Monday, February 28, 2011

"Is Suffering Scary?"

I receive dozens of emails a day. I love them all.

(Perhaps you've sent one to me; know that I read it and appreciated your kindness, time, and words. I probably didn't respond, since email correspondence isn't yet within my daily capacity. But I hope to someday. And for now, I bask in the words other people have, especially when I can't find my own.)

There is an invisible community that has become part of mine, people who heard my story through a friend of a friend of a friend. People who read my words, and by God's grace, want to read more.

I have learned that people are learning from the transparency of my journey.

Some have said, "By showing us what you think, you're letting us as close to grief as we dare come. We don't have to experience the loss ourselves, and yet you let us know what it's like. You're living our greatest fear. You're showing us what a girl thinks after her young, healthy husband has died. You're showing us what it looks like: the good, the bad, the ugly - the real, the true, the pain. We don't have to feel it ourselves; you let us carefully in."

A friend emailed me recently; she is neither anonymous nor invisible, although she is far away and dearly written into my life's earlier chapters. She wrote, "Tricia, this sounds silly. I wish I could ask it in person. But... is suffering scary?"

Is suffering scary?

You'd sure think it would be. I sure thought it would be. It actually isn't.

I had long heard sermons and phrases like, "God gives you the grace when you need it, and not a moment before." In essence, wise people told me, "You can't imagine living your greatest fear, you can't imagine surviving, because you don't have to right now. But if you needed strength for that crisis, if you needed wisdom in that moment, God would give it to you. His grace isn't just about where you go after you die; it's about living this moment the way he wants you to. He gives you the grace when you need it. Not a moment before."

Turns out: it's true.

I find myself thinking, "Wow, God. You said you would do this. You said you wouldn't forsake me. You said you'd carry me. You said you'd protect me, provide, and show me the way. And you are. Here you are. You really are. You said you would, and now you are."

Now, let me also say this: there is fear. I feel it. There's a lot of scary.

As soon as I think outside this moment, I feel terrified.

I think about the day I will agree to receive his ashes from the mortuary.

I think about vacations we wanted to take; will I take them? 'Cause he was my tour guide. Can I do it alone?

I think about the house we planned to buy or build in the next three years, our 'one more move' into the house we hoped to stay in. The one with a 3-car garage for him, a writing office for me (lined with bookshelves, naturally), a backyard for the boys, and a finished basement for our someday-teenagers to freely host their friends. I wonder if I can sell a house, choose a house, buy a house - without him. I wonder if I want to. I wonder if I should. Ever.

I think about my professional life without him beside me, about the decisions I would rather have made with his thoughts combined with mine.

I wonder what I'll do when the boys need to learn to shave.

I wonder if a single mom should go to grad school. Even if she always, always wanted to.

I wonder about the days that will be harder than today, the nights that will be more sleepless than the last. I wonder how hard this will get.

And as soon as I step out of this moment, fear creeps right in to fill the space.

Suffering is not scary; worrying is.

I haven't yet found a moment I couldn't make it through, but I'm nearly always very, very afraid of the next one.

I was in one of those spin-cycles recently, orbiting around my concerns over each boy, about how to parent them in a dual role, about how to handle this, that, and everything. The next morning, I received a timely, poignant email - one from the anonymous, invisible community.

She had been awake during the night, thinking of our family, and she couldn't fall asleep. She said she felt a pressing urgency in her mind, almost a voice, saying:

Remind her.
Remind her that I know.
Remind her that I know they are fatherless.
Remind her that I know she is a widow.
Remind her that I know.
Remind her that I AM.

She couldn't go to sleep without giving an audible voice to these words, so she found my email and wrote to me at four in the morning. She added an apology: "I'm sorry if this isn't helpful. I really just wanted to go back to sleep, but I couldn't until I wrote this. I am supposed to remind you."

It's actually just what I needed. To remember. He knows. He is. He is I Am.

And when I'm there, in that place - or perhaps I should say, when I am here, when I am in this place - suffering isn't scary.

It's simply the moment that I am in.


the4j's said...

Again, you have put into words what I cannot. "Suffering is not scary; worrying is." At night, when I can't sleep and the fear creeps in....this is not God. I am one of those who has heard your story from a friend of a friend and it has affected me in ways you can't know. To hug my husband tighter and remember the little things. I again, am so sorry for you and that you are missing those things. Still praying for the peace that passes all understanding to guard you.
Praying this verse for you:
"The LORD your God is with you, he is mighty to save. He will take great delight in you, he will quiet you with his love, he will rejoice over you with singing." Zephaniah 3:17

Penned Pebbles said...

Your words come from a place of knowing that God is true to His word! I think the difference between believing and knowing is the ingredient that shapes and strengthens our faith! Praying for you daily!

Mrs. MK said...

Thank you, Tricia!

Amy said...

What a beautiful post. I'm so thankful for that sweet lady's obedience to the Spirit. What a blessing. Praying for you more...

boo4baby said...

Amazing how you can find words for your emotions and thoughts, fears and worries. For me, sharing this grief so publicly would be scary.....until I read the many comments. You have so many people loving and supporting you even if they don't know you. And I know it is true only because you do share so openly. I know that you and your boys have become a part of my daily life and I often share with my husband. I want to learn from this. Make the most of my marriage. Learn how to comfort others in grief. If that is possible. You are grieving, but in your grief you are teaching. Thank you for your openness. Your grief drives me to my knees for you and your boys.

Melinda's Stories said...

Thank you, I am one of the invisables, you do not know me. I am in Australia, I found your blog, when I needed the lesson to appreciate and be grateful to my husband and boys more. When I was so caught up in my fear,the worry, the moments that could be days from now or never even happen. See we are the same age, I also have a beautiful husband and two gorgeous boys. YOUR blog, your stories, your strength, your wisdom, your love, your pain. It has changed me, it has made me grateful for my family, it has made me live in this moment, this very second. I have no doubt that you hear this all the time, but you and your boys are in my thoughts.

mercygraceword said...

Another young mother of three named Kate Cantelon Hall lost her husband Rob on February 22nd, in a construction accident on the site of Trans Africa Theological College in Zambia. They had sold up and taken their three children to Zambia on an adventure with God.
Your prayers will mean so much, as you share the fellowship of her suffering.

Polly said...

Thank you,"Mercygraceworld," for this comment. I went to the web site and read and read, and cried with you all. Another wonderful man named Rob (or Robb) lost to this world, won to the next. My heart cries with this young mom, even as I weep for our family's loss (as Tricia's mom). These two men, continents apart, were brothers. Truly I hope they have met each other in heaven by now. Thank you again.

Jan Verhoeff said...

I never lost a husband to death, but I am a single mom. The scariest part of being a single parent is knowing that while they're with you, you can touch them, but there will come a time when you have to allow God to touch them, without your loving hands being the "middle man."

Giving them up to God is all part of the plan, we raise them up and they follow His will.

Blessings Tricia.