Friday, October 26, 2007

A Ten-Week Perspective

How am I doing?
I don't know, and I’m not able to be completely sure. There are a few more moments of joy, acceptance and laughter than ten weeks ago. The dull painful reality of being separated from Tammy lingers. The dailiness of life pushes me forward into the unknown future. I thank the Lord for that; otherwise I could see myself drowning in grief. I think this sense of greater responsibility keeps me from greater stupidity.

At the same time, I watch for my heart’s attempt to replace my grief with mindless entertainment or thoughtless repetition. There is nothing wrong with taking an aspirin for pain, but a bottle of aspirin is too much. At this moment the hardest part is not being able to talk to her. I know the solution is to talk more to the Lord. I do. Yet the ability to share every joy with her multiplied the joy. Talking out every worrisome thought reduced the worry. Giving her a handful of the broken shards of my faith and watching her help me piece them back together gave help in believing God for great things. The loss of the layers of our experiences together and our unspoken mutual understanding is greater than I can bear. See, there come the tears.

What brings me comfort?
My Lord. Our children. Friends. A great hearted church.

What is still hard?
Thursdays are hard. They mark the weekly anniversary of that terrible day in our lives. Thursday is the day when the phone call, the trip to the accident scene, the helicopter ride, telling my children and all of the painful events get a complete high definition rerun.

What is the toughest part?
There are many competitors for this ranking, but watching helplessly as your children hurt is tough.

How am I coping?
It is interesting––I often find myself asking, “What would Tammy do?” At Wal-Mart I turn to Kayla and ask, “What brand of laundry detergent would your mother pick?” because there are too many and I had no idea soap costs so much. I ask this in part to maintain some sense of normalcy, in part because she was so wise in the practical parts of living. I also ask, “What would Tammy do?” in respect to grief. If I had died, what would she have done? I think she would have been similarly devastated, but not to the point of being incapacitated. She would have found God's grace at every turn in the road, even though she hated winding mountain roads. I think she would have pressed on well, and I would have been proud of her.

Well, maybe. I’m coming to grips with a reality that has never hit me before. Tammy, as a pastor's wife, would have been in a totally different situation than I find myself as a pastor. You see, when I lost Tammy there was much I did not lose. A woman who faithfully serves as a pastor's wife and then loses her husband loses much more. She suffers the intense grief of her lost love as well as the additional blows of lost identity, lost income, lost security, lost companionship––and oftentimes the loss of a home, since many pastors’ families still live in church owned homes called parsonages. I have not lost my job, my security, my identity or my home. Like most people who have not suffered this kind of loss, I was amazingly insensitive to the nuance of it. So many women who lose their husbands in ministry also lose their pastor. I can only imagine the pain of watching as a new man and women are naturally called to live out, in their own way, the ministry she has seen cut short.

I don’t know how we as the body of Christ can better help those we love struggle through their grief, but I am convinced we must. Maybe we start by refusing to get frustrated when their grief outlives our own. One man wrote me, telling me how members of his church believed he was in sin one year after his son's tragic death, for not “getting beyond it.” I would get really mad, if it weren’t for the fact that I could actually see myself thinking something that stupid. We can help in practical ways by understanding tough decisions the grieving person faces and not judging them with our opinions. We can also pray for them and help when they need it.

At times I entertain the wish that it had been me and not her. But I shoo it away, because that is not my call. The sovereign heart of God alone has the right and wisdom to make such a choice. But I do believe that same God is honored and glorified when I seek wisdom from him and draw close with him to the broken hearted and those who are crushed in spirit.

Ed Litton

P.S. That’s what I mean when I say, “I’m fine!?


Anonymous said...

For those of us who watch from a far, I want to say "thank you" for you blog and how you so articulate your feelings and keep the Body of Christ informed as to how you and your children are doing. I do not attent your Church, so to be able to read your blog is so helpfull for those of us who care and want to know how you are. It doesn't matter that we don't attend the same Church, because the word says "when one part of the body hurts we all hurt". It is the great privilege of Gods people to go to the throne room in behalf of you and your family. I can't imagine your pain but I can and do interceed to the ONE who knows and feels your pain. The Body of Christ cares about you and your
A sister in the Lord

Pastor Todd Linn said...

Thanks for helping people like me know how to better pray for you and your family. As a minister your words inspire me and cultivate a greater sense of compassion as I minister to others.

Eleanor said...

Once again,thank you for sharing your heart with us. You've given us so much of yourself and your faith to think about and pray about over these 10 weeks that it's a wonder you still have anything left! But then again, the source that supplies your soul is the blessed eternal one that feeds all those who believe, and it is abundant and never-ending and always FRESH! Being led by a shepherd who cares so deeply is a tremendous blessing. Keep on writing, and always remember our thoughts and prayers are with you.

-- Eleanor Ransburg

Anonymous said...

Pastor Ed,
This thought crossed my mind during the revival services this past week: Tammy would be so proud of you. After reading your last blog, I want to tell you that. Thanks for leading us deeper into a knowledge of God as you so honestly share your thoughts and your walk with Him. A changed life is such a great blessing, even when the change seems small. I sense that God has used your great change to help many of us change in some way. Praise God! Bill and I continue to pray for you and your family.
Martha Anne Gardner

Anonymous said... I return from an awesome weekend in the "Outback" with Riley, I am refreshed with words from my Pastor and friend. I experienced such joy this weekend as I was able to just be still. I thought often of my friend Tammy and it is still very painful....but I also experienced such joy as I recalled precious memories! I shared some with new friends and it brought a smile to their faces and mine. She was a very special lady and I miss her so. Thanks Pastor for sharing your words and thoughts with us on this blog. It helps. Love , Jan

Anonymous said...

Our prayers and thoughts are with you everyday. I work nights and it never fails that at some point during the night you and the kids are on my mind. I believe this is Gods way of telling me to pray for you all. Your blogs are a way of keeping up with how your are doing. Daddy would be so proud of you as we all are.
God Bless you,
Mary Litton Hobbs

Songs4Jesus said...

Pastor Ed,
your honest speaks volumes about your character! I look up to you, and thank God every DAY for such a Godly pastor! I Love you!
*Amy Goff*