When Apollo 13 suffered an air-tank explosion in the middle of their historic flight to the moon, they had to stay on course and follow their orbit around the moon and then allow the gravitational force of the earth to draw them home. On the back side of the moon they lost radio contact for some time, cutting off communication with their home on earth.
In grief you often feel like Commander Jim Lovell, Jack Swigert and Fred Haise must have felt. Disconnected from all they were familiar with and as far away as any humans have ever been from home. They didn’t know how extensive the damage from the explosion was or what would happen upon reentering Earth's orbit. Grief takes you to dark places that are frightening for the ones going, but also for those who love the ones going there. Now that a year has passed since Tammy's death, let me share some of the things I’m learning from the dark side of grief’s moon.
First, God is faithful. Twelve months ago I looked down a very dark corridor, and the only things I saw were painful realities of more and greater potential losses. In those moments fear was so real, and in my grief I often had a loss of confidence in myself and even in God—which made the whole experience even more painful. Today I say I have survived what I utterly feared, and frankly it isn’t so bad. Why? Because looking this way twelve months ago, I left one very important thing out of my calculations: God. A big oversight, one might say. Yes, a very big oversight indeed. God reveals Himself to us in the present, and when we look too much to the future, we miss God and all He brings to bear upon our fearful unknown. When your future arrives He will be faithfully there, and He makes all the difference.
Second, the dark side of the moon is a lonely and barren place. The problem is we tend to focus on the words “lonely” and “barren.” No one wants to sign up for the lonely and barren. Yet it is the place God moves to reveal Himself most powerfully. Even if others tenderly care for you in your hours of grief, you may not be able to hear them. They may long to relieve your pain with great tears, but there is no guarantee their comfort will reach your wounded heart. On the dark side of the moon there’s another perspective. All of the heavens are open and blazing with glory. The Earth is blocked from view and the stars are amazing. There is much to see in the darkness of space. There is much to wonder at and be in awe of, that we would miss if we didn’t open our eyes. Traveling through grief, it’s often tempting to close your eyes and wait for it all to pass. God is in this journey. Whenever I struggled with difficult circumstances in life, Tammy would often say, "Sweetheart, God has you on a roller-coaster, throw up your hands and enjoy the ride."
Third, there’s a new kind of discovery. The Apollo 13 crew’s mission was to discover the Fra Mauro Highlands. This geological formation covers a vast portion of the lunar surface and is a rich discovery. As it was, another crew at another time would have the joy of that exploration. Death ends dreams and cancels missions. One of the most devastating aspects of grief is the sense of a new normal. Plans are erased, and you find yourself limping away from your dreams in a wounded lunar module. All seems lost, and you wonder if you’ll ever find your way home—much less ever have another dream. I’ve discovered that God is in the midst of new dreams and new directions for those who suffer loss. I can’t give you an example of all He has for my life. I’m still in the limping home stage on the dark side of the moon, but one thing is clear to me: I want to dream new dreams. I’m willing to try new things. This feels healthy.
I don’t declare anything with absolute assurance when it comes to my own grief journey. What I do declare with hope and confidence is that I am not alone. My Lord Jesus Christ has faithfully followed me all the days of my life, and He is with me now. His rod and staff comfort me. Yes, even though I walk through this dark side of the moon, I need not fear, for He is with me.
I want to thank everyone who has prayed for me and my family. I have one simple request, "Please do not stop."