Wednesday, September 28, 2005

Healing Reign


Healing Reign

It was drizzling rain when we got to the little town not far from our women’s retreat site. I DID notice the rain—it’s never rained in all the times I have come up here. Although I was expecting God to speak deeply to my heart up here in the mountains, in my internal sadness I really did not want this grey sky to stay all weekend…causing an additional type of heaviness on my heart.

I mentioned in my last entry that God did an amazing thing while I was at retreat. I have wanted to share with you sooner, but there were a lot of personal things within my experience that I needed to stew on first. I also want to be careful within my vulnerability that what I share is not misunderstood. I will share this piece of the story today, but I want you to remember a few things up front.

When I speak about my journey, it is just that—MY journey. Just like one’s relationship with another person…it is entirely unique. No one told me what kind of “situation” to set up, nor did I conjure up any of this. I will be sharing with you exactly what happened, editing only some very personal thoughts which are parts of the paragraphs I will share…straight from my journal. What I experienced happened, I believe, as a part of the learning that God is allowing in my life as I walk with Him. Keep in mind that what I am learning is, “How much does God love me?” I can tell you how much He loves you, but I am learning to receive His love for me. It is only then that I will really understand what it is to ‘love other people.’ (And THAT was my question to God one year ago.)

I was able to be at peace regarding this time away from home…from the daily reminder of my loss…because my parents were with my children. They know loss. They give me space. I know few days go by that they don’t think of my brother who died at age 27. Besides the loss of their parents and many of my dad’s siblings (he was #10 of 11), here they are watching their grandchildren walk the process of finding a “new normal” without their dad. I am so grateful for how they loved and accepted my Michael. And, he loved them back…dearly.

I digress.

And so my experience began…

It was Thursday evening. I sensed God wanted me to go for a walk…yes, in the misty rain. I walked across some open areas and I stopped in the middle of one of the fields. I noticed a lodge there, under the tall, tall redwood trees. The lodge seemed to trust in the trees’ safety, comfort, and shade. I am to “lodge” with God now. This is a new, solo walk. I was near the “Cathedral Grove,” a circle of redwoods which formed a sanctuary with benches, a platform and a cross. I was hesitant to go in there at this moment, but I wondered if at some point I would enter in.
I wandered over by the pond where the music of the waterfall calmed my anxious heart. I leaned on the bridge railing and listened. The picture of serenity was arrested in my heart by a number of cups, some broken, some whole, floating in the water. I was saddened. As if from somewhere nearby, a voice gently spoke, “Go pick them up.” (I know I hate litter, but I reasoned that the camp staff would get them the next day…and they probably blew over there from the lounge.) Without much more thinking, I found myself ducking (no pun intended) around the end of the bridge and finding a stick to reach some of the cups. After I retrieved them all I found a can to toss them in. It was then that I heard that still and gentle voice again. There was ‘still work to be done and it didn’t matter if anyone saw…I was just to keep walking…with Him.’ I pondered, “Is it still worth it? What’s it all for? My hands may get dirty…the filth of this world…”

I walked across the open field and I heard the voice again, “Are you willing to dance with me…alone?”

“What? Right here?”

“Yes…let’s dance.” I did. Spinning and turning with the rain on my face….hmmm…the dissonance of my new dance…reflecting on a book The Devine Embrace by Ken Gire that I read last winter...Oddly enough, a friend, who read the book also, asked me recently if I was experiencing that dissonance.

Moments later I faced a choice to enter back into the world—the presence of and conversation with people. Quiet or not, the presence of others changes the ‘senses and sacredness of the moment.’ Feeling the mist beginning to bead up on my face, I asked God a few questions before I headed up the steps. “God do You cry when You usher one home? Do You cry because You know You have pried one human love from another—because it will cost pain for us to see You love us more than that heart connection?...You love us more than the creation of children… Oh how great and deep must be Your love that I can’t grasp it all. Your Word talks a lot about Your love…oh such a path to walk and things to learn…

Later that evening, a very special new friend encouraged me to not be afraid to go to that place of deep sadness. (I thought, “What does she know—intellectually speaking-- about grieving?” SMACK-IN-THE-FACE…my ugly pride…I am afraid…am I afraid?) She continued, “It is a place of love from a loving relationship. It is not a place of depression or pity—it is deep sadness for a loss of love." Profound exhortation.

A new day. Friday. Praying…what story will YOU tell today, God? The clock read 8:28. That always makes me think of the book of Romans…

A few friends and I spent a sweet morning sharing in food and fellowship. When everyone started drifting off to prepare for the afternoon arrival of the rest of the ladies, I sat for a while reflecting on some of the things we discussed…about panes and pains…but I’ll save that for another time.

As I was sitting there, I believe I heard that voice again, “Let’s go for a walk.” I looked around, I looked at my watch. 11:56a.m. I was comfortable sitting where I was. 11:56. That was the time…exactly 16 weeks prior…"It’s time, let’s go for a walk.” I heard it again.

I borrowed my friends’ headphones and CD player. If I was going for a walk I wanted to bring some familiar, comforting songs…Keith Green….he’s always been a favorite…since college. I had 4 more songs on this CD that I wanted to listen to…the last one was There is a Redeemer.

I started walking…across the first field and into the second. The CD player stopped. I must have bumped it. I tried it again. Nothing. I tried it off and on for a good part of the next hour. “If only it would play the last song, I thought.”

I guess I was just supposed to listen. I felt compelled to start writing…right there in the middle of the field.

I will talk this walk…You and me
You will see…the strength of their (you all) prayers
And Your own tears
For I believe You cry, too
When You bring home one of Your own…
You want to shepherd
Those left behind.

The trees beckon the eye upward
Visible burns and scars half way up
…but ever-growing,
Reaching heavenward.

The grove of trees which I was hesitant to walk into last night seemed still too dark a place to journey, but it was calling my name. The song that was on when the CD player quit playing was Stained Glass. It quit with the words…”in the bride’s room until the groom comes shining through…”)

I walked into the “Cathedral Grove.” I didn’t wonder too long where to sit. A gentle voice spoke to my heart, “Sit there…on the end…don’t save a seat for Michael. (In church I would always sit one seat in because Michael would often have to come in late…probably due to helping someone’s child adjust to their Sunday School class.)

I thought quickly…kind of taken aback by the voice. I can’t wait for my Michael any more. I must wait on the Lord. Isaiah 40:31 came to my mind. “Yet those who wait for the Lord will gain new strength: They will mount up with wings like eagles, they will run and not get tired, they will walk and not become weary.”

I sit on the end of the bench. There is an old stump next to me (no offense Hunny--). It has tiny sprouts—baby branches all over it….you’ve given me four beautiful children…marriage was not always easy…but you were always intentional…about loving me. Can I be intentional about grief?...When is it okay to let go?—to feel the sadness way down deep? … unashamed—I have wanted to be protected in my tears. You (God) have others who have been crying my tears, but I have a well that will take time to empty….little by little.

I feel the grief tattered and torn
Coming up on the day he was born
WHERE DO I GO IN YOUR WORD FOR THE HUG?
WHERE DO I GO FOR YOUR PROMISES TO HOLD ME?
I lean and know You are there and I can’t prepare.
You have to take me
to the place that is raw
a place so deep
where only You can repair

It won’t be a fix
But a place called holy—
A place set apart, scattered and strewn
While memories of a lifetime
dart here and there…
Evidence of past trees
with their own “fairy rings”
passages of life…and other generations…

I feel stuck in drifting to thoughts of the other widows from this past year alone…but my thoughts are cut to a quick…Here it’s ME You are calling…"Come here—to Your heart…to Your face. Look Me in the eyes,” You say. “I’ve called your beloved home to these shores.”

I see my Michael standing there. It seems he led me to this grove. He stands by the side (in the aisle) and tells me he has to go. I think of the many times of holding him when he cried over childhood [situations….] and the agony of doing funerals for children. I almost can’t look at the cross. “Why did You call him home?” I look back to his (Michael’s) face. “Is that hole in your beard filled in?” I see you standing there—your beautiful eyes saying you can stay as long as I need. “Did you watch me kiss you that day?...those 19 times…?”

You were the same, but different you know—when you spoke to groups about Jesus…in classes and churches and little sanctuaries. You were mine, but His in true form. ….When you left me back 20 years ago…when you went to get your stuff from New York (to return 10 days later to San Diego)…and you said I hugged you “like there was no tomorrow” and now THERE IS NO TOMORROW on earth with you. The physical is gone.

At times I wish I had stayed longer (with his body)…

The Body…the church…members of one another working in unison—a unity. Weathering the storms, the pain…the medicines that heal…the times that seem surreal…

I jerk my head back—you’re still there. Patient. “Why didn’t you tell me you had to go or did you try but we didn’t know who—you or me?” You come and kneel in front of me…picking up my head. Your gaze goes back and forth to my eyes. I reached out and I could feel your face…your beard… You loved me and I never fully grasped why. You said you didn’t deserve me and yet why did I get the privilege of your love and tenderness……

You gave so much to them—mankind out there. You saw each of them—from the special ones to the ones you had trouble loving…the ones who would hurt the lambs you were shepherding. Yet, somehow, somewhere you saved the best for me and our kids…the conversations and the challenges…

Who’ll sharpen my knives?
and give new recipes a try?
Who’ll watch the rain and the lightning storms?
You’re up there on the other side.
Do you know I’ve cried?
I miss you so—


Different from them, but they hurt, too. I’m sad for them, but I want you all to myself in this moment here. (God, do you say that to me as well?) Michael, are you looking at the cross—saying He wants you, too?….(Michael responds) “Jesus wants all of you and if I am here you are distracted in part. No one can take our love away. It was a gift of the fibers of our very beings…it doesn’t go away.”
“BUT IT DOESN’T GROW ANY MORE” I scream in my head. Do I want the love of imperfect man to grow or the greater of the growth of knowing the One who made both of us? The HOPE (solid and sure) that is “still” (at peace) in my heart is that I will love you (Michael) more…on that shore.
…because you will meet me. You will wait for me there. Will you wait for me there? Here I must not wait for Michael but wait on the Lord—for His timing in each further event here…each sacred moment of every day….[skip]

What about your stories you wanted to write? I want to hear—who should write those? “Can I tell her?” he says…I look to the cross…You have THE story. YOUR truths…simple, but deep. The living Word, You are alive.

How do we keep the things of the world outside? How do I “keep” you in my heart (Michael)? Do I have to let him go? Do I have to let you go?

The noises are as still as the air. No sounds except birds calling to one another…
Yet I know You are near
Here
Real
Deal
to heal.
You bear the scars of our sin
I bear the scar of love torn within
He puts his glasses on the table…
He doesn’t need them more to see
Our love was deeper than the
depths of the sea
A place that only two can go as one
a place with Thee alone that is three
And now from the center of
that place beyond my human mind
You lead my loved one
flesh and hand
to give me Yours—
scarred and to stand.


I CANNOT STAND ON THESE FEET.
“Yes you can!” (He says) Michael stands up.
I DON’T WANT YOU TO—I KNOW YOU ARE GOING…

He can see all of me now—like Jesus’ heart…my sin and my shame, my love and my name, my gifts from Him and my heart.

He wants me to meet—
The One ‘come down off the cross
to carry my loss—
to hold it dear
in every tear

For He alone knows the loss of a Son…
Layed on Him all sin
It was done.
Michael gives my hand to our King…[skip]

Until again I take this walk—to the deep place—the depth of sadness of love—a real and safe place...But a joy in knowing you, Michael, are waiting for me—in worship of our Savior and King. God, thank you for Your redeeming love that covers my pain and sin…that leads me to wholeness deep within.

I think of my life verse…once more come alive in a new and different way. “Trust in the Lord with all of your heart and do not lean on your own understandings. In all your ways acknowledge Him and He will make your paths straight.” Proverbs 3:5,6

Michael walks down the side aisle to the front—He glances back at me. “It is not forever. I’ll bring you here to this “private place” again.” As he crosses to the platform he arrives in the center and at one and the same time Jesus is standing there with him. He turns to the “crowd” (just me) and with his memorable extended and down-turned hand says, “I take my leave for it is Him you need.” He leaves his Bible on the alter leaving the risen Savior standing there with an outstretched hand saying, “Come my beloved one, come.”

I sat there stunned…wildly wondering what I was “seeing” but realizing this was the very dream I had at least twice last fall….Jesus standing there saying “Come to Me, come to Me.” My mind shouted, “THAT WAS MY DREAM, THAT WAS MY DREAM.” Sooner than I could think any more, I was standing and walking down the center aisle. I knelt at the platform and bawled my guts out some more….

At some moment in time my tears drifted away and I stood…knowing this time was ending. I didn’t know what to do except to return to my seat and sit down. I put on the head phones and pushed the button for the last track, There is a Redeemer. The CD player played the whole entire song…ending with the familiar words…thank you for giving us Your Son and leaving us the Holy Spirit until the work on earth is done…CLICK. Whoa.

This time was done. Almost dumbfounded, I gathered my things (and my mounds of tissues) and left the Cathedral. Yet a few steps out in the sunlight…I felt …the smell of fresh rain….What does the song say? “…grace pours down like rain…”
His Reign
Forever
In my heart
In my moments
In my questions
In my pain
In the ripping of my one flesh...
letting Him be my Soul…sole One…
I gave my Bible and notebook to some friends who were moving my stuff. I still had to go back over to the house from where I left 2 hours earlier. Without a thought, I started running across the field. As I approached the steps I stopped and laughed…”… they will run and not get tired…” I didn’t plan to run. I just did. I just grieve. This is just my journey. Thank you for sharing it with me. You are an extension of His arms…of His love.

THIS is His healing reign.

Annie B.

p.s. It was sunny for the rest of the retreat.

5 Comments:

At 10:44 PM, Anonymous Sue said...

Praying for you, dear friend!
Love, Sue

 
At 5:41 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hey, Annie.
I'm crying all over again, even though I've already heard this story. I'm so in awe of the fact that God knows exactly what we puny humans need...and is willing to give us these precious gifts. This was a precious gift He gave you--both emotionally and spiritually.

"Thank you, Oh my Father, for giving us your son, and LEAVING HIS SPIRIT till the work on earth is done."

Love, Terri

 
At 9:44 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Annie,
As I was reading this entry, I didnt want it to end. I am sure you felt the same. What an amazing gift from God. Thank you for sharing something so personal with us.
Love and Prayers,
Wendy

 
At 6:39 AM, Anonymous Marty said...

Annie-
Thank you for letting us in on some of your very personal experiences.

2 Corinthians 4:17

 
At 9:29 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Annie my friend,

You have a real gift for sharing...what depth of human emotion -- joy and grief, wonder, awe, and of God's precious love for each of us. Thank you so much for sharing...that was a gift reading your "Healing Reign". My love and prayers are with you always,

Laura M. (Your buddy from England!)

 

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