Spring is hard. It used to be my favorite time of the year. I have high hopes that my love for the season will eventually return. But for now, new beginnings are difficult; especially, when it comes every year. How do you celebrate a clean start when the start will always be impossibly different? How do you look forward to all the fun adventures that the warm months will bring when one of your adventurers, whom also was the biggest adventurer of all, will not be returning? How do you embrace the newness of life, when no matter how gloriously full the cup is filled, it will always be a little empty?
This Spring, I am counting my blessings. No matter how unorthodox it may seem, there are blessings that come along with saying goodbye, too early, to a child. We don't stumble into them. We don't receive them by relying on ourselves, and they do not appear quickly. It can be a hard fight to get to the blessing, a long road filled with tears, doubts, and lots of "why's". Thankfully, the battle is not ours to fight, and somewhere in the process, we realize that the battle was taken care of some two thousand years ago on a cross.
Not really a cross, but THE cross...it was the Cross of Calvary that settled the victory over the grave. It is the cross that levels every death into two questions. "How will this death change me into looking more like Christ?" Maybe, it would be better said this way, "How much of myself will disappear so that Christ may make an appearance that will impact eternity?" The second question, two questions in one, is "Will I see my child again, and who will I bring along with me?"
Death does that. It simplifies the questions of life. It forces us to realize that we don't go around, under, or behind it. We must walk straight through it. That makes every question that has nothing to do with the eternal unnecessary and completely irrelevant. It is when we start to answer these questions in our grief walk that the blessings start to poke their heads up out of a stream of grief that sometimes seems to be waste deep.
My list, The Blessings of Losing Big:
1. Fear of the unknown is whittled down to next to nothing, and often times, it is completely gone. I say "whittled", but truly for me, it was more like a hammer smashing down on all my fear and anxiety. It dissipated the second I realized my boy had left this world. Worrying about the temporal had a hold on me, and I mean a good hold on me. My thinking changed. First, whose opinion of me matters? No one's, short of Jesus. In the end, it will be the Father and me. If He loves me, why would I seek the approval of others? Secondly, the rejection of others could never compare to the emptiness and loss I felt from losing Miles. If it can't get any worse ( and I don't think it gets any worse than losing your child), why not get on with it, get over ourselves, and serve Jesus with the ability He's given us? What if we fail? What if someone doesn't like it? It doesn't matter. What matters is that someone can get a glimpse....no, a full on picture...of Christ because we've chosen to put ourselves in the backseat.
2. The cross has a new meaning. This occurs to me every so often when I'm worshipping. I used to sing the words to songs about Christ having victory or about His goodness, and I got them on an intellectual level. I could take you to a scripture that would point out that God was good. I could have a debate with you about why God was good, but I'm not sure it traveled past my brain and into my heart. It was cool that Jesus took away my sins and someday I would go to Heaven, but there wasn't a real personal value attached to the belief.
Now, there is. The cross means I will see my boy again. The cross means that no matter how crummy this life gets, it's not the end. The cross means that Jesus loves me and cares about my loss. He made a way for us to be together again. The cross means everything to my survival.
3. I have seen the power of the church of Jesus Christ. I have been loved in an incredible way. "I have been loved." How many people leave this world and can never say those words? I could, can, say them again and again and again. I would never have experienced such love without an extreme tragedy. Being loved by my brothers and sisters in Christ renewed my hope in people and reaffirmed the value that others attached to me. It is good to be loved. It challenges me to love in a radical way so that others may see Christ. In other words, I want to return the favor.
4. Healing. Yes, I said healing. When we face a problem that we cannot white knuckle, ignore, or smile away, we have to get help, and get help in a hurry. By the grace of God, I made that decision. It's funny how God always works in opposites. We think healing brings healing, but healing doesn't force us to face our demons or that baggage we've been dragging around for thirty years. Mine had gotten so easy to carry I think it must have had wheels.
It took a few years, but I found freedom. I threw that baggage right back into the pits of hell where it came from. I hope that one day I'll be able to tell Miles how I found freedom despite of the foolish choice that he made, that God worked it all out. Then again, there's a really big possibility that the trials of this life won't matter in the light of eternity. What I do know is God brought purpose out of Miles' death because his death meant something to Him, too. Nothing goes unseen from the hand of God.
5. I tried it, and I liked it. (As Jack says about everything he eats.). I think that parents who bury their children are special. They get a special treatment from the Father. I have seen the character of God in a way that other believers will never experience, or that they are afraid to experience because it would require great heartache. How do we know the greatness of God if we do not test the Word of God? How do we know every promise is true if we never get the opportunity to live and breathe the words of the Father? We can't. We can have head knowledge, but it is the heart knowledge that propels us into full abandon for Christ. Once we taste His goodness, the possibility of turning back shrinks into nothingness.
How do I know He is good? I got out of bed this morning. I laughed. I could breathe without it hurting the way it did in the early days of losing Miles. I have hope for the future. I was allowed and empowered to love again. Not an easy love, but I was allowed to love the unloved, an orphan. I hear my children laugh. Neither were laughing three years ago. God is good ALL THE TIME.
6. My purpose is clear, and my goal is in sight. I have a temporal connection to an eternal world. My boy is waiting for me, and sometimes, I'm almost certain he is cheering me on. There is no love like the love of a parent for their child. We know this by the Father's love. I will get to Miles. Not getting to him is not an option. It drives me to the Gates. It keeps my focus on forever in a way that nothing else could accomplish.
I used to say that I wanted to see Miles first of all, but the truth, of late, is that I want to see Jesus first of all. I want to thank Him for making it all possible, and then, I want to worship with my family, whole, complete.....no more saying goodbye...no more filled cups with a little missing. Everything will be complete, the way it was intended to be from the beginning.
My list could keep going. There are lists within the list. There are blessings in losing big. Why? Because, as you can see, each trial and blessing points back to our Creator. In our heartache, we are doing what we were created to do, glorify Him. Because He is worthy of being glorified, He promises that the process will bless us, make us more like Him, and the cycle continues, over and over and over again. Each time, we're drawn closer and closer to Him, and each time, He is lifted higher and higher.
That, my friend, is the blessing of losing big.
(C) 2017 Victoria Paxton
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Victoria Paxton spends her mornings teaching special education and her afternoons raising two fantastic sons. She's the wife of Mr. Paxton, and, also, the mother of a grown, full of faith daughter who is married to Victoria's favorite son-in-law, Nathan.