Saturday, February 14, 2015

Mourning - A Path Diverted

It's been said in a circle or two of my closest friends and family that if we knew what we were getting into when we got married there'd be far less married couples in the world.  The business of carrying on a healthy relationship with anyone over the course of a lifetime is a challenge to say the least.  Not to mention the complexities of the baggage we bring to the partnership and the reality of living in the same home, sharing the same bed in the same room day after day, night after night, week after week, month after month, year after year, and even decade after decade.  Getting along with someone, anyone, in those circumstances over that period of time seems darned near impossible.  Some of us succeed, but many of us fail, and plenty of us are just crazy enough to try multiple times.

I'm going to step out on a limb here and say that, if we are really honest with ourselves, the very same thing could easily be said about having children.  Don't get me wrong.  I love my children; all 10 of them.  However, this parenting thing isn't really turning out the way I envisioned it at all.  The one thing I could have never prepared for is the potential heart break.  I can say without hesitation that raising children has caused me more heartbreak than any relationship I've ever had in my entire life, and I've had some pretty devastating experiences in my lifetime; in my short 44 year lifetime, that is.  I can only imagine what I will have to share if I am fortunate enough to make it another 44 years on this planet.  I'm almost frightened of what I might have to share. 

I have a new found respect for my elders.  That is without question.  I respect the challenges faced to earn wisdom, and I respect that it quite certainly came through painful experience.  Wisdom is rarely gained easily.  More often the most valuable experiences come at the greatest cost.  True, valuable life lessons are not easily won.  We must work hard, be brave, and appreciate the value of failure in order to truly grow as individuals.  There are no guarantees.  There is no "magic" formula for the perfect family.  We can seemingly do everything right and come up with negative outcomes.  Conversely, we can do everything inherently wrong and come up with positive outcomes.  It's just the reality of living and loving.  Failure, despite our best efforts, is always a real possibility.

"Though the fig tree does not bud and there are no grapes on the vines, 
though the olive crop fails and the fields produce no food, 
though there are no sheep in the pen and no cattle in the stalls, 
yet I will rejoice in the Lord, 
I will be joyful in God my Savior.  
The Sovereign Lord is my strength; 
he makes my feet like the feet of a deer, 
he enables me to go on the heights."  
~ Habakkuk 3:17-19

What is failure?  Failure is defined in two ways.  One - lack of success.  Two - the omission of expected or required action.  When we begin our journey as a parent we are so optimistic and hopeful.  We imagine great things for our children, and we pull out all the stops to assist them in achieving success; whatever that may look like.  It never dawns on us that things may not turn out as we expect.  What do you mean my child may not be successful?  What do you mean we may experience life altering, heart breaking, mind blowing circumstances that forever alter the course of our lives and the lives of our children?

Somewhere along the way we realize that we are not the only influence in our children's lives.  We are not the only guiding force.  We are not the only ones sharing wisdom and providing guidance to our children; both wise and not so wise.  Our children are not the only ones learning lessons.  As parents we will be learning some big lessons on the heels of the choices of our children.  Our lives will never fully be the same, and we have no way of anticipating just what our existence will look like after 15 or 20 or 30 years of being a parent.  

"A foolish son is a grief to his father 
and bitterness to her who bore him."
Proverbs 17:25

No one ever tells us just how hard it is to usher these young people into adulthood.  No one tells us the power they have to just shatter every perception we ever had about parenthood and relating to our offspring.  No one ever tells us the amount of sleep we'll lose, not when they're young and require more hands on parenting, but when they are older and require more hands off parenting.  Only an experienced parent knows that the newborn stage is the easiest it will ever be, and can speak so with gut wrenching honesty.  The challenges only increase over time.

Don't get me wrong.  It's not all bumps and bruises and tears.  There are times of joy and celebration.  It isn't the same for everyone.  Maybe your joys far outweigh your sorrows.  Praise God!  However, there are those of us that experience more challenging seasons; more winters than summers.  Some of us get rocked by the stormy seas more than we sail on the calm waters.  That's just life, and it really is normal; maybe more so than we'd care to admit.

I think it's safe to say that real life, for the vast majority of us, is not the sum of our well orchestrated Facebook and blog posts.  Real life is messy.  There is pain; more than we ever thought possible.  In real life we mourn a lot more than we share.  We mourn in ways we never dreamed. like the loss of a child that is still living, or the shattering of lifelong ambitions at the hands of the poor decisions of our children.  Nothing can prepare us for these things in life, but love can sustain us.  Hope can lift our spirits and strengthen our hearts to persist for another day.  Faith CAN move a mountain, and we can find joy within the trials, even when they belt us one after the other.

Sometimes it is difficult to maintain perspective when we are thrown blow after blow after blow after gut pounding blow.  We don't always feel like picking ourselves up, and it may even take us longer than we imagined to pull ourselves off the floor and rise again to face another day.  When we put our faith in God and truly learn how to hand over our burdens, then we can embrace our reality more openly.  We can take the bad with the bad and find that little bit of good to focus our attention and energy.  There is not a moment we are alone in our struggles, even when we can't necessarily feel it.

Here are some bible verses that encourage me.  Maybe they will bring you a bit of peace as well.

"He gives strength to the weary 
and increases the power of the weak."
~ Isiah 40:29

"My soul is weary with sorrow; 
strengthen me according to your word."
Psalm 119:28

"Finally, be strong in the Lord 
and in his mighty power."
Ephesians 6:10

"God is our refuge and strength, 
an ever present help in trouble."
~ Psalm 46:1

"As you do not know the path of the wind, 
or how the body is formed in a mother's womb, 
so you cannot understand the work of God, 
the maker of all things."
~ Ecclesiastes 11:5

"Just as a father has compassion on his children, 
so the Lord has compassion on those who fear him."
~ Psalm 103:13

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