Wednesday, December 23, 2015

A Journey Toward Recovering Well

Recover well.

Those words, so far, have been the most distinct, near-audible words I’ve ever heard directly from God.

Those words came to me in the chaotic fog of grief when I was looking to hear something specific from God.

Those words, at first, seemed insultingly simple.

Those words, though, as I actually listened to them, began to drip with hope.

Those words, however, brought caution before they brought hope. The grief journey offers many opportunities to recover less than well.

Those words gave me several warnings: don’t leave any life-marking scars. Don’t make friends with bitterness. Don’t get comfortable with anger. Don’t mistake escape mechanisms for healthy recovery.

But it was the hope in these words that provided the knot in the rope I was holding on to. The simplicity of these words is what ministered to me. There is something to recover for.

As I type, I am watching a 5-month-old part of that “something” squirm on the couch as she works to roll over for the first time. I am listening for the wake-up sounds of an 18-month-old part of that “something” as he finishes up a long nap. We travelled yesterday to Los Angeles where we are spending Christmas with Jessica’s family, Jessica being the original part of that “something” to recover for.

That’s three, wonderful, glorious parts of the something to recover for. And I think there are more parts to come (no, this is not a birth announcement; in fact, we are definitely stopping at two little “somethings”).

As I look back on these past six years, I see that I have been the blessed recipient of two of the biggest themes all through Scripture: restoration and redemption. Those are, I think, God’s favorite tools He uses to love us through the fallen nature of the world. Those words of “recover well” kept me in a position for God to use His tools.

I don’t, though, want to give the impression that God is the big genie in the sky, or more appropriately for the season, the big Santa Claus, who grants our every wish. I had no idea how God was going to redeem my pain, and I know that I am still on the journey of restoration and redemption.

One of my early observations in my recovery journey was watching God restore my ability to love. In my deepest trough of grief, I had concluded that I was content to tough out the next 30 years of life (the amount of time I likely had left, going by actuarial tables). I was content with simply observing others enjoy moments and life in areas like love, Christmas, worship. There was no need for me to enter in. I had had great love. I had experienced my fair share of special Christmases. I had known great worship.

Those words of “recover well” acted as a stopper in a door to keep it from latching shut. Through a series of events I watched God use the small opening to do a miraculous work on my ability and interest to love and engage in events around me. I concluded that one of the redemptive threads through the journey was a restoration of my ability to love; but it wasn’t a 1:1 restoration. It was more like a 2:1 restoration in that I eventually realized that I had a greater capacity to love than before losing Dana. Loss will do that to you. So will God. But I saw the manifestation of this deeper capacity to love in my roles as a son, brother, uncle, friend, believer, cousin, neighbor. I had no idea that it would include husband, and in one of the wildest twists of all, dad.

I think, though, that one of the biggest, if not the biggest, purposes for being directed to “recover well,” was to be a voice for the goodness and mercy of God. I experienced first-hand what it meant that God is close to the broken-hearted. I experienced first-hand the promise of the Comforter that Jesus spoke of in John 14. I have been, and continue to be, the beneficiary of God’s merciful reminders of His presence through rainbows, deer, elk and so much more.

With Dana’s death date coming as it did on December 23, it affords the opportunity to look back on the year each time that date rolls around. This past year has brought loss and hardship to close family and friends. I do not presume that what comforted me will comfort my cousins and friends. We all carry heavy burdens. I have no idea how God will manifest Himself in your burden. I do know, that He will show Himself. His presence will be made known. While God impressed on my heart the words “recover well,” He may impress something entirely different on your heart.

I can confidently say, though, He will impress.

Thank you for journeying with me, for rejoicing, for crying, for watching mourning turn to singing. Soprano singing, in fact.


P.S. This post is a little bit rambly and not as profound on screen as it is in my mind. I will attribute this to sleep deprivation, a small side effect of the circle of redemption and restoration :-) .