"Do not let your hearts be troubled. Trust in God and trust in me."
~ John 14:1
It has been a week filled with a lot of emotion. For months now I have been struggling with a number of things. Most of all the weight of grief compounded by loss, the inability to be with others, and the reality that the life we all once knew has become a closed chapter. As I shared with a friend, "I'm afraid to cry because I'm not sure I will know how to stop."
The vulnerability that we all are encountering now is fresh, new for some, and filled with a lot of unknowns.
As the mother of one of my hospice patients shared as her daughter was dying, "These tears I shed are for now, but the real tears will come when I realize the loss, and when they come, it doesn't matter where I am, or what I will be doing, they will just arrive and I can't do anything to stop them."
There was so much wisdom in what she was sharing. As one who understood the grief that she was encountering, she was living into the expectation of what was to come.
I think that I have been carrying her words with me, holding them somewhere in my mind, while my spirit seemed to hold on to the tears that were afraid to flow. It's interesting how our mind finds ways to place things like our tears, in places where we believe that we will be safe from them. I remember someone telling me that we all are good at "boxing up," the things that we believe will harm us if we encounter them in our mind, and then only to realize that what was in the box we have already lived through and should not be so afraid of the perceived power it has over us. If we were honest with ourselves, our imagination creates the monster out of fear to keep us from opening the box. When the truth of the matter is that the monster is non-existent because what we have tucked away is already behind us, and that is not where we are living.
I struggled with this. I'm not sure why I have tried so hard to keep these tears from arriving?
In the early hours of Tuesday, I drove down to the Seawall on Galveston Island. Before the dawn. In the darkness. I sat, listened, as waves met the shore, and I waited.
Funny how we try to control every aspect of our life. I was thinking, "This is the place where I will allow my grief to be released."
I recalled the losses, the feelings, and as the sky began to create hues of blue and green, I began to become frustrated with myself because I was not wailing into the wind. Instead a few tears among the cackle of a few sea gulls that hoped I had some bread to share as daylight washed over the shoreline. In some way I felt like I had failed. The insomnia, the early morning drive, and all I discovered was that I was sitting and waiting in expectation of the pain that I needed to let go of.
I think of the words I shared with God, and realize now that I cannot force myself to grieve. It is just something that arrives on its own. The words of the mother came back to me, and I realized that she was right. The real tears will come when they are ready.
There was some sadness as I drove away, leaving behind the beautiful sunrise, and the place where I often find myself when I really need to be alone, realizing that the journey was not what I had hoped for and I felt that I needed.
I arrived home, told my family that I was "better," and "did what I needed." Somehow they heard my words and sensed that everything I had done had helped. In many ways, I wanted to reassure them that I was fine, and that my life would suddenly begin to be as bright as the morning sunrise.
Jesus tells us, "Do not let your hearts be troubled. Trust in God and trust in me." (John 14:1)
I listened to these words over and over in my mind as I made my way to patient visits, exhausted from not sleeping the night before, and then as I wrestled in my sleep the next night.
Little did I realize that what I felt like I needed so badly, was having it's own spiritual encounter, and that I needed to not be so hard on myself for feeling like I had "failed my own grief journey." As I sat in a meeting, I felt the swell begin in my throat, and as I spoke, my voice became strained. I had to turn off the camera to my Zoom meeting as my manager texted me on my personal phone and asked, "Are you okay?"
A quick response, "Yes, just feeling a little emotional," was the betrayal of how I was really feeling.
I wiped my face, and returned to the camera, and once again proceeded like we all do when someone asks us, "How are you?" and we respond, "I'm fine."
Our journeys are so important. No matter whether it is the joy of the moment, or the great sadness of the event, God knows us so well. Our hearts, our souls and our minds have been fashioned in a way that we are to encounter life fully. To live fully into our pain, means to live through our woundedness and to help others heal when their pain is known. It is our woundedness that makes us able to empathize with those who have experienced loss, which then brings healing in unexpected ways.
For me, the words of Jesus to "not let your heart be troubled," allows for the grace that I need to live through what it is that I am feeling without the expectation of failure when I am unable to "force," what I am not prepared or ready.
Each of us carry unimaginable things. Experiences that we hold on to. Words that were told to us. Unexpected encounters that have left wounds and scars. Perhaps that is why we all hear these words, and seem to find a way to understand what they mean.
Stay in God's grip!
G. Todd Williams (c) 2020
Rev. G. Todd Williams lives in the Houston metro area and is a Hospice Chaplain at Essential Hospice, Webster, Texas, and is an ordained Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) pastor.