And, this is just one of many lasts this year. Each date that passes on the calendar is the last one we will be here. And I understand that we are never guaranteed another day, ever, but I also think we don't live saying goodbye to days, and things and routines, and scenery, as this year seems to be to me. I am looking through different eyes at our time left here and I'm thankful for it. But, I'm am also living in a season of grief...
Grief is a strange thing... At times, so heavy, so awkward, and often present when I least expect it... It brings up emotions I would rather ignore because I feel helpless and "messy" and out-of-control. It affects my sleep, my eating and exercise habits and routines. It rear it's ugly head at unexpected moments and renders me feeling helpless. And I hate it... I hate feeling out-of-control and "messy" and helpless. Much of my life has been characterized by trying to keep it all under my control and neatly packaged, but when grief comes around, I can't...
All of this became so clear about a week ago as the tenth anniversary of my Dad passing away approached. On top of all the other things I have been feeling, this big anniversary was coming... I had mentally acknowledged it was coming and thought I was ok. That acknowledgement seemed enough and I was ready to move on. But grief, and I believe God, had other ideas. I couldn't sleep... The healthy habits I have established in my life all but disappeared... And, the smallest things set me off... As I became frustrated with small, insignificant things, I realized that all that I was experiencing and feeling was more about my Dad than some issue with an online order I had placed... Grief was here for a visit and I really didn't know what to do, nor did I want to take the time to work through it. Though I'm not unacquainted with grief, this felt different. And here is where I began to realize God wants do something in me and in my life in regards to grief.
A few years ago, God broke me, in the best way, and brought many of my issues with anger and frustration to the surface and He began to deal with them and teach me how to look beyond the obvious trigger and find the root of my feelings. My anger, more often than not, is a result of fear. So, when I get angry and frustrated now, I try and look beyond that, to see what set me off, what deeper issue triggered this ugly, emotional reaction... I realized this time, it wasn't fear, but grief - the sadness of not having talked to my Dad for 10 years, of not having gotten a hug from him in 10 years, of him missing all that has happened in my life and the life of my daughter, even missing him cheering on the Patriots just to spite my husband... This was what was below my anger and frustration this time - grief.
So, as I began to think through and pray about how I have grieved in the past, I realized that I have grieved on my own, but I haven't grieved with Jesus... I haven't allow Him to touch those places in my heart. I have dealt with the emotion of what happened - meaning I got to a point where I could live and move forward, but I have never allowed Jesus to come in a show me what He wants to show me and teach me what He wants to teach me. I've always held Him at arms length, not allowing Him to come in and heal the hurts and wounds, fill the spaces left empty by the loss of a person, or a dream, or an idea, or a season in my life. I haven't given Him permission to show me who He is and how much He loves me, even in these hard times, and even when I am not at my best, when I am mad, angry, frustrated, sad, messy, helpless, and feel out-of-control.
While we were visiting Texas in December and January, I shared with a very wise friend how I was feeling about this year and living in this season of endings. She reminded me that even this season of sadness, of goodbyes and endings, is God-ordained. Even when life is sad, when daily I am faced with the fact that I won't ever live this day of the year in this manner again, God has purpose in it. I am thankful for those words, for the reminder, that though I am walking in a season where I know little of what is to come, where I feel like I have even less control than I normally think I have, when we are at out last "first Sunday" back at church here in Costa Rica, and when I send my daughter to her last "first" day of school here in Costa Rica, God knows it and He planned it this way, He ordained these days, just as He has ordained every other day I have lived, and will ever live.
I pray as I continue to walk though this time, through these hard days, that I will lean on Jesus. I pray that I will grieve all of this in His presence. I pray that I will allow Him to teach me how to not keep Him at arms length but to come in and work on the parts of me that need work. I pray that when I feel sad, I run to Him and not food, not Facebook, not TV or movies, not anything else but Him alone. I pray that when life feels overwhelming and "messy" and out-of-control, I look to Him. I pray that as life as I know it ends, I will be consumed by the fire that is my God, my heavenly Father.
I am thankful that though my world is being shaken, the Kingdom I am a part of cannot, nor ever will, be shaken. And that I can worship an all consuming God in the midst of the shaking, knowing He alone is all I need. He is my comfort, my rest, my home...
Heather Carty is a wife, a mother, a musician, and a missionary, among many other things. She is a recovering "Older Brother" (see Tim Keller's Prodigal God) who desires to find God's joy in this journey called life. Which, by the way, has not gone at all as she had planned, but has turned out way better than she could have ever imagined.