On Monday, our second oldest child attended her first day of post secondary classes at a local college. She is now a junior in high school. I can't even begin to describe the feelings I've had this week. Matt, our firstborn, never got to experience his junior year of high school. He "should" be starting his sophomore year of college.
It's only expected that the onset of fall would bring back-to-school (particularly, back-to-college) conversations to the forefront. Conversations I try to avoid because they seem to be as salt in a wound. However, I listen with, I hope, a sympathetic ear to a parent bemoan their legitimate pain of temporary separation from their young adult. Yet I wonder if they have forgotten that, while they take their son or daughter to the campus dorm, I am left to drive up the hill past the cemetery where we buried our son.
I try to focus on what I have instead of what I don't have. I try to not think about the "what ifs" and the "if onlys." I try to just "suck it up" and deal with what is. But some days I just want to scream, "It's not fair! It's so not fair!" Some days I simply ache to go back, before Matt died, to the time when joy was pure, untainted and untouched by sorrow. A time when joy wasn't fused with grief.
Honestly, it's been a week of struggling against feeling sorry for myself, of biting my tongue from responding to those conversations with, "I'm happy for you. Truly I am. And I don't negate the pain you feel as your child leaves home. But I'm not the person you should be talking to." It's been a week of reminding myself of the blessings I've been given, to remain thankful for what I have, which is much. The struggle to remember that God's word says I am to "rejoice with those who rejoice." Indeed, they have also wept with me. (Rom.12:15)
The battle, ultimately, remains to be trusting God, believing what He has said in His word. When I entertain feelings of self-pity, jealousy, and bitterness, I have effectively decided that I know better than God. That my ways are higher than His. I am the clay saying to the potter, "What are you doing?" (Is.45:9) I have set myself up as God when I argue against what He has allowed and claim that He is not fair. I have taken my eyes off of the Light of the world. (John 8:12) I stopped looking to the Light this week and ended up seeing only the dark, the broken, and the lost.
But God? God sees into the dark. He sees into the broken places. He finds the lost, the doubting, the scared, the angry. And He speaks to them, to me. I prayed this morning to somehow get out of this "funk" I was in. And He heard me. I never fail to be amazed by God. That He should love a sinner, a whiner, and an ungrateful woman like me is amazing. It makes me love Him all the more. I am humbled and overwhelmed. Again, through the voice of His people, the LORD answered my prayer and spoke to my hurting heart. First, through Ann Voskamp's post and then through Jennifer Dukes Lee's post today.
I have worried this week about ever finding joy again, real joy, joy without grief attached. I have worried about how I'm ever going to make it another "x" number of years without my son. I've worried about whether I will lose any of my other children. But, honestly, I don't need to worry about it. Because Jennifer is right. When I worship God, worry is destroyed.