Anticipating Grief – Embracing Grace
Life with a big future full of dreams. Together. 36 years ago I said “I do”.
Life was perfect. I was marrying the man God ordained for me. We made wedding plans. My dress was designed by me and sewn by a family friend as were the bridesmaid’s dresses. Rings were bought. Flowers ordered. Cake chosen. Vows were written. Music selected. We had a registry. We had showers. We were given gifts and blessings. The future looked bright. A team forever. Ps. 34:3.
36 years ago I anticipated many things but no matter what one anticipates the future is never certain. Who would ever have anticipated where God would lead us? Or how many kids we would minister to or raise? Who could anticipate raising our kids in IL or the amazing community we were to encounter there? Who could have foreseen that our move back to California was going to be critical as we would face cancer.
I could never have anticipated the myriad of blessings and opportunities and hardships headed our way as we anticipated our wedding day and a life of ministry together. I think it is on purpose that God keeps some things from us. Knowing everything would keep us from leaning into Him and trusting Him. And, if I anticipated what was to come, it would be so terrifying and overwhelming that I would perhaps have become immobilized.
When Jim was diagnosed with GBM brain cancer, I began the fearful journey of anticipation as I wondered what life would be like as a widow and when it would become my reality. I had no idea. And yet Jim was loved to the end fearlessly… and my kids needed strength for the day. I often went into the shower to sob uncontrollably.
Live in the moment. My future all became a glance at the past as I avoided anticipating “tomorrow”. Not my will but Thine.
My heart raced. My mind spun. My eyes burned and I felt sick but outwardly I had to keep a happy face. I needed to cling to hope for our family – in spite of losing my life partner. I dreaded the hurt, the loneliness and the empty that I anticipated. I dreaded the grief.
Ruth 2:3 says a phrase – “as it turns out” as though a coincidence just took place as Ruth happens to glean in a relative’s fields. Actually, as it turns out, the things I dreaded became a reality. But also, as it turns out, things I had not anticipated came true. God’s Word written on my heart faithfully broke through the self-absorbed state of mourning and in the midst of heartache, I see grace. My heart broke. The crying and sadness came as anticipated (and even still when I don’t expect it). But as it turned out as I allow God to minister, I learn God’s character that I have not experienced before. I ask him daily to carry me and the kids through. I intentionally breathe in and out. I trust God to redeem the situation and hold me tight and give Jim a hug and a kiss from me every day.
I had a life plan 36 years ago – to love God while bringing out the best in others. That is still my plan. It has not failed because my life partner died. I have not given up. Moreover, God is still on the throne. He still has power. He is good. Those are certainties I accept by faith.
And still, there is a time for everything. A time to mourn and and time to celebrate. I still hate the expression that time heals all wounds, because I am not convinced that it is true. At the same time, over the past 6 years I mourn less and I can say that I honestly am no longer in love with James William Mohler. I still love him – and will miss him forever – but this is a new reality I could not ever have imagined. I still long for Jim’s touch and his wisdom. I still grieve but the storm waves have subsided.
There is no certainty apart from Christ. There is no assurance of a happy ending in this life. Living by faith is the the antithesis of certainty according to Anne Lamont. Dr. Corey calls it confidence, which is literally living by faith. I think another alternative for the opposite of faith is cowardice, which implies that the converse: faith is courage. In Mark 4 a storm suddenly overwhelms the boat in which Jesus and his disciples are crossing the Sea of Galilee. While Jesus naps, his friends freak. They wake him, and he tells the wind and waves to be still. Then he turns on the twelve and says “Why are you such cowards? Don’t you have any faith at all?” Ben Franklin said the only thing certain in this life is death and taxes. But as Christians we know certain truths through our experience with the Almighty and through encounters with others. The faith I put in my best friend and soulmate is certain; I trust (which is the theological meaning of faith). The mystery of the Christian life is the reality that I cannot understand apart from faith and trusting in God’s goodness. As it turns out, the less certain I am, the more I embrace grace and lean into a life of faith.
So, I anticipate a good day of memories. I embrace God’s grace today. And I will watch to see how it turns out!