithful. I've even told them to read your blogs. We were able to be at both of Tammy's services and I have never felt such a presence of God like I did in those two days. To see the preacher that preached the WORD that I heard for years, to LIVE what he preached, changed me in ways you'll never know. We continue to pray for you everyday. Our daughter Hannah asks about you every night and she prays for you and your family. May God get the GLORY!
Shannon Holmes

Tony Simoncini said...

Pastor Ed,
When I heard about your lose, my heart broke for you as I couldn't imagine losing someone so close to me. I don't attend your church, several of my friends call you pastor and I have certainly been to North Mobile before. I do enjoy listening to you share God's word.
2 weeks ago my wife and I lost our 3 month old baby. He needed surgery on his heart in the first week of his life and recently it seemed he was going to make it to his next surgery and doing well. Then BAM he was gone. I was holding him one minute, and another minute he quit breathing on his own and nothing the Dr.s did could save him. The pain I felt as I held his limp body in my arms and faced the fact I would never get to hold him again, kiss him, play with him, see him smile, tore through my heart like a Mack truck......
I say all of this not to say I know how you feel, or impose on your blog. I write this comment to tell you I connect with your writings and enjoy hearing your words of struggle mixed with strong words of faith. They all seem so honest and real, and I certainly think the church could use more of this gospel reality in todays culture.
My journey finds me at a place of trusting God more than ever before, and gritting my teeth saying that God is good, and faithful even when I am not! I now have more questions than ever before, yet I know my faith is the only think holding on to God's hand for dear life; thankfully He has never let go!
My heart breaks for you as you mourn and search for truth, but your words of faith are encouraging to others as we seek the truth, answers to our questions, and comfort for our hurting hearts!
Peace to you,
Tony Simoncini

Anonymous said...

I don't pretend to know a lot about Teddy Roosevelt but what I do know of him was that he was a popular president. I also seem to remember that part of that popularity was based on him being a "cowboy". I think it helped to get him elected.
So the question is would he have ever been elected to the presidency had his wife lived? We don't know. But he probably would not have gone off to the Badlands like he did had she lived.
Likewise,Jesus was taken from the disciples but he said if he didn't leave the Holy Spirit couldn't come. He became our comforter and guide.
I don't know-it helps to think that there is purpose in it all.
I was recently on the USS Alabama. Would FDR have been elected had he not had a very popular relative as president before him? I don't know.
But we do know that FDR played a key role in getting us out of the depression and getting us through a World War.
This story has helped me to see purpose in spite of our loss and grief.It gives hope and insight into the bigger picture.

Jan Owen said...

A very wise friend who had gone through his own "Badlands" of grief told me during a particularly painful period of my life. "God will not waste this pain." For some reason that comforted me. Here I am Lord, waiting......