Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Single Living Skill: Choices

Dear Readers,
Eleven years ago today, Bruce died.
Part of me died, too.

I don't think people realize that when God declared in Gen. 2:24 that "the two will become one," God meant it! But if two become one, what happens when part of that unit vanishes?

Widowhood is one of life's hardest challenges. To me it felt like I was cut in half; like I was laying on an ambulance gurney, in shock, helpless and bleeding to death. "Oh God, how could you do this to me?" I cried.

But today as I look back I can honestly say with the writer of "Amazing Grace," . . . I once was lost, but now am found . . .  So let me assure of you this: the pain won't last forever. I'm not writing this blog because I'm still grieving; I write it as a sacred privilege and trust God has given me to serve and touch you, to tell you that God loves you and tenderly intends for your immense beauty, strength, resilience and character to push up from these ashes, to grow and bloom in a unique and wonderful way. When you're ready, as God gently nudges you along in your own time, I think you'll learn what I've learned about survival and happiness: it's all about choices, even though they're very hard choices.

So as I lay on that figurative gurney, feeling like a person cut in half, I had to work through a difficult decision: it could either be a gurney where I was a trauma victim, or it could be an altar of sacrifice as in Romans 12:1. Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God—this is your true and proper worship.

There was no changing the fact that I was a widow, but as a new widow, I could choose to be a helpless victim or--perhaps scarier-- I could choose to present myself to God as a living sacrifice, according to Ro. 12:1. The problem with a living sacrifice, however, was my ability to scramble off the altar! It was hard to allow God to have His way! But over and over again, that's what it boiled down to. I would have preferred my own death, but God was asking me to live; to live without my husband. I finally made the choice to say "OK." That's the best I could muster--OK. Not a single hip hip hooray. But that's all God asks--simple surrender.

Have you made that choice yet? It's a huge struggle, and a long wrestling match made up of many rounds. But sooner or later, in my opinion, there comes a day when you score enough little victories--enough little OK Lord's-- that the outcome is clearly in your favor. Life gets a little easier because you've become a little stronger; you grow, you become whole, a new life begins. It's pretty amazing! I've boiled huge thought down to this single metaphor which may be a ridiculous attempt, I know; so if you have questions or experiences to compare, please let me know and we'll bat it around a bit. It's all a process.

Today I still make choices. The past few years have brought me days of huge grief, struggles, and challenges I never thought imaginable. On those days I always have the choice of crumpling, of giving up in despair, of kicking myself and saying "if only I'd done this or that," or "if only Bruce hadn't died . . ." but I've learned some techniques that I fall back on to help with my choices.

1. When I'm broken, crippled or paralyzed I ask my friends to carry me to Jesus (Luke 2:4,5). I don't expect them to read my mind or sense my pain, I let them know; and they do the same with me.
2. When I can't pray, I do it anyway. But not with my own words because when I can't pray, I literally can't pray-- I have no words. At times like that you're down to the bone and the simplest becomes the most profound: I read the Lords Prayer (Mt. 6:9-13 KJV)-- out loud if I have to-- thinking about each word and phrase; I do so until I understand that the Spirit intercedes for me with groanings (Romans 8:26) that are beyond words.
3. I ask myself a series of questions that bring me back to reality:
  • does God love me?
  • does God know about this horrible situation?
  • is God in control?
  • is God with me?
No matter what my heart says to the contrary, the true answer to each of those questions is yes.
  • Yes, God loves me.
  • Yes, God knows.
  • Yes, God is in control.
  • Yes, God is with me.
The reality is this: Jesus wins, God is an expert at resurrections and raising new life, and my life story isn't finished yet.

And then I take a big breath, take a look at my story in light of eternity, and you know what? It's a pretty cool ride. Bruce is safe and secure, he still loves me. I think he cheers me on. And this altar I'm on has wheels; God's the driver, He never fails or makes mistakes. I wanted to die, but He's made me whole. Psalm 139 says it all:

Psalm 139:1-18 (New International Version, ©2010)
1 You have searched me, LORD,
and you know me.
2 You know when I sit and when I rise;
you perceive my thoughts from afar.
3 You discern my going out and my lying down;
you are familiar with all my ways.
4 Before a word is on my tongue
you, LORD, know it completely.
5 You hem me in behind and before,
and you lay your hand upon me.
6 Such knowledge is too wonderful for me,
too lofty for me to attain.
7 Where can I go from your Spirit?
Where can I flee from your presence?
8 If I go up to the heavens, you are there;
if I make my bed in the depths, you are there.
9 If I rise on the wings of the dawn,
if I settle on the far side of the sea,
10 even there your hand will guide me,
your right hand will hold me fast.
11 If I say, “Surely the darkness will hide me
and the light become night around me,”
12 even the darkness will not be dark to you;
the night will shine like the day,
for darkness is as light to you.
13 For you created my inmost being;
you knit me together in my mother’s womb.
14 I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made;
your works are wonderful,
I know that full well.
15 My frame was not hidden from you
when I was made in the secret place,
when I was woven together in the depths of the earth.
16 Your eyes saw my unformed body;
all the days ordained for me were written in your book
before one of them came to be.
17 How precious to me are your thoughts, God!
How vast is the sum of them!
18 Were I to count them,
they would outnumber the grains of sand—
when I awake, I am still with you.


  1. I had never thought that grieving was such hard work.I often find myself tired,when I have done very little work physically.Sometimes giving up would be the easier thing to do,BUT,by God's grace,I choose to live.Thanks for the examples from your life and for the encouragement.I look forward to each post.

  2. Very good post! I started the first day with the okay Lord and each day is a re-commitment to say yes to living in and as an overcomer. Like Ruth also mentions it is work. We are in a spiritual battle ... if the enemy of our soul can knot us up in self pity and despair he will. Yet there is a rest to, in Him, knowing that he is battling with us as we take the initiative.

    As for the what ifs -I refused to go there right from the start. God knew what He was doing.

    I miss D tons - in some ways even more now. I miss the camaraderie, the built in camaraderie! BUT we have an even more built in friend and lover and it is high time to develop an ever closer camaraderie with Him.

  3. Ferree, I love your heart and your honesty. "He who began a good work in you will be faithful to complete it." Philippians 1:6

  4. Mom, I love you and am amazed at how you've dealt with Dad being gone. You are truly an inspiration to me.

  5. Thank you for using your own grief experience to minister to me and others, Ferree.

    Getting through grief is a daily choice. For every negative and hurtful aspect of my loss, there is a promise in the Lord. I make a conscience effort to focus on those promises when I'm confronted with the reality and pain of my loss. It keeps me moving forward.

  6. Its such a privilege to hear from each of you and see the Lord's gentle guidance in your lives. I have a feeling you will each come out shining like gold. May God continue His good work in you and grant you His peace. Joy comes in the morning.

  7. I so agree with you as I am at the three year mark. I well remember the day I just cried out to the Lord and laid myself before the Lord in yieldedness. I can say that God IS good, loving, and faithful.

    Accepted in the Beloved (Eph.1:6),


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