Learning life lessons through loss
Today is March 25th. For most of you, today will routinely tick by. It will be another day of overcommitted schedules, complex decision making, and trying to discover the answer to the oppressive and reoccurring question, “What’s for dinner?”
For Kim and me, March 25th is a much different day. Caden, our son, would have turned 11 today. (If you are not familiar with our story, you can watch this short six-minute video here.) As I was praying this morning, God kept shoving into my heart so many thoughts about Caden and what I have learned over the past decade. I found myself praying and writing at the same time. I have never blogged on this subject matter before. So here it is. Raw. Unedited. Unfiltered.
1. The “How many kids do you have?” question still confounds me.
Don’t get me wrong, there is no way around this question. It is one of those obligatory questions when you are getting to know someone. I ask it all the time. But every time someone asks me this question I find myself caught in an emotional vortex. How do I answer that question? Do I answer by saying we have three kids, but one is in heaven? Trust me, I have tried this approach. It is an extremely awkward way to not only start a conversation, but start a conversation with a new relationship. Do I answer by saying we have two kids? This approach definitely avoids the extremely awkward pause. What is the appropriate response when that sweet hearted person smiles at my wife and states, “Don’t you want to give your husband a son to even out the playing field with having two girls?” These moments can leave me standing there overcome with a variety of feelings. Have we completely devalued Caden’s life? It will be 10 years in October since Caden has died. This question hasn’t become easier to answer. I don’t know if it ever will.
2. Being present is better than words.
I have realized that great-hearted people can say things they believe will give you comfort but instead leaves you hurt. In difficult life moments people are just at a loss for words so they say the first thing that comes to their minds. They say things like, “Caden is in a better place.” “You will see him one day, celebrate in that.” “Be thankful for the time you had with him.” True? Yes. But trite, simplistic, and emotionally conflicting statements in response to tragedy and suffering only intensifies feelings. Just sitting there, embracing the uneasiness of wordless communication – now that is powerful. Just be present to those hurting. I promise you, that speaks louder than words.
3. An internal sense of urgency has erupted within me.
I went through a life plan back in January and “urgency” was one of the words that kept surfacing. I live life with an overwhelming sense of urgency. Every day matters. I do not have a lot of patience for people who seem to like to spend time in the futility of life’s simplistic issues. Everyone needs to hear about a life changing relationship with Jesus – now. Grasp that God has designed you with a divine purpose, and live it out – now! Maximize every day with your children. Tell them you love them. Hug them. Be mentally present when you are with them. Life is unpredictable.
4. Walking by faith means something completely different to me now.
Last Saturday I ran the Rockin ’N Roll USA marathon. I woke up at 5:30am. Put on my race gear and grabbed a Venti five shot Americano. The biggest challenge of the day wasn’t the 26.2 mile race, but the burdensome 0.7 mile walk to the starting line. You see, I hadn’t ran a marathon since the St. George Marathon – which I ran the day before Caden died. Now, I had to face what I so strategically avoided. (Avoidance can become an unhealthy coping mechanism.) Every step down 14th street became more arduous as I neared the starting line. Then it happened. With my sight blurred out by tears, I glanced down Pennsylvania Ave. The sun had just crested the horizon illuminating the Capital building. I stopped and embraced the totality of this moment 10 years in the making. Then God simply said, “I am God. I am with you.” Yep. That is it. I have realized that Hebrews 11:1 impacts life at a completely different level when you place it beside Job 1:21. God is sovereign. My life – your life – is in His hands. He never said that life would make sense. He just asks us to follow Him.
5. Mystery still surrounds “Why God?”.
I still haven’t discovered a great reason for the all-encompassing “Why God?”. I have some theories. I could engage in a philosophical and theological conversation with you for hours. But to keep this short, there still is not an acceptable answer that I have found except for this: God is sovereign and my faith will always trump my hurt.
I have a friend who simply said to me, “You will now walk with a limp.” He was so right. It is not a limp fueled by self-pity or a pessimistic outlook on life. It is a limp created by wrestling with God in the darkest of life moments. It is a limp created by the realization that you actually control nothing and God controls everything. It is a limp created by experiencing the depths of suffering in the world that challenges faith to the core of your existence.
But this is what I know. This limp will quickly dissipate on the day I get to hold my son’s hand again – worshipping the author and creator of the universe. It is a limp that will be made new by a loving God who truly understands the pain of loosing a Son. He who was seated on the throne said, “I am making everything new!” Revelation 21:5