Surviving a debilitating grief didn’t come easily. Opening my mind and learning truly what life is about was the only way I could even begin to move forward.
Let me tell you a little about me. I am Julie. From the outside, I have lived a perfectly normal, happy, regular kind of life. I’m a wife, mom of three, grandma of one, teacher, sister, daughter, friend.
Only after the death of my dearest friend, did I come to the realization that I had always lived my life externally (from the outside in) and that to truly live I had to understand who I am in the core of my being.
Then, with that knowledge, I had to begin living from the inside out.
Matthew 11:28 If you are tired from carrying heavy burdens, come to me and I will give you rest.
David had been dead just over a year. No longer did I spend time (much) curled up in a ball in my bed. In my practical, no-nonsense world staying in bed wouldn’t do.
As my dad used to say, “Life is for the living.” I think he said that as part of his coping with the suicide of my mother when I was only 11 months old. My family knew heartache. Limit sadness and move on – that’s how we dealt with it. Get over it.
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Easier said than done.
My grief lasted too long. I started worrying that people around me would get tired of me. I thought something must be wrong with me because, try as I might, I could not get over David’s death.
I literally felt a part of me missing, and I didn’t know how to get it back. He was dead. Gone. And it physically hurt me. I never knew grief physically hurt like that – like something had been ripped from me.
In a lifetime of never feeling quite good enough, David had filled that role in me. He was my ‘goodness’.
Life had to be lived, though. My job teaching 7th grade English didn’t wait for me, and so I moved through my days doing my job, performing the tasks at hand, praying for God to help me understand.
One day, the last of my after lunch homeroom students had filed out of the classroom on their way to 6th hour. Since my plan time followed, no new kids came in to take their places.
On automatic pilot, I stepped through the rows, straightening each desk, putting them in order. I needed order to hold on to.
I took a deep breath and leaned against my own desk, relishing the quiet that came after the busyness of thirty 12 year olds in a single room. It took all of my energy to ‘perform’ for my students. Performing was all it was.
Doing a good job was instilled in me from early childhood and so I knew how to make everything look good – to make it appear right. On the inside, though, I still felt blah. Dead. No feeling. Nothing made sense to me. No purpose mattered.
Tears came and as much as I tried to stop them from spilling, they ran down my cheeks faster than I could wipe them away.
“God!” I cried out in a desperate whisper not wanting to be heard by any of my co-workers. “God, I don’t understand. How can David be dead? How can someone so big, so full of life be dead. David was the one we all waited for. He was the one we wanted. When he entered the room it was like someone turned all the lights on and we could finally get started with whatever it was we wanted to do.”
None of it made any sense. I continued, “Lord, I don’t understand how that light can be gone. How can there ever be any light again?”
My heart was raw. Open. Desperate for an answer.
And then I felt it…fullness, peace, love. Inside of me. This time, I sighed in relief, and I thought these words that I know came from God: “It’s in you. The light is in you.”
I knew from that moment what it all meant. David’s greatness came not from himself but from Christ. David allowed Christ to live through him. My dear sweet friend wasn’t the light; Christ was. And Christ was available for me, too. I might not shine in the same way David did – I don’t sing well, I’m not that funny, my personality isn’t quite that big, but still I could let Christ live and breathe and…shine through me in a way that fits for me. I can be kind. Patient. I can care. I can talk about Jesus and what He has done for me – not ‘outside’ of me but on the inside. I spent so much time asking for signs, looking outside of me for God’s peace. He was kind and patient; He provided what I asked for, and He let me work through my grief and create my own relationship with Him. He was steady and firm and lovingly waited for me to come to Him. He filled me with His spirit and taught me how to truly be alive. From the inside…where it comes with the knowledge that no matter what is happening on the outside, it will all be okay.
Philippians 2:15-16 Try to shine as lights among the people of this world, as you hold firmly to the message that gives life.
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