This article was first published at Your Tewksbury Today, where I wrote in real time as I processed the loss of my father during Advent 2015. While this was two months ago, to the day, I feel it is important to revisit it; it is part of an ongoing series I am writing on grief. Sometimes it is a stuck place, and we need a little help to get unstuck, but it’s not just grief that leaves us feeling this way. We can land with legs up in the air, unable to find our ground during any kind of loss: relationship disappointment, abandonment, betrayal, a crushed dream, etc.
I hope you find something in it to bring you or someone you know peace and comfort as you/he/she experience/s the inevitable: mourning what was and adjusting to the new normal.
I was stuck—a stuck mouse to a glue trap in my grief. Arms and legs flailing in perpetual motion but no ability to move forward. My sweet father lingered in a place where peace was promised ahead, but he had to cross the precipice by himself, and there was nothing I could do about it. The push-pull of those last days brought such conflicting feelings that penetrated my very marrow. Waking or sleeping, all I could do was picture the glory ahead and a sweet man with fingers gently reaching up to wait for the hand of Christ.
When I look at my youngest son’s limbs, hands, and feet, freckled and long, I see my father. The auburn wisps around his face? Another genetic transfer. For years, when we lived in the Marshall Islands, we would send his hair clippings to Dad to show him that beautiful autumn fire that successfully lived on in the gene pool.
Last week I found myself holding my breath just looking at my son. I was grateful my father was so evident in his appearance. I walked around half-completing tasks, afraid to be in public when the phone would ring, immobilized in my favorite IKEA chair with both dogs on my lap, and unable to fully clear a table, finish a load of laundry, or make a meal. Time. Stood. Still. I was waiting for the crossover with a grief that engulfed me for what would be—a fearful anticipation of life without Dad. I could not move on.
What about you? Have you found yourself stuck in grief, fear, disappointment, shame, or disillusionment?
Do you feel unsettled no matter how many phone calls you make or how much advice you seek? Do distractions fail to mask the angst? Are your nights restless? Is focus just out of reach?
I find that the counsel of good friends is a wonderful thing, and God surely uses it to nourish and equip me, but nothing comes close to a posture of prayer where I pour my anguish out to the Only One Who can truly give me peace. When my mind is fixed there, sleep comes more easily and trust can happen more readily. Problems don’t have to be immediately solved because I gave them to the Problem Solver. He is so much better at it than I am.
Psalm 28:1-2, ESV, King David speaking
Of David. To you, O LORD, I call; my rock, be not deaf to me, lest, if you be silent to me, I become like those who go down to the pit.
Hear the voice of my pleas for mercy, when I cry to you for help, when I lift up my hands toward your most holy sanctuary.
Can you hear David’s desperation in his pleas? He knows His great need to have a relationship with God and how risky it is to be left to his own devices.
This is exactly the place where we get unstuck:
Acknowledging our need for God.
Recognizing that it is He Who provides our help.
Yielding to His authority and direction.
When I lift my burden up onto His altar, I share in the inheritance of David. I lift my hands up toward His most holy sanctuary.
Know what happens when I do that?
My hands can’t get into their own trouble. They can’t take over. They submit to God.
— Bonnie Lyn Smith (@BonnieLynSmith) February 1, 2016
At night, with the phone by my bed, I would roll up into fetal position and cry out to God. I pleaded for His comfort, peace, and calm. I begged from a broken heart, but in reality, all I had to do was ask. Even so, sharing my deepest feelings and fears was so freeing and intimate. I let Him see me all tear-snotty, disheveled, unshowered, and ragged. I came to Him in my deepest need, my ultimate humanity. It was from that same place that David finished his psalm declaring that God was his
The LORD is my strength and my shield; in him my heart trusts, and I am helped; my heart exults, and with my song I give thanks to him.
The LORD is the strength of his people; he is the saving refuge of his anointed.
Oh, save your people and bless your heritage! Be their shepherd and carry them forever.
David had a long history with God. He had experienced how faithful and true God was. He knew what to do
when you’re stuck like me.
As I prayed my way out, my muscles relaxed, my internal storms quieted, and Jesus carried my burden. I cycled through this every time I felt anxious, a few times a day at first. I imagined crawling up onto God’s lap, laying my head down, and letting Him quiet me by His love.
Zephaniah 3:17, ESV, Zephaniah the Prophet speaking
The LORD your God is in your midst, a mighty one who will save; he will rejoice over you with gladness; he will quiet you by his love; he will exult over you with loud singing.
My problems were sometimes still waiting in the morning, but I didn’t carry them alone.
I hope this Advent season you experience anticipation in the wonder of the Christ Child come to earth, Immanuel, God With Us, but that you are also captivated by the Father Who sent Him and Who, through a babe in a lowly manger, brought a quieting love to each heart that receives Him.
I echo the sentiments of David at the end of his psalm:
“Be my shepherd and carry me forever!”
How about you?
— Bonnie Lyn Smith (@BonnieLynSmith) February 1, 2016
In loving memory of the sweetest of fathers who knew that quieting love on earth and now is enjoying its fullness for eternity. I love you, Dad!
[Called home by the Good Shepherd December 2, 2015.]
*This blog has also been shared at any link highlighted here: Mom 2 Mom Monday Link-Up, Make a Difference Mondays, Pick Your Pin Tuesday, Women With Intention Wednesdays, Grace & Truth, A Little R & R, RaRa Link-Up, Me, Coffee & Jesus, Dance With Jesus, Blessing Counters, Coffee & Conversation, Saturday Soiree, Tell His Story, Find Stability, So Much at Home, Faith-Filled Fridays, Reflect His Love and Glory Link-Up, Bonbon ‘n Coffee Linkup, and Christian Mommy Blogger.
Anecdotal stories about an everyday relationship with God can be found in Not Just on Sundays: Seeking God’s Purpose in Each New Day (includes Book Club Discussion Questions).