I’ve been pondering this concept of walking a great deal lately. I think, in part, because my head and my legs feel so heavy these days. I haven’t birthed another baby or adopted another child. Homeschool isn’t new on the agenda; this is my third year to have my kids at home for three days a week, and there is nothing new or shocking about our routine. But I’m just. So. Tired.
I sat down with my sister-in-law today and she said, “I know why you’re tired…you’re grieving.”
Oh yes, grieving. That is what has changed in my life. I’m not sure why, but sometimes it’s easy to forget the weight of grief that is ever-present, yet so easily hidden. Kathy is gone, and there is a huge, ever present hole that aches and stares out my front door and pierces my heart every morning, but when I wake up each morning, there are still four children in my household that need to be fed, clothed, schooled, and shepherded through life. My grief sometimes has to hop in the backseat, stuffed under the cushions of the every day. But it makes itself known through unexplained headaches, weariness, a heavy heart, and heavy legs. Perhaps my mind and every day schedule can forget, but my heart and my body cannot.
I think before, ever other project I’ve undertaken or finish line I’ve determined to cross or peak I’ve set my mind to summit, there has been life, joy, or a satisfying tangible outcome at the end. But the race I just finished running left Kathy crossing her finish line into heaven…while I am still here. The emptiness at times is often so huge, it’s hard to understand and make sense of it all.
To be quite honest, I thought I was ready and prepared for her death. But I wasn’t. I had no idea what the finality of her absence would look like or mean. A friend of mine last Sunday summed it well. She said, “You weren’t ready for Kathy to be gone forever; you were just ready for her to be healed.”
That pretty much says it all. I wasn’t ready for Kathy to die. I don’t think I would ever have been ready. I was just ready for her to be out of pain and free from the immense amount of suffering I watched her endure each and every day.
And I was all in in helping her get to that place of being pain free; all of us who knew and loved her were. Whatever needed to be done, we were ready to do. But now that she is gone, I have all of this time on my hands, and I’m not quite sure what to do with it.
I’ve been trying to fill it with responding to emails that have been sitting in my inbox for several months, paying bills and crossing things off my list that had been piling up on my desk in the kitchen, but all that’s done has left this big, empty place in my heart. To-do lists never disappear; no matter how many items I cross off, one hundred more jump in to take their place.
So I’m stopping it with the to-do lists. I have to. They are only leaving me half-empty and aching on the inside. Instead, I’m going to try to take the advice of my friend Kwame who was here last week visiting Houston. Kwame is a Bible translator and pastor from Ghana and one of the Godliest men I know. He sat with Clay, Kathy’s husband, Jason, and me on Wednesday night and said, “People can’t heal other people’s wounds; only God can heal wounds…from the inside out.”
So that is what I am trying to do this week – make time and space for God alone to heal my wounds. I’ve lingered a long time over Isaiah chapter 2, verse 3, carefully looking at each word: “Come, let us go up to the mountain of Yahweh to the house of the God of Jacob, so that He may teach us something of His ways, and that we may walk in His paths.”
The word that has drawn me in the most is the word “Come,” the summons at the beginning of the verse. It is a word that in the Hebrew means “to walk…used of human locomotion and to the characteristic of one’s lifestyle.” So, literally, Isaiah’s summons to the people of God to come into the presence of God is “Walk.”
What I’m learning at this stage of my life in this stage of my grief is coming into God’s presence at any point in time always requires me to walk. No matter how heavy my legs might feel. Because God’s summons to His people to come, to walk, isn’t in the absence of grief, it is always, especially, in the presence of grief. It’s in the face of hardship. It’s in the presence of pain. And walking with the weight of grief wrapped around your legs is so tough. It’s a workout. It takes an extra effort of the soul. But what’s the alternative? Stagnation? Immersing myself in busy to-do lists that suck the life and joy right out of me instead of funneling it in?
Walking with grief and sorrow isn’t fun, and it isn’t easy, but I know, even if I can’t always feel it or see it, that it’s producing an eternal weight of glory in my soul that is worth every ache of the step.
Clay’s sister, Dana, who lives in Georgia but came to Houston to help and live with Kathy and Clay the last few weeks of Kathy’s life has become a precious friend and mentor to me the past few weeks. She texted me a few days ago and said, “Weight bearing exercises build strong muscles and bones. Emotionally weight bearing circumstances build strong spirits. They produce greater dependence on the Lord, a refocusing of priorities, connectedness to people we love, and greater compassion. As you walk with the Lord, your spirit will be much, much stronger than it would have been had you never gone through it.”
Amen. Walking weighted hurts. It’s hard on the muscles, it’s hard on the emotions, it’s hard on the spirit. But it builds endurance and strength. And according to Isaiah 2:3, the house of the Lord isn’t a house by the sea. It isn’t accessed by a gentle stroll down a sandy beach or shaded lane. It’s up. On top of a mountain. In fact, according to Isaiah 2:2, “the mountain of Yahweh’s house will be secured as the head of the mountains and it will be lifted up more than the hills and all the nations will stream to it.” We’re talking Everest here. And to climb Everest, one had better be in shape, doing some weight-bearing, hard-climbing, mountain-peak exercises.
Walking with God is never a striving in our own flesh or strength. We don’t aim to be better people, or do better works. Through the person of Jesus Christ, God Himself stepped off the mountain and came down to us to make a way for us to come. To walk. To ascend to the mountain of the Lord. But there’s only one path, and only one way. It’s through the broken body and spilled blood of Jesus who tells us, “Come to Me, all you who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you, and learn from Me, for I am gentle and humble in heart; and you shall find rest for your souls. For My yoke is easy and my load is light” (Matthew 11:28-30). I feel like when Jesus said that, He was picturing me. He was picturing what I would need to do in the wake of Kathy’s death. He was picturing Clay and the McDaniel children. He was picturing Kathy’s parents, extended family, and friends. He was picturing all those who are weighted down by sorrow and grief and the hurts and cares of this broken world and saying, “Listen to Me, you will never be able to make it up the mountain of of the Lord in your broken state. So let me become broken for you. Let me shoulder your weightedness with you, and let’s walk together. There is never one step I am asking you to take that you will take alone. Just look long to the left and the right, and I am there with you. Even inside of you. Yoked to you. Walking every step of the way.”
When I take my focus off of the weight and put it on the One who is walking alongside of me, I can walk like that. I can walk with a Savior, a King, and a Lord, who became weighted down when He didn’t have to be, so that He could help me in my walk. And it is in Him, and by Him, and for Him, and with Him that I will learn to walk this out, this journey into the ache, and through the grief, one step at a time.
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