The last prayer my dad prayed over me ended with, “Lord, help her make good and wise decisions.” As I soaked in every word my dad prayed, I heard my husband chuckle in the background. Truth is, I chuckled on the inside. My daddy knew me. Not only did he know I struggled to slow down and wait for the best decision, he also knew I often turned to him in my decision making processes…and I would no longer be able to do that.
Now that my dad has been gone for eight weeks, I’m confronted with how often I called him up and poured out concerns, questions and prayer requests. My dad and I had mostly different dispositions. It’s true I married someone similar to my dad. When I called my dad to process my thoughts, ideas and visions, he presented me with roadblocks, obstacles and what if scenarios. In all the frustration that could be at times, I knew in the depths, I needed the pushback. I knew my dad loved me so deeply that he only wanted good for me.
When we launched Harrison Creek Retreat a few years ago my dad was the first to question and the first to help. Last summer as he was working on our deck, he pulled me to the side and said, “Kandace, I love what is happening here. I was worried about what you were getting in to but I see it now.” We gloried in the goodness of God together and the potential of more lives that would find healing at this oasis in the Ozarks.
I have several decisions before me in this season. In one sense, I feel the slate has opened up a whole knew space. I look at it and pray, “Lord, help me make good and wise decisions in what’s before me.” Sometimes after that prayer, my insides experience an ache that does not lift, even with prayer and scriptures. My recent encounter was a three-day ache that wouldn’t lift. I went to bed with it and I woke up it. I canceled meetings and reached out to a few friends who were safe and familiar with redeeming grief. I knew it needed to be those who weren’t worried I was stuck in grief or not trusting God in the pain of it.
During those three days of feeling the depths of my dad’s absence, I stumbled onto a teaching that resonated with what I was experiencing.
“Now Jesus loved Martha and her sister and Lazarus. So, when he heard that Lazarus was ill, he stayed two days longer in the place where he was” (John 11:5,6 ESV).
I won’t attempt to convey the many things said in this teaching about sitting in our sorrow, but I will tell you, it’s not only okay to sit in our sorrow, cancel appointments, shut the shades and wrestle, Jesus will leave us there because He loves us. In His omniscience, He knows we will not only be okay, we will grow deeper roots in trust and dependency. We will consider what we formally “knew” and we will experience Him in uncharted spaces. Our capacity to “be with Him where He is” takes knew shape as He molds us to be with others where they are. Instead of Him rushing in to fix everything, we feel the gravity of living in this fallen world and collectively cry for His return, while we comfort others along the way.
Our concern with deep grief should not be how long it takes but rather who or what we are turning to. If we want to take a broader view of sorrow, we can rest assured that until Jesus returns, weeping is one way we express our groaning for suffering to end. When we enter into dormant seasons in our grief, our life is actually being rooted and grounded in deeper truths that expand our capacity to go from sympathy to empathy. Sometimes in our eagerness to move people forward according to our perspective, we can unearth a seed that hasn’t fully germinated. That seed being the tears of sorrow.
“Those who sow in tears shall reap with shouts of joy” (Psalms 126:5, ESV).
In a recent conversation with a friend who has been sitting in sorrow with Jesus for an extended time, we concluded that bad theology has sadly made grieving harder in our western culture. Interestingly enough, this friend makes me laugh more than most. In the ache of hopes delayed, she has discovered pure joy. Not a joy attached to what would otherwise be joyful circumstances, but a joy deeply rooted in knowing we will not be left alone in our pain.
I recently had the opportunity to sit with someone else who I had not seen in years. As she shared the many blessings she was currently living in, I found myself considering one of the greatest blessings I’ve been given. I couldn’t find a connection in how she was experiencing blessing but I did tell her I was greatly blessed by sitting with my dad in his final days of life on this earth. As I shared, I knew it was not the time to go into the depths of the pain I felt over his loss. A few tears fell from my eyes and she patted me on my shoulder. I recognized I did not have the emotional capacity to let my sacred sorrow spill forth…and that was okay. To honor her in that moment was to not expect her come into a space she was incapable of understanding.
We don’t know what we don’t know. Deep love means deep loss. When Jesus wept, he wept from a place of being “deeply moved” or a place of “groaning.” Instead of speculating the nature of His groaning, I’m more captured by Mary’s ability to move the Son of Man in His emotions. We serve a feeling God who not only assures us of His promises but enters into our suffering with His own tears. Sacred tears coming from a Man who knows the end from the beginning and is not uncomfortable with letting us sit in our pain as we wrestle, weep and worship.
As I sit in this space, sometimes with God alone, sometimes with others, my heart is unearthing new songs. Whether it’s just saying His name or wrestling with questions He is not obligated to answer, I am leaning into His presence as a child who feels safe and secure in her Daddy’s strong arms.