Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Third Wednesday of Advent—Anticipation and Grief

Advent is a time of waiting—waiting in anticipation for the coming of our Saviour.  An advent song has been repeating in my mind--just a couple of lines:
Come Thou Fount of every blessing
Tune my heart to sing Thy praise.
It’s there when I wake up, it’s there as I drive; as I eat, as I go to sleep, it is always there.  But then, so is the Fount of all the blessings in my life. 

At my small group’s Christmas celebration last night, we passed a candle around the circle, each stating something we’re thankful for as we held the candle.   I spoke of how grateful I am for the church I am in and how I couldn’t have found a better church.

There are so many other things I could have expressed thanks for: I am safe in a warm house and warm clothes when the temperature plunges below -40, unlike the many homeless on our streets; I have a wonderful family; my marriage, which has been painful for most of its nearly 36 years, is becoming a source of joy; my sons are blessings to me in many ways—their love and gentleness, their “can-do” attitude, their incredible giftedness in music, art and other areas; I am surrounded by people who love me, online and in person; I could go on. 

I continue to be bewildered by my lack of grieving emotions.  Why am I so filled with joy 35 days after my son died?  Why haven’t I fallen apart?  Isn’t that what mothers are supposed to do when their children die?  I talked to my psychiatrist about that earlier today and she painted several possible scenarios:

Perhaps with the coming wedding of another son, I’ve suppressed or numbed the grief in order to function.  She doesn’t see me falling apart before that is over. 

One mother didn’t “fall apart” until the third anniversary of the death of her child.  I don’t want to wait that long though.  I would like to get it done and over with.  It’s hard to wait for the other shoe to drop, never knowing when the grief may hit. 

Another possibility is that I did all my grieving before Mikael died.  The year and a half before he took his life were tension-filled, never knowing from one day to the other whether he’d try to harm himself or how.  I remember being on constant vigil with my cell phone in case he would need me; coming home to blood streaked too generously across the kitchen door; sitting up with him through the night because he was afraid he’d hurt one of us; his joining me in my prayer room because he needed to be with me; his emotionally flat face and silent sitting, unoccupied, on the living room couch; the increasing darkness of his appearance; the sobs that wracked my body as others gathered around me to pray for my son.  I remember the pain of those months.  There is a sense of relief that I don’t have to live like that anymore.  Mikael is out of pain.  The fearful anticipation of him doing the unthinkable is over.

I am reminded of a story in the Bible.  David saw Bathsheba bathing on her roof, sent a servant to bring her to him and conceived a child with her.  God was angry, not only that David had taken someone else’s wife, but that he killed her husband to cover his sin.  In consequence, God was going to take the life of this child.  “David pleaded with God for the child.  He fasted and went into his house and spent the nights lying on the ground....he would not eat any food with [the elders of his household].”

When the child died, the servants were afraid to tell him.  “He may do something desperate.”  But David could tell something had happened and asked the servants about the child.  Yes, he had died.  What was David’s response?  He “got up from the ground.  After he had washed, put on lotions and changed his clothes, he went into the house of the Lord and worshipped.  Then he went to his own house, and at his request they served him food, and he ate.”

The servants were astonished.  “Why are you acting this way?  While the child was alive, you fasted and wept, but now that the child is dead, you get up and eat!”

He answered, “While the child was still alive, I fasted and wept.  I thought, ‘Who knows?  The Lord may be gracious to me and let the child live.’ But now that he is dead, why should I fast?  Can I bring him back again?  I will go to him, but he will not return to me.”

Is this the place where I am in regard to Mikael?  I don’t know.  It would be cool to think I won’t fall apart with grief but there is no way of knowing that.  Someone last night likened grief to a tangled ball of yarn.  You never know what will happen when you pull a part of it—will the yarn come out smoothly or will pulling on it create a more difficult knot that seems impossible to unravel?
“Come Thou Fount of every blessing
Tune my heart to sing Thy praise.”
Jesus is the Fountain of all the blessings in my life.  He is using these blessings and the difficulties to tune my heart to him so that, as I described in my book, together we can resonate like the two arms of a tuning fork.

Come, Lord Jesus!  Come!

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