Waves of Grief

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In keeping with my New Year’s resolutions, I am trying to get my place ready so that I can offer hospitality at a moment’s notice. I make it work, but often feel like i need to apologize for not being organized or tidier. I am a natural born slob. I can live in a state of chaos and not have it bother me. Until people come over. And then, I become acutely aware of my strong disorganizational skills!!! Tonight I’m tackling my room which has books that need to be organized, clothes that Shalom has claimed as his bed, and piles of paper and photos. At first this was a joyful task, in part because I am seeing a floor that I haven’t seen since I moved in. But more importantly, I found pictures of my siblings and drawings and letters they made for me. Last post I talked about what is necessary to me. These are gold to me – these little pieces of paper are worth more to me than all my belongings put together. These treasures give me hope that one day they will look back and at least remember fondly some moments with me. Maybe not yet. But one day.

But below the treasures are other things. There are court documents. Lots of court documents. I’ve kept everything. When you are involved in a criminal trial as a witness and your words are the only evidence, you keep every written word possible. I can’t bring myself to read these papers yet, though the day is near as there are things that need these documents. But for now, I have the willpower to just stick them in a file folder.

But then there are letters. Letters from my mother. Letter from some distant relatives. Letters from my grandparents. And whenever I rediscover them, I lack the willpower and strength to put them aside. I’ve read them so many times looking for hope that I have most of them memorized. It doesn’t matter how many times I read them, the bitter words are still there and the words of hope that I long for are missing.

There are letters from my grandparents – Grandma’s unmistakeable handwriting. I’ve always loved the way she writes my name. It’s an elegant letter E that I have never been able to replicate (My handwriting today is a culmination of trying to copy the way various people wrote their letters in a cool way!). These letters hold their prayers along with some difficult words. Grandma and Grandpa were prayer warriors when they were alive. They faithfully prayed for so many people, including each of us every morning after breakfast. I had the privilege of sitting in many times as they condensed their prayers for my sake.. they were still long!

We love you Elizabeth […] and know that one day our prayers for reconciliation will be answered. {2006}

We miss you very much and pray that 2007 will be the year of reconciliation. We know that God hears our prayers and that His answer will come in His own way and time. {Christmas 2006}

The way reconciliation works in this situation is that it all depends on me. I received many letters that conveyed prayers to God that *I* would reconcile. There has never been a full recognition for what I have been through. What my stepfather did might have been wrong, but reporting it – that was the unforgiveable sin. Reconciliation meant, then at least, that I would apologize for making it up and calling children’s aid and go back to the family that has only ever shown me love. That ‘reconciliation’ hasn’t happened. Neither has the real thing.

But as I read my grandmother’s words that were no doubt faith-filled, more waves of grief fill me: We know that God hears our prayers and that His answer will come in His own way and time. I still struggle with this for I have prayed too. I have longed. The above letter was the last time I heard from Grandma by mail and I had brief phone conversations in winter of 2007. That was it. I had short exchanges with Grandpa up until a year and a half ago. They left this earth to be with our Lord. And reconciliation never came – not even a chance to say goodbye.

God’s timing? God’s ways?

Is it possible that there is still time? With a God who orchestrates all of eternity, sure. But not on this side of earth. I don’t know what to make of the many prayers that have been denied in effect by my grandparent’s passing. What’s the point of praying for these things? Is reconciliation not what God is about?

I find myself again before God in tears – the time has passed. it is gone. they are gone. I am left with an ache and a longing for something I will not have on this side of earth. Death is pretty final. And has a bitter taste. And it hurts.

I don’t understand what God is up to sometimes. My unanswered prayers for reconciliation and my unanswered prayers for safety as a young teen still have me wounded by God. I may never understand his ways. I may never lose the ache. But somehow, God is still God. God is still faithful, loving, compassionate, wonderful, generous and all the other things that I have come to know about him. I don’t know how these things work together. He doesn’t always feel close.

And the words of the Lord to Job come to mind

Where were you when I laid the earth’s foundation? Tell me, if you understand. Who marked off its dimensions? Surely you know! Who stretched a measuring line across it?

[…]

Have you ever given orders to the morning, or shown the dawn its place, that it might take the earth by the edges and shake the wicked out of it?

[…]

Have you comprehended the vast expanses of the earth? Tell me, if you know all this?

What is the way to the abode of light? And where does the darkness reside? Can you take them to their places? Do you know the paths to their dwelling? Surely you know, for you were already born! You have lived so many years!

[…]

Can you raise your voice to the clouds and cover yourself with a flood of water? Do you send the lightning bolts on their way? Do they report to you, ‘Here we are’?

[…]

Will the one who contends with the Almighty correct him? Let him who accuses God answer him!

[…]

Would you discredit my justice? Would you condemn me to justify yourself? Do you have an arm like God’s, and can your voice thunder like his? Then adorn yourself with glory and splendor, and clothe yourself in honor and majesty. Unleash the fury of your wrath, look at all who are proud and bring them low, look at all who are proud and humble them, crush the wicked where they stand; shroud their faces in the grave. Then I myself will admit to you that your own right hand can save you.

(Job 38:4-5, 12-13, 18-21, 34-35; 40:2-3, 8-14)

This is found at the end of the book of Job, a theodicy of sorts that addresses the Problem of Evil and how a good God and evil co-exist. God has heard Job’s agony and bitter complaints. He has listened.

And I, having reread these words and realized yet again that I can do nothing of the sort of things that God has done, I find myself lacking words. I, the writer, have no answer to God to these questions. All I can do is say the words that were Job’s reply:

I know you can do all things; no purpose of yours can be thwarted. You asked, “Who is this that obscures my plans without knowledge?’ Surely I spoke of things I did not understand. (Job 42:2-3)

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  1. John Sullivan
    January 3, 2014 at 9:35 am

    Dear Elizabeth, such pain, such pathos, to answer may seem that one is a Job’s comforter, not to answer seems to be totally lacking in compassion. Surely reconciliation does not require confession that you were wrong to report your stepfather. What is required as far as I can see is some movement from a spiritual advisor to arrange a meeting between you and the family. I understand that TSA THQ has a qualified counsellor who deals with such abusive situations. She is in Winnipeg right now dealing with such a situation. Perhaps God’s answer might be for you to arrange a meeting with her at her convenience, and see if she could advise a way forward. Bless you!

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