March 31, 2019 “How are You?”
This morning in church a beloved young man came up to Donovan and me with a question…
“I’ve been wondering how to ask how you are doing without actually bothering you with asking how are you doing…” he started. “You must get sick of being asked that and trying to figure out how to answer that.”
Yes. Yes we do. He couldn’t have been more right. And in the same breath, we still want to be asked. It’s odd. We don’t have a clue how to answer that for the most part and really, in many cases the answer depends on the listener. Do they actually want to know? If it’s a random stranger pumping through my groceries, chances are she or he does not really want to know. At least not in depth. If it’s someone close, they may want to actually know the depth of the pain and sorrow. Sometimes you just don’t feel like talking about it. Grief is a really strange thing. Grief hurts like the dickens – more actually but the monumental pain of it is hard to describe. It doesn’t just “go away”. Grief is, in many odd ways, a life long process.
Grief is a cycle like a hamster wheel that you just keep running over and over on but each time you cycle you end up in a slightly different place. Or, as one friend heard from God, it is like you choose to keep walking through the same revolving door over and over again. Maybe at first you don’t have choice. You are drawn into that grief revolving door with a magnet so powerful that it is useless to resist the pain of it. You want to feel the pain because nothing else makes sense. The sting of death is just too deep to understand. At some point you can choose when you will walk through that revolving door and how long you will stay there in that door that goes round and round.
At times it feels that if you go somewhere else you are betraying the one you love. It’s a feeling that does not point one in the right direction so thoughts need to take over. True thoughts such as, “It’s ok to live because you are still alive. It’s ok to smile, to joke, to have fun because you are still on this earth. It’s ok to be you and be filled with the joy of the Lord as your strength. It’s ok to laugh yourself silly at something funny; to focus on other things besides your beloved; to enjoy the cats at the barn; to enjoy a good horse back ride alone or with friends. It’s ok to live. And it’s ok to step back into the grief door because that magnet is still pretty strong. It’s all ok. And furthermore, the true thoughts need to say, it’s ok because Glen wants you to be happy and joyful. He was sad when you were attacked by others. He was sad and wanted to protect you if you were sad. He loved it when you smiled, when you laughed, when you tried, even if unsuccessfully, to do your hair. He loved you and loves you still even if it is in a different way as we don’t understand heaven – and Glen wants you to keep moving and living and serving God with the passion that is you…. That’s the self-talk that is going on and needs to continue yet it does not mean that there aren’t massive moments of grief that coincide with good and happy moments.
Another dear couple at the barn lost their son a couple of years ago. He was only in his late twenties. It is natural that they are still grieving him for as I said before, grief is a lifelong process. The road just changes slightly along the way to less bumpy. So the question of “How are you?” is one I circle back to. As he says (the man who has lost his son), we want to be asked how we are doing. And in the same breath we don’t want to be asked how we are doing. We want to talk about those we love and have lost. Yet we are afraid that if we start we won’t stop and we will bore the listener. When we are not asked how we are doing we wonder why on earth the person hasn’t asked us how we are doing. Don’t they care? When we are asked how we are doing sometimes we want to shout, and I quote my friend at the barn, “How the hell do you think I’m doing?! Awful! I’ve just lost my …!” Of course we don’t do that because we have filters most of the time. And I don’t normally use coarse language ☺. So we grumble together. We laugh together. We miss them together. We talk about the unfairness of it all and we do it together. Grief, just like depression, loves company. And yet even those of us who grieve need reprieve from the grief.
So how do you ask someone how they are doing without actually asking? How has your week been? It works and delivers the same message. How was your day? Sure. The answer remains the same at this stage of the game – a steady and constant “up and down” or “all right” or “not great”. Every once in a while I hear myself forget about the grief and say, “good”. “Good?” I say in my head. I then know that I am differentiating. I am good in many ways. I am good in just as many ways as I am very bad and not doing well at all. The grief is strong yet it is losing it’s icy claw like grip on my every waking moment. There are more and more reprieves. I also differentiate between what I choose and what I feel. I choose to be joyful which leads to “good” sometimes, even if that is surprising even to me. I know that I am shattered and that my world has been blown apart. I also know the One who puts me back together and I am privileged to call Him “Abba” and “Father”.
A young woman also approached me today in church. She is a good friend and I am privileged to call her a friend. She shared that when I asked for all of you to “storm the courts of heaven” with me to appeal for Glen’s healing she and many others rose to the challenge. She saw us all gathered before the great golden throne of God. She saw a beautiful red carpet rolled up to the throne. The floor was black and white tile in her vision. She felt the power of being in the high court of heaven and felt the pull of God intimately on her heart. Then Glen was taken from us to live in that place – a place that we cannot yet go completely with our spirits. She sought the Lord, as I believe we all need to. Why? We need to hear it from the Lord ourselves. She didn’t get an answer to the why. But she did get these words, “I’m sorry I couldn’t give you the answer that you wanted. I’m so glad you’re here (in the high courts of heaven). Please stay.”
I love that. Of course we both cried together. The words from God are a simple invitation to all of us. “I’m so glad you’re here. Please stay.”
We most certainly do not have all the answers – not even close! We do have a God that in spite of my great shattering I know beyond a shadow of doubt loves me, cares for me, and did not take Glen to hurt me but for some other greater purpose. We have a God that we can trust. A God whom we call “Abba Father” who rejoices with us and invites us into intimacy with Him and then says with a gentleness and love that we cannot completely fathom, “Please stay.” I hope, that along with me and this beautiful friend that we will all enter into that amazing Presence and find hope, comfort, peace, and above all, a place to “stay.”