Friday, December 28, 2007

Giving Words to Grief


”Give sorrow words; the grief that does not speak knits up o’er the wrought heart and bids it break.” - Macbeth

Grief visited me in a torrent on Christmas. I was expecting difficulty, but I received an emotional mugging. I felt as if grief dragged me down into a pit that can only be named despair. I struggled with it and felt as helpless as a fish out of water, lying in a puddle of my tears. My feelings were far more profoundly sad than those that visited me at the funeral. I was frankly surprised at the sound of my heart cracking again.

I fear Macbeth's words are true; if I do not express my grief in this manner, my heart will break never to be whole again. The word I offer to describe this emotion is "cheated." I feel cheated out of the love of my life. I feel cheated out of the joys of life that I have had, especially at this blessed season. I just simply miss my love. This may be as close to anger as I have experienced so far.

There is also a prolonged sense of foreboding that lies near the border of panic. It’s not unlike the feelings of flight I had as a child, spending the night with my cousin. We would play all day, our minds adrift in some fantasy, but at sunset something would come over me. The only way I could describe it was "homesickness." My aunt would push back my sweaty hair and feel my forehead for a temperature, but there never was one. I felt sick all over, and I wanted to be elsewhere. The place I was staying was safe, good, clean and welcoming, and my aunt’s food was always great, but I just wanted to be home. I feel like such a stranger here without Tammy. I feel odd in almost every circumstance of my familiar life.

I was reminded by a friend who has traveled this road to ask God to reveal what He is doing. So I asked the Lord to show me what He is doing that I may not care to see or want to find comforting. Revelation Chapter 19 describes Jesus returning on a majestic white horse. His name is said to be "Faithful and True." He is most certainly that. In a quiet place I find Him faithful and patient with my whirlwind of bitter emotions. He is true to never leave me or forsake me. I have always believed that God speaks, even if I do not have a clue what His words mean. He speaks, even though His words can be like explaining quantum physics to a three month old child.

When God answers my questions, He doesn’t always offer definitions. He speaks through a remembered verse. He speaks through simple phrases or thoughts I know didn’t originate with my mind. He speaks with love and understanding. He has spoken in firm and frightening clarity, but this time He answered me by sitting with me and letting me know He was there. He brushed away my grief and covered my sulking frame in His peace. He eased the pain of my soul. He did what answers could not, God came near.

Then I remembered, that is what my faithful and true God does. He comes near. I know now how people are dragged into the dungeon of despair. I know why anger and hurt can so easily rule our lives. I know better how to fight back when grief wants to mug me and drag me away. I know I still have a choice. Grief may well have the power to do all I’ve described and more, but it cannot lock me in a prison of despair. I alone hold that key. God made it so. I have been given the keys that lock or unlock my own prison cell. I have the power to choose. Thank God there is still in me something that yearns to be free.

Thank you, Faithful and True!

Ed Litton

6 comments:

Penny said...

Dear Pastor Ed,
Thanks for being real to all of us. I am blessed by your willingness to be candid and am uplifted that you found "Faithful and True" during one of your most desperate moments. "Know therefore that the Lord thy God, He is God, the faithful God, which keepeth covenant and mercy with them that love Him and keep His commandments to a thousand generations." (Deut. 7:9)
Our compassionate pastor, Dr. Steve Gaines, shared with our congregation your loss in August. He showed your family photograph and asked us to pray for you. You have especially been in my prayers during Christmas.

Anonymous said...

THANKS FOR BEING A MODEL TO US OF WHAT IS FAITHFUL AND TRUE TO THE ONE WHO IS FAITHFUL AND TRUE. I CAN'T THINK OF A MORE DIFFICULT TRIAL AND WE APPRECITAE YOU FOR MAKING RIGHT CHOICES. GOD WILL USE EVERY HURT AS HIS GREATNESS AND GLORY AND GRACE ARE ALL REVEALED.

Anonymous said...

Pastor Ed,

it's difficult when grief finally really hits us. sometimes, as in your case it takes a while for the shock to wear off, even if you don't realize you're even in shock.
once it does, the pain can be so very tremendous, just as you described. it can be overwhelming and suffocating. i remember about 5months after losing my dad grief finally came to me. i literally could not breathe because i was so overcome by emotion. it's indescribably difficult to bear, but i think God also allows us to feel that pain so that we can also feel Him. He indeed comes near as you say. and He wraps His arms around us and holds us until the pain passes. i can truly say i never noticed the feeling and the ultimate power of God's love and comfort until that most terrible of moments. He is amazing indeed. you have to realize, when i lost my dad, i lost MY love. he was my very very best friend here on earth. but next year will be 5 years sice he died. i don't think it gets any "easier" per se, it's just different, and God gives us the strength and the courage and the desire to move on. you are a very brave man and your words very much prove what a good and faithful servant you are. it might sound strange coming from me but i am very very proud of you. and i know He is as well. my favorite verse to remember in those times is John 14:1 "do not let your hearts be troubled. trust in me. trust also in My Father." i love you pastor ed, and please know that
you have a lot of prayers coming your way, consistently, from out here in the middle of the desert.
May God continue to grant you His grace and ultimately His peace. the peace that passes all understanding.

with love and prayers,

amanda (michaels) holifield

Anonymous said...

My Brother,
All praise, glory, and honor be to Him who is Faithful and True.
We love you.

D and M
Fredericksburg, TX

Jen Bartlett said...

Dearest Pastor Ed,
My husband (of barely over a year) Robert and I are studying the two books/bible studies "The Exemplary Husband" and "The Excellent Wife". Each book is appropriately titled for both you and for Tammy. For me, you are both earthly representations of these written words that we have been studying. Even in Tammy's earthly absence, I know that I can look to the earthly examples that you both set for those of us who have only recently entered the holy and precious covenant of marriage. Dear Pastor, your work is not finished here--it's only just begun. Your words still teach, admonish, comfort, counsel and exhort. God has already ensured through your writings here that the hurt of your heart is not in vain. In addition to the Holy Scriptures, your truths and insights delivered here have been and will continue to minister to us in our marriage. In addition to your spoken messages, your written expressions through this cyber-vehicle of sorts has been both precious and priceless to each of us. We love you and pray for you so very much. May He continue to be the daily Lifter of your Head.

Much love in this new year of life,
Jen (Lamey) Bartlett

Anonymous said...

widow in more ways than one,

People ask "How are you doing?",I have learned not to ask that of everyone. I get to the point of not knowing anymore. The answer's you first give you children seem somehow to accept what has happened,but later as time passes, it doesn't. You see each person in a different way and search for greater hope and love through God's word. There are times you want to just give up. Let someone just care enough to say "I will just listen and not say a word."
People are not as sensitive as they were when it all began. The phrase "You'll get over it" become's one of the most cruelist phrase's a christian can say to one another. As if you had a cold and you can get over a death as easily.
When our heavenly Father joined a husband and wife together, they became one. The two shall become one. It took years of each other learning faults,strong points, and understanding to realize how wonderful God made your spouse just for you. The shoes of death come in different sizes and shapes. Once you have walked in your own, you would never wish them on another.
I am sorry for your loss and pray for the Holy Spirit to comfort you in the way that He can only do.

widow in more ways than one.