When Hope Needs Help

The visual was perfect. For each grief experienced, the group leader added another Lego to the crystal bowl.legos

Griefs piled up as various women listed them: miscarriage, deaths, loss of a dream, divorce, infertility, unemployment, sexual assault, moving, rejection, feeling misunderstood, loneliness, the aging process, a husband’s infidelity, the illness of a child, et cetera.

Finally the mountain of Legos representing grief fell over. A mess on the floor. A mess in life. The perfect representation of what happens when we let griefs pile up.

The group leader explained, “It’s important to recognize each loss and grieve it in a healthy way. Discover what kind of griever you are and work through it. Ask for help. Piles of grief can become dangerous, causing stress and even illness.”

I knew she was right, but at that moment—I did not recognize how deceptive grief could be.

What looked like a mere transition in life had become a loss of identity.

What seemed like ministry had merged into codependency.

What felt like strength—a sucking-it-up method of living, masqueraded as denial and eventual pain.

Joy stolen. Loneliness expanded.

A memory of another saint who pronounced denial on me as I grieved the loss of my first child, “Oh, this is nothing for you,” she said with a beatific smile. “You’re a strong woman with a strong faith. You can deal with this.”

Ministers are not always allowed the opportunity and the vulnerability to grieve. They are supposed to help everyone else. Never ask help for themselves.

When we cannot see the truth in ourselves, it is vital to listen as others come alongside. “Praying for you,” says a friend. “I can tell something is wrong.”

“How can I help?” asks another. So refreshing, this offer of coffee and a friendly hug.

“You need to see a counselor,” says the trusted spiritual director.

Hard truth is still truth.

Hope threads through the losses in search of restoration.

Sometimes we must ask for help from those who see more objectively, those who are trained to find the germ before it grows into a virus.

And sometimes—instead of helping others—we need to take a break and seek help for ourselves.

This writer now seeks help, moves toward a professional who can sort out the hump I am hiding behind—the reason I cannot move past Deb’s death.

Mental trash cans filled with unresolved griefs I was not allowed to share.

My soul already feels some healing although pulling off the Bandaid hurts. I rest in the salve of faith and put my hope in that future day when tears wash away pain instead of adding to it.

Hope requires that I use the resources available to me, keep looking up to the One who grieves with me and remember—he never ever lets me go.

©2018 RJ Thesman – All rights reserved.

When you are grieving and need to look toward hope, check out Hope Shines. Now also available in Large Print.

Advertisements

11 Insights from Sabbatical

Many of you who follow my blog have expressed that you were praying for me this week. Thank you.

20150320_111209To honor your kindness, I’d like to share with you the 11 insights God gave me during Sabbatical. Some of them are, of course, repeats – those marching-around-Mount-Sinai-truths we all know. But when God repeats something, it’s important to listen.

Some are from my own readings and journalings – truths my soul needed to savor, a salve to cover spiritual wounds.

Here then are the insights from my Sabbatical week:

1.Even when I am feeling discouraged and wonder where I belong, God never abandons me. I belong to Him. Some of you may be thinking, Well, duh! But again – a truth worth repeating and a treasure for soul memory.

2.When I take a break, my clients and the rest of the world will not fall apart. In fact, I am quite certain the world needed a break from me.

3.Sabbath rest is absolutely necessary to restore the soul. Although I rest every Sunday, my soul needs some extended times with God. Having the freedom to spend hours in his presence was – well – heavenly.

4.God is bigger than the ordinary. We really do focus most of life on ourselves, don’t we? The bills, the paycheck, the job, the weather, the car problems. God’s agenda is so much bigger.

5.To honor my passions is one of the most vital things I must do. Passion is at the heart of who we are, and so often we hide from our passions because they remind us of dreams unfulfilled. Even a little time with our passions helps to restore the soul. This is why King David composed music and Jesus held children on his lap.

6.In helping others, I must also find a way to help myself. As a coach, I ask the powerful questions that point my clients toward their passions. I must also learn to ask myself the same challenging questions, then find a way to push me forward.

7.Asking grace for myself requires that I be willing to give it to others – often and liberally. Grace is the first step toward forgiveness and reconciliation. God requires that we share it.

8.God is eager to spend time with us. The loneliness of the soul is often a clue that the Spirit within seeks time without distractions. We owe the Divine One our undivided attention.

9.It’s a good thing I’m not a bettin’ woman. My brackets are completely destroyed.

10.Quote for the week from Anne Lamott, I trust that when I wake up tomorrow morning, God will still like me.”

11.Tulips are always a happy idea.

So there you have them. Nothing earth-shattering, but insights that filled up half my journal while restoring my soul.

I wish for you a Sabbatical as well – a time to breathe in, to let your body truly rest and to rekindle love for your passions.

Peace be with you.

©2015 RJ Thesman – author of the Reverend G books – http://amzn.to/1rXlCyh

 

Television Becomes Mom’s Companion

As I entered the assisted living facility and walked down the hallway, I heard Mom’s television. I knew what I would discover even before I knocked on the door.

televisionMom sat in her maroon recliner, watching but not really comprehending the images on what she calls, “The Idiot Box.”

Television was never a revered object on the farm. In fact, the set was turned off after the evening news so that my siblings and I could finish our homework or start reading a new book. The only sound in the house came from the old stereo and Dad’s many classical albums.

So nowadays, it seems odd that Mom’s television booms its sounds not only throughout her room, but also down the hallway.

Whether from boredom or loneliness, the need for some type of humanity in her room, Mom turns on her television and powers up the volume. Her hearing has slowly declined.

She does not use her hearing aid because it only gets lost or in her mind – stolen. Truthfully, the design is not easy for older folks with shaky hands as the tiny battery has to be removed after each wearing and replaced every time she inserts it into her ear. The order of tasks seem impossible, so Mom just ignores it and goes without.

My sister is the keeper of the hearing aid, so she takes it home for safekeeping, then instructs Mom all over again every time she needs it.

Mom turns up the volume on her television and mindlessly watches shows she cares nothing about. I turn down the volume so we can talk.

“I hate the TV,” Mom says. “I’d rather read a book.” She points to one of the many books in her stack that she reads over and over again, reaches for one of the Reader’s Digest condensed versions and opens it. Occasionally, she looks at me and asks one of the many questions we have just talked about.

The core values of the Alzheimer’s patient do not always coincide with their behavior.  What the heart and mind believe does not always jibe with action.

So Mom’s television is another reminder of the difficulties of communication. When Alzheimer’s overshadows a behavior that is not consistent with life’s memory, all we can do is seek patience and another level of understanding.

The television is now Mom’s companion, the noisemaker in the room, but it will never replace the life story of a woman who read voraciously and made sure that her children also learned to love books.

©2013 RJ Thesman – “The Unraveling of Reverend G” – http://amzn.to/11QATC1

What Killed Jesus?

What killed him?

Ironic that a man, a carpenter, who spent his life learning to fashion chairs, tables, and cradles from rough wood – then died on the same material. The mallet, an instrument he used to pound joints together now hammered spikes into his wrists. The nails, used to connect legs to table tops, fastened his flesh to a wooden beam.

But what killed him?

Was it the loss of blood and the physical cruelty of the Roman cross? Crucifixion caused fever, cramping muscles, tetanus, lacerated veins, crushed tendons, gangrene, and swollen arteries which throbbed increasingly with each passing hour. The victim pushed his quivering legs against a wooden projection, struggling to move upward for each breath. Then the body relaxed and dropped, tearing flesh and muscle from hands and feet. Each breath required another push upward to prevent suffocation. Prior to Jesus’ execution, his back was opened by a whip embedded with pieces of bone and lead. So as he pushed up to breathe, splinters of wood thrust their barbs into his lacerated skin and exposed muscles. For six hours, Jesus endured excruciating physical torture.

Is that what killed him?

Or was it the burden of grief? Isaiah wrote, “Surely he took up our infirmities and carried our sorrows….” The shocking force of grief can result in physical and certainly, emotional pain. Jesus understood the devastation of grief. He lost his earthly father Joseph and his friend, Lazarus. John the Baptist, his cousin, was beheaded. Friends, relatives and comrades lay on funeral biers while the Son of God watched. He understood how grief mutilates happiness and changes us forever.

Was it grief that killed him?

Or was it sin? Jesus lived a perfect life, never sinning, never doing wrong. He was perfection, holiness and purity. But on the cross, he became sin. All the lies and deceit of the enemy poured over his soul. The adulterous relationships, the murders and the gossip projected their graphic images. The abuse of children and the rape of women shattered his senses. Pornography, unkind words and every evil thought swept over him like the black tides of a night sea. It was his first experience with sin, the final defeat of his integrity. No wonder he died.

But maybe it was the loneliness that killed him. Jesus depended on his Father for everything. He spent hours talking with God, asking for wisdom and strength. The Father adored the Son, and their communication embodied everything sweet and pure. But when Jesus became sin, he felt as if God left him alone. For one awful moment, Jesus felt the heartache of abandonment.

“Why have you forsaken me?” Jesus cried. Only silence answered. The loneliness of that moment broke the Savior’s heart. He met hell face to face and he died.

Was it the physical cruelty of crucifixion, the emotional distress of grief, the spiritual anguish of sin or the intense loneliness of rejection?

What really killed Jesus?

All of the above.

Why did he do it? Because he didn’t want us to live our lives within the hell of physical pain, emotional torment or spiritual loss. He did it for love.