Monday, August 02, 2010

Pushing Forward

So much, since the moment my son died, has been a push forward. Push forward to make the arrangements, push forward to do a memorial service, push forward to pack up his house and the precious pieces of his life, push forward to get up the next day. Push forward to pack again, this time moving your own life cross-country. Push forward to unpack, resettle, begin again. Push forward while your feet are in concrete, your heart has stopped, and your life looks like a disaster film.

Pushing forward is what we do when we HAVE to do. Push forward is for painful but unavoidable things. It's not like running forward. That is reserved for pleasure, for the beautiful and the delightful things in life. Pushing forward is a discipline and an obedience. I can see how people weary of pushing forward and just let go. I get that. It's grim and tiring and relentless and sometimes seems pointless. What's it all for? We're all going to die anyway. (A newly acquired insight--I'm not sure how I missed that before.)

I have found new solace in a reminder from Rick Warren's book The Purpose-Driven Life. He gives a quick summary of life by simply saying, "life is a test, a trust and a temporary assignment". Easy to say, easy to remember, easy to mentally grab when I'm at a loss for direction. Basic. Helpful. Anchoring. Comforting.

The "test" part is easy enough to see. For me, right now, the test is whether or not I will trust the God who has declared His love for me, even though I walk a dark valley. Or will I only trust Him on the sunny days, when the cupboards are full and the car doesn't break down? In my heart and in my will, after the loss of Joey, I've re-made a decision to trust His good character. I believe Him when He says all things will ultimately work together for good. I've released my expectations of what He has to do for me in this life. I'm counting on Him showing me someday, detail by detail, how He wove my sad story into a bigger, more beautiful story of redemption. I'm trusting Him to turn my water into wine.

The "trust" part of my purpose-driven life is a little more complicated. It means I've been entrusted to do something good with the bad in my life. I can trust God to do good with bad, but can He trust me? Can the people around me trust me? Will I show them a way through suffering and loss that's honest but also hopeful? Will my life story kill their faith and joy, or will it build it? Will I leave them unsure, unstable and doubting, or will my story reassure them that their faith in God can carry them through whatever losses and trials life brings them? That's where I live right now. I still have more questions than answers, but I know what I'm wishing for. I'm reaching for hope, for the sake of my grandchildren, and my daughters, and anyone else who may be watching me. That is the engine that gets me out of bed when the clock strikes 7 am and I start another day of living by faith in the midst of crucial, unyielding disappointment.

The fact that life is a temporary assignment helps. That's the most comforting part of Warren's three-part equation. I couldn't live with an eternity of loss and grief, but I can live with a season of it. God was indeed merciful to make the average human lifespan short enough that we could get to the end of it, make the cross over, and then, after all that, find everything we'd ever been longing for on the other side of it. (Need I mention that this only inspires gratitude when it's not your child whose lifespan is short?)

I am thankful for the statistical brevity of my own numbered days. I feel I can make the journey. However difficult my days are here, I am certain there's something so very good waiting for me on the other side, and that gives me strength to bear the burdens of this life. In this moment, my work is unfinished. There are tasks and lessons and people with which I have been entrusted. I don't have a big, impressive plan, (wish I did) but I do want to sort it out and live the truth and give it my best. I do want to finish well.

And so, I push forward.

Philippians 3:14
I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.


Beckypdj said...

This excites me!!!! I know it is hard, but we MUST go on. We all have assignments and the quicker we are to get them finished, the quicker we will be outta here and united with our sons!!!

Amen and push on!!

Kay said...

I don't think you necessarily have to work to bring the good to fruition. I think it's more of a matter of letting God work rather than purposely keeping ourselves in a 'bad' place. I don't really know how to say that, and yet I know what you mean because some days it is a purposeful thought to be positive and move forward in a manner pleasing to God. Gee what a jumble of a comment. : )

Beckypdj said...

Kay - God works through us and that requires action or "work" on our part, even though a lot of times the "work" is us changing our focus or attitude. I don't understand what you mean about "keeping ourselves in a bad place".

Maybe my misunderstanding is just the terminology?

Karen I hope you don't mind this discussion in your comments :)

Jeri said...

Wow, that's inspirational! Thanks!

Anna/Flowergardengirl said...

I have to remind myself to breathe. Everything gets caught up in actions without meaning. I'm an autopilot kinda gal. I enjoy my garden so much cause it makes me pause and see progress.

Karen, I hope you find a row to hoe that makes you pause to see the corn tassels---we get so busy tilling the soil that we forget to look up and see that corn is forming.

I totally get what you are saying.

Keeping your heart in mine--big hugs.

Anonymous said...

Oh Karen, once again you reach down and touch my inner soul. I try so very hard to do what excites me but I don't think it is really me or what I desire. As we struggle with yet another birthday with no one here I understand perfectly what you are saying. Let it out girl say what you feel and mean and then breath in deep and let God show us how to move ahead. Love Sharon

Leslie said...

This was eloquently written. Thank you. I found encouragement here today for my own journey. I too, have chosen (and sometimes it is a daily choice) to trust the love of God even though I walk the dark valley of illness.

I believe, at least from what you write on your blog, that you ARE showing others a way through suffering that is honest, but also hopeful.

I am reminded of the psalmist in Psalm 42 who honestly expressed his grief over great loss, yet spoke to himself in verse 42:11, saying, "Put your hope in God, for I will yet praise Him, my Saviour and my God." I understand how he felt. If you're interested, I wrote something about my experience here:

God bless you and keep you, today, Karen.

Lori Ignacio said...

I love you precious Karen! I love how Rick Warren put that...."Life is a temporary assignment", I love how you explained that because "Life is a temporary assignment" it makes this season a little easier to handle knowing it's a season and not forever. You, Joe and the family are always in my prayers!! xoxoxo

karen gerstenberger said...

Thank you for this.
I hear the "discipline" part of pushing forward. It's a kind of trust in the Love of God that is still there, beyond what events might tempt us to conclude to the contrary. It's a kind of fidelity to Him and to our deepest, most loving self and intuition, I think. I had to work at this EVERY day, especially in the beginning, after Katie's passing - to look for Him, look for His Love, work to be thankful for what is left, to be thankful that we are the lucky family to whom she was given. It doesn't negate what was "taken," what has been lost, but it helps me to get through the days. And it has helped me to continue to have a loving relationship with God.
Sending love to you and your family.

Anonymous said...

Continuing is the pushing forward part but I must admit, sometimes I get so tired and feel like letting go(no need to worry. I much stronger than that,thanks to Jesus and His faithfulness).
It seems as life at times, nothing but holding it together, organizing, placing the next step ahead of the other. The concrete legs I can relate in pushing forward. I've run two marathons and at the end of them both my legs felt like concrete, literally. How much more the emotional marathon and hitting the wall when we lose someone. Loss is a volcano we sacrifice ourselves in. We've no choice. Loss is always unexpected even if you are expecting it. The key word Karen is: "pushing forward." Thank you for that. Thank you for your beautiful words of encouragement and hope! That pays Joey tremendous homage!
Much love and constant hope,

Anna Flowergardengirl said...

Big hugs Karen---I'm remembering Joey. I'm hugging you tight.

Marina said...

I can so relate to what you are saying, you always have such a wonderful way with your words. My situation is does not compare to yours, but I feel that "push forward" so much these days. And I have more questions than answers also.
Thank you for sharing and inspiring so many with your feeling put into words.
I love you and I'm praying for you all these next few days.

Sharmila said...

I just came across this blog by coincidence. I lost my only sister this time last year due to an epileptic seizure. She was watching tv one moment, she had a seizure and she didn't wake up. She was 34 and she was a holistic nutritionist and a blogger. Until today I had never heard of SUDEP and I have spent the last one year wondering on the 'why's' and 'how's' and 'what if's'. It still hurts and the loss might be something that I may never get over. At least now I have an answer to the 'why' in my mind.

Thank you for helping me on my journey to find answers and find peace in my heart.