Some significant and tough questions from the journal at caring bridge for our friend John, who continues to write in the aftermath of his wife’s death earlier this year.
“Tuesday, I was in a muddle. Not depressed but not doing great. Life wasn’t falling apart, but it wasn’t going great either. It was a bit like being on autopilot. Nothing much motivated me and I wasn’t really concerned about it. I was getting by – “muddling” through. Gratefully it didn’t last long. I realized my birthday was coming (tomorrow, the 10th) and I was entering another one of my firsts without Lynn. It’s the challenge of living each day by faith.
In August 2009, Lynn and I visited her mom, Jerri, and her husband David. We knew David’s health was failing and we really wanted to see him again (Sept. 1st was the anniversary of his passing away). While we were there, we all went to the musical “Oklahoma.” There was a scene in the show that I’ve often remembered the past 7 months. A group of cowboys were paired up with cowgirls and they were dancing around the stage – spinning, swinging and flowing around. It was full of life and energy and joy. It powerfully pictures for me the challenge I have. I’ve imagined myself with Lynn as one of those couples dancing when suddenly, she was gone! The Lord pulled back the veil, extended His hand and she stepped onto the stage of eternity in a new role in a story we cannot begin to imagine! But I’m left here on the same stage and the music is playing and everyone else is dancing.
What am I to do? Do I keep dancing as if I had a partner? Do I quickly slip out of the way and off the stage? Perhaps I should simply move to the side and sit down and tap my foot. Or maybe I could move to the front of the stage and start a solo? Certainly simply stopping in everyone’s way would cause a muddle or worse!
Who am I now after spending 32 years with two seeking to become one and now, I am alone? What is my new role on the stage of life?
I just picked up a book by Henri Nouwen again, and he had this to say about the quote above, “Anyone who believes, Jesus reminds us, has eternal life (John 6:40)…He comes to plant the seed of eternal life” We have the opportunity of “nurturing the eternal amid the temporal…(p.48)” This is nurturing some fresh thoughts for me. Almost 40 years ago, the seed of faith burst into life in me. I am here for a purpose and I can confidently look to God, my Father, as the director of the story and follow Jesus, the hero of the story. They have the clues for my role and I believe it has to do with “nurturing the eternal amid the temporal” in this world.
The rhythm of this new dance is unfamiliar, but my heavenly Father is gracious and patient to lead, comfort and teach me. The Spirit, who is holy, will pour out rivers of living water (John 7:37-39) as a life-giving well. Why the dark of this past season? Every well flowing with living water must first start as a dark hole.
Friends, I don’t know the low, hard, dark places you may be experiencing. I know many of you have experienced huge losses this year as well. I read this week of two friends on their own journeys with cancer. My prayer for each of you is that you too would see the face of the Master of the dance, and know that even in the dark places, He is present and graciously building a well-spring of living water in your heart.
Drink deeply dear friends and thirst no more!”
“I cannot give if I do not receive. In giving, I am also able to receive.”
In John 4, Jesus initiates a discussion with a Samaritan woman with “Give me a drink” even though he knows that the woman needs a drink from him more than he needs the drink he is requesting.
The Samaritan woman had to discover her own neediness and drink from the living waters before she could give a drink to others.
I have too often tried to help others with a drink when I myself have not allowed Jesus to fill me with His living water.
Many people in the world today are thirsty and hungry and yet they are not aware of their thirst. Activities, busyness and self-medication (alcohol, drugs, sports, etc) serve to mask the thirst that exists. People refuse to admit their restless desire for God and “repress the awareness of it” because they are “unable to bear the terrible craving for God that eats away at their hearts.” (Adrian van Kaam)
I need to “be attentive to that kind of thirst of Jesus in my fellow men that I can relieve best because of the person I am.” I need not pretend or try to be someone that I am not. Do I fail to see people in need and do I lack compassion because I have been unable or unwilling to receive from Jesus. Unless I receive from Him, I have nothing to give.
Only in recent years have I paid attention to notice my own thirst. In doing so, I am much more aware of the thirst of others.
Attachments and affections may prevent me from receiving His love. It is only when I give these attachments to Jesus that I am able to give my whole self to Him and receive His love. Van Kaam says, “To live a spiritual life is to excel in the art of receiving without fear or withholding.”
I am comforted that the Lord did not give up on the Samaritan woman and He has not given up on me. This is grace. In the same way, His grace enables me to persevere with those who initially reject, are hardened or even fearful of that which I am offering to give to them—new life in Jesus.
Van Kaam is helpful here. “The lie of self reliance never covers up the hollowness that gnaws at the core of our existence.” It requires the work of the grace of God to enable a person to see in their own blindness.