As this Lenten season begins I find myself in a place of longing. It did not begin today, it has been stirring in my heart for sometime and to be honest I did not know what to do with it. Though I knew the “church answers” I still found myself unsure of what it was I needed to do, but more importantly I was unsure of where God’s love was in the midst of this confusion. After the loss of our daughter Cate, my family and I went into survival mode. We just had to figure out how to survive the immense grief and confusion we found ourselves in the days and months that followed Cate’s passing. It was difficult to understand how this could happen and even more difficult to understand how God could let this happen. There was real sense of being ALONE, and this sense permeated through our marriage, friendships, and even my relationship with God. It was difficult to see how or if at all He was working and moving in my life because all I could see was the pain, hurt, anger and resentment. Although from the outside we may have looked like we were “moving on with God’s grace and assistance,” there was and sometimes still is, another life being lived in my heart that very much felt and still feels stuck sitting in a pool of pain and confusion.
After the year anniversary of sweet Cate’s passing there definitely felt like a lighting of the load of which we had been carrying, but the pain and confusion still lay so deeply in the hearts of my little family and myself. A few months ago I began to just feel like it was time for me to begin a process of slowing trying to sift through this darkness that I had been in for so long. I felt like because of past experience I knew in my head that God was not separated from this place I found myself in but that in fact He was in the middle of it, even though I did not “feel” He was anywhere near me. One day back in December I shared in a nutshell with a brother of mine what was going on in my heart and asked him to pray for me. He of course agreed to pray for me, like a good little Christian brother, and then he asked me when the last time I had met with my spiritual director was? I honestly told him that it had been quiet a while since I had seen him so he encouraged me gently to call him and set up an appointment to meet with him. About a week later my brother sends me an instant message, asking if I had called my spiritual director yet? To which, I honestly answered, no. The next day he call my cell and left a rather strong message of encouragement that told me to put on my big boy pants, get off my rear end and call my spiritual director, this is a very loose translation of what was actual left on my voicemail.
Due to his persistent encouragement I called and set up an appointment with my spiritual director. The appointment went well as they usually do and the direction that I was pointed in was to recognize my own helplessness to get through this pain, resentment and abandonment I find myself, which is VERY hard for me to do. I am the kind of guy who says, no one is going to do it for me, so I have to get it done myself, this is a lie comes from an old wound in my heart, that I struggle with often. Well, here I am a year and half after Cate’s death and I am STILL trying to do it by myself and needless to say, it has not worked very well. What I believe God is calling me and all of us, is to actively recognize where He is, where is HAS been, and what He has been doing all along. He is the reason that I began to recognize that something was not right in heart, He is the reason my heart was moved to share with my brother about where I was found myself, because HE lives in my heart, He is the one moving me back to Himself, not because of what I can do for Him, but for the simple fact that He loves me.
My sweet wife left a Lenten reflection booklet by Henri Nouwen, under the keys to my truck this morning. As I went to walked out of the door I grabbed the book and thought, “you know, I can take few minutes to read this in the morning and pray at my desk before I start the work day. God in all His divine persistence, chose to continue shining His light on my heart and to continue revealing his love for me this morning and to remind me that the only reason that I know that I am lost is BECAUSE I know His love. Here is a few excerpts from the reflection for you to chew on:
“If there is no parent, we cannot be lost. If we have no parent to return to, there is no experience of being lost. We are only lost, when we can be found. Only in the light of goodness and forgiveness do we discover that we are lost.”
“The love of a parent makes the child aware of being lost.”
“We only know that we’re in darkness when we come into the light of God’s love. It is only in the light, in the fullness of the sun, that we know there is a shadow.”
These simple words remind us that our Father in Heaven is the one who even helps us to see that we are lost, so that we may choose to return to the safety, comfort and love of His arms. The two things that really jumped out at me in my own life were: 1) the only reason I knew I was lost was because I knew the love of our Father in Heaven, otherwise what would I have noticed was missing? and 2) It was only through God shining His light in my heart to help me to realize that I was lost and then shining His light through my heart to my brother to encourage me to meet with my spiritual director did God not begin, BUT continue the process of drawing me back to Himself.
My prayer is that this Lent be one of recognition. That I truly begin to recognize how God has been working in me and around me over the past year and half, that I begin to recognize that it is not ME, but HE who lives in me, who will heal the hurt and confusion, and that I also begin to recognize again His movements in my daily life. May this Lenten draw us all into a deeper understanding of God’s immense Fatherly love for his children!