What's Holding You Back: Grief
June 18, 2016 is a day that I will never forget as long as I live. Even writing these words causes the grief to well up inside me, the air to be sucked from my lungs, and the knot in the pit of my stomach bubbles up with nausea. The tears flow freely as I listen to two little blessings in the background watching cartoons and wandering the house with “dark vader swords.”
That whole weekend is quite memorable. I just felt so lousy. I had been complaining since that Thursday about feeling lousy. I was a combination of in a lot of pain plus a lot of nausea. Things got so bad that on Friday, I asked my husband to come home early from work to take care of the kids. I felt TERRIBLE. My top complaint was that I was “crampy.” By Saturday, my suspicions of something not being right were confirmed when I found myself bleeding more than what I knew to be normal. I spent Saturday and Sunday taking things moment-by-moment, thinking that if things got any worse, I’d go to the emergency room. Things never did get to that point. Though, Monday morning I went straight to the doctor.
I explained my concerns, described my experiences, and awaited her response. To this day, her response still floors me. My mouth dropped open. “A miscarriage? Are you sure?”
You see, I had been suspecting pregnancy for almost two months, hearing “miscarriage” started to make those couple of months make sense. I had been trying to lose weight, but no matter how hard I tried, I only gained weight. I was a little nauseated. A bit tired. The list went on.
A miscarriage. They say that when you’re that early, it’s just a “blob of tissue.” They’re wrong. That “blob of tissue” was my child. That “blob of tissue” is my unrealized hopes and dreams. Was it a boy? Was it a girl? Would my child have had my curly blonde hair or daddy’s cute nose? That baby is my could have been, my little love, my prince or my princess. That baby was part of me and part of my husband. That baby is so completely loved by us.
The days that followed found me in a daze. In fact, all these months later and I still walk around in a daze some days. I didn’t leave the bed for a week, except to do the necessities. I was trying to survive. My boys watched a lot of TV that week, not necessarily because they wanted to, but because I begged them to. My arms felt so empty. I was at a loss for words. No one knew that I had even been pregnant, so I suffered my loss in silence. I felt so ashamed. I felt guilty. I felt angry. Most of all, I felt lonely. I still feel lonely. Miscarriage is a lonely place to be, it’s a lonely burden to carry.
My husband and I felt this loss so deeply. In fact, we lost our heads. We couldn’t bear the weight of the knowledge that we’d never hold this life in our arms. So we, after a few days, chose to fill our arms with a kitten. (Because the three we already had weren’t enough. *Please note the sarcasm, the giggle, and the eye roll here.) We named that kitten, Peanut. Why Peanut? Because we wanted to give a little nod to our own little Peanut that we lost. I didn’t want my baby to ever be forgotten.
Have you ever read the Book of Ruth? It’s a simple little book found in the Old Testament and it’s all of four chapters long. The Book of Ruth is largely about Ruth, a widowed Moabite woman who forsakes her family, her gods, everything, just to stay with her mother-in-law, Naomi.
Recently, I read this same book and focused on Naomi. Naomi is a woman who lost her husband and then ten years later lost both of her children. When we come to find her in this story, we find a broken woman. We find a woman who is just trying to survive.
Naomi has some lessons to teach us about God and grief.
Grief can invite us to believe lies about God. Naomi believed that God had decided to be her enemy. She tells her daughters-in-law that God's hand was against her. She tells her people that God testified against her and brought calamity on her. God isn't known for making rash decisions. Even on this own blog we've had talks about how God is SLOW to anger. God also doesn't choose to become vocal and set Naomi straight. If you actually read these four chapters in Ruth, you'll discover that God woos her out of her grief and into joy.
Grief gives us tunnel vision. Naomi was drowning in despair. She was drowning in her grief. Can you blame her? In the first chapter of Ruth, Naomi focuses on her untruths about God. The women in the town even say, "Is this Naomi?" She was a shell of who she had been, they all saw her grief plainly. In tunnel vision, we find that our vision is narrowed. We find that we don't see beautiful things as clearly, instead, we find that our pain and our grief becomes the only thing we see.
Grief focuses on what we have lost, not what we have. Naomi talks her her daughters-in-law and encourages them to return to their father's home. She saw that both of these younger women could still bear children, they could still be provided for. Ruth's famous "where you go, I go" speech is here. What strikes me is after Ruth's declaration of "May the Lord do so to me and more also if anything but death parts me from you." The Bible says, "And then Naomi saw that she was determined to go with her, she said no more." (Ruth 1:18). I love this. I imagine that it sort of shakes Naomi from her tunnel vision just enough to see her daughter-in-law. It seems that while God is quiet, God still points out to Naomi what Naomi HAS.
In my own story, God jolted me from my own grief to focus on taking care of my two little boys. Without my two little blessings, I'd likely still be in survival mode. Naomi then takes it on herself to provide for Ruth in a big way, with the kinsman redeemer. Taking care of other people positions us to see the beautiful things in life. Naomi saw Ruth. I saw my boys. We saw our blessings, even if it did take some time for our eyes to be opened enough to recognize them.
Grief can make us lose sight of God’s promises. There are LOTS of verses in the Bible that speak to the broken, the brokenhearted, and the grieving. There are LOTS of verses in the Bible that speak of taking care of the widows and orphans. God's heart is positioned towards the broken. His heart is positioned towards those who have experienced loss.
Naomi saw herself as cast out of God's favor. She saw herself as God's sudden enemy. She saw herself as abandoned by God. Yet, if you skip to the end of the book, you find a wildly different woman. You find a woman who is awakened, alive, and joyous! At the beginning of the book, you find a woman who is in survival mode. At the end of the book, you find a woman who is in thriving mode. In the middle of the book, you find a God who woos her from the first extreme to the last. You see a God who never abandoned her but provided for her. God gave her a faithful companion to feel responsible for and to jolt her from her grief. God gave her provision by way of food. God provided Boaz, the kinsman redeemer. God gave her a family complete with a grandson. God never left her. God was very close to this brokenhearted woman. God heard her cries of grief and turned them into beautiful displays of joy as she held her grandson.
If grief is holding you back from God, know that He sees you. He hears you. He's close to you. He hasn't abandoned you. Our tunnel vision can make us focus on lies that God doesn't care or He isn't there, but if you were to look around with eyes of faith, you'd see He's right there with you shouldering your burden.