“Yet I am confident I will see the LORD’s goodness while I am here in the land of the living.” (Psalm 27:13)
Often, I have turned this verse into a prayer, seeking the Lord on behalf of myself and others. It is a prayer for life. Of course, while Austin lived here with us, I wanted God to grant our request to let Austin live and tell in his own voice the story of God’s faithfulness and goodness. But God had other plans for Austin’s story. Although I don’t believe cancer or dying were ever part of how God wanted or intended things to be, in His sovereignty and because all of creation is broken by sin, He allowed them into our stories. So, He answered my request in another way. He revealed gifts in the mundane and ordinary and in big, memory-making moments. Right there in the midst of the enemy and even through the valley of death, He set a table before me to feast of His goodness (Psalm 23).
I have forgotten what it is like to delight in these gifts. Somehow, I believed that unrestricted joy could no longer be apart of my life. Maybe I thought it wouldn’t be honoring to Austin to savor life when he isn’t here to do the same. Maybe I simply just didn’t think delight was possible this side of Heaven.
When Austin died, a part of me died with him. Since that day, every joy has been tinged with loss. And I’m okay with that. Well, at least, I am learning to accept it. Grief will grow with me, a companion in my healing. Yet, the weight of this truth has been paralyzing. Over these last months, with every turn of the calendar and every upside down spin of our world, my defeat and sorrow has grown. I bowed beneath its weight.
I want to look again . I want to look into the face of my Savior and Friend, Jesus, who willingly enters into my suffering, who carries the weight on His own shoulders. I want to see the banquet table still before me, to know that joy and sorrow can coexist. I want to run the race as though all of Heaven, and Austin with them, is cheering me on (Hebrews 12:1, “Almost Home” by MercyMe). So often during our Grief Share sessions, we would be reminded “our loved one died but we didn’t.” It seemed so obvious yet so difficult to hear. Sometimes, it is hard to give yourself permission to live and enjoy life again.
My race won’t be perfect. I will be clumsy and awkward. I will make mistakes, get pushed and fall down . . . a lot. But Lord help me, I want to run free again. There is a vision I have of entering Heaven one day:
I’m walking on the beach alone. Actually, “walking” may not be the best way to describe it, more like stumbling. There comes a point where the sand looks more appealing and I’m thinking about laying down right there, but then I see Jesus just ahead. His arms are out wide, beckoning me closer. He calls out, “Keep going. I’m right here. Just a few more steps. I’m with you. Don’t stop.” And then, before I know it, I am being carried in His arms, safe in His embrace. He kisses me gently on the forehead and says “Welcome Home.”
Oh Lord, help me run the race. Let my voice ring with laughter even while tears still sting my cheeks. Open my eyes to the extravagance of your grace and the splendor of your beauty. And when the world spins again, teach me to look only to you. Amen.
(See also: Psalm 84:11, Isaiah 40:11, Matthew 7:11, 2 Corinthians 9:25, Hebrews 12:2)