When I'm Feeling Down
A couple of weeks ago I was starting to feel really down. Maybe it's because I was coming up on six months since Isaac's death. Maybe it's because I'm sad that if Isaac hadn't died, right now we'd be trying for another baby. Part of it is because being a single parent is really hard. Obviously, there are lots of reasons for me to feel sad. And although I'm okay feeling sad, I don't want my sadness to compete with my happiness. I want to be able to feel both, fully.
Whenever I start to feel real down, I know that I need to give myself more space to grieve. This time I found that the weight was lifted off my back. It started when I went to church. A young man was speaking and something he said triggered a memory. The memory was of a time when I was serving a mission for my church in Russia. While I was on my mission, I remember preparing to teach someone and I was worried that they wouldn't understand or wouldn't connect with the message. Then I realized how my concerns were wrong. They were wrong because that message was the very message that led me to find God. That message was everything! I remembered my first experience with God. I was only 15 years old but I'll never forget what I felt when I first discovered that God was real and that He knew me.
As I thought about this experience that I had on my mission where I was reminded of my first experience with God, I again felt God's power and love. There was no answer to any of my current questions. There was no particular message that solved my problems. But there was love and it filled the space. It quieted my mind and brought peace to my soul. It is amazing to me how God's grace can really change us and carry us. Just days before I remember kneeling in prayer telling God that I couldn't do this on my own and that I really needed His grace to make up the difference. I wasn't sure how or when He would answer that prayer but He did.
A friend shared a scripture with me the other day and it really impacted me. It reads, "Always bearing about in the body the dying of the Lord Jesus, that the life also of Jesus might be made manifest in our body." (2 Corinthians 4:10) This struck me because I realize that I am resistant to the suffering of my grief. This scripture reminded me that suffering is prerequisite to God's glory and that if I want the life of Christ in me, then I also must bear about His death. So often I want to only experience light and happiness but growth and lasting strength requires both joy and sorrow.
Recently, I became aware of how I had in some ways distanced myself from Isaac. Although I have pictures and I talk about him often, I was in some ways emotionally detaching because I don't know how to have a relationship with a dead person. It is difficult for me to comprehend how I can love someone who I cannot interact with. I have always thought of the feeling of love as a byproduct of when we love (verb) someone. Love isn't a cosmic gift bestowed upon us by destiny. It's a choice; it's an action. So how do I continue to feel connected to Isaac when Isaac isn't here for me to love him?
Here is what I realized. I have to find new ways to love Isaac. It can't look the same as it used to. It will probably continually change over time but I can't turn it off. Because when I'm distracted or closed off, I lose myself. While I know this as a therapist, I'm not even sure I was aware that I was doing it until it changed. When I started to spend more time remembering Isaac, I didn't feel the pain that I was running from. All I felt was love for him. And that love was empowering. I realized that when I leave my heart open, I love better. I started to feel more emotionally available to my children. I think a lot of times we think we need someone to love us in order for our cup to be filled enough to love others. And while that in part is true, we can also fill our own cups when we love others. It reminds me of the movie "Frozen." My favorite thing about that movie is that the love that saves her life, is the love that she gives. It wasn't a romantic true love's kiss. It wasn't love from someone else. It was the love that she was willing to give. I know that in Isaac's absence I have wondered how I will be able to bear all the parental burden without Isaac's love and support to bear me up. It seems crazy. Double the burden, subtract the support, add grief. How can I possibly succeed? I'm not sure how it works but love lightens my load.
Now things aren't perfect, and sometimes I don't feel filled with God's love. Sometimes I'm mad at God and I have trouble praying because I'm pretty mad that He didn't stop that tick infestation from happening in my backyard and my child vomited hotdog all over his room in the middle of the night. Some of this is ridiculously hard. And there are times I'm overwhelmed and I want to give up although I'm not sure what giving up would even look like. But when it gets to be too much and I think I'm at the end of my rope, God restores my hope and gives me the strength to keep going until it doesn't feel so heavy. Sometimes it feels unfair. Sometimes I'm frustrated that God tests me so, but I know that God is good. I know that He exists. I know that He knows me. And although I wonder a lot of times about what His end game is here, I know that He is the giver of good gifts. I know that every good gift in my life was worth working for and waiting for.
Isaac's death created more uncertainty in my life. During times of uncertainty I feel a sense of urgency to know God's plan. I want to know how and when things will get better. I want Him to give me an answer so I can hold on and hope. But I'm learning that the hope and peace I long for do not come from knowing my future. Hope is forged in the fire of His love. And peace comes when I let Him in and feel His love. My circumstances don't have to change. I don't have to change. I have to let Him change me. His love is His grace. And, it isn't about me rising up to my challenges. It's about His grace raising me up. His love lightens my load, not because His love makes me stronger, but because the one who conquered sin and death carries my load with me.