My turbulent nightmare began to still some time before I allowed even a hint of pain or uncertainty to show in public. But even then I needed long, quiet months to allow the wounds to begin to heal.
Some readers may recall my not-quite-planned 60 day Bible read-through this past winter. I may not have planned the timing and the speed of that journey through Scripture, but there is no doubt that Someone knew exactly what I would need. In “31 Days of Praise: Enjoying God Anew”, Ruth Myers–who lost her first husband to cancer–writes:
I found immense comfort as I expressed to the Lord my grief at losing my loved one, and then let Him speak words of love to my heart. It seemed that God used sorrow and loneliness and perplexities to stretch out spaces in my heart for deeper joy than I’d known before–especially the joy of loving and praising Him.
God spoke words of love to my heart many times through my reading. Often the passages directly addressed the bizarre, heart-breaking, and frightening circumstances in which I found myself. One especially precious chapter was Isaiah 54. I witnessed these verses play out as beautiful truth in my life. The Lord’s gentle care never showed itself so evident as in this darkness.
A portion of the chapter reads:
Sing, O barren one, who did not bear;
break forth into singing and cry aloud,
you who have not been in labor.
Fear not, for you will not be ashamed;
be not confounded, for you will not be disgraced;
for you will forget the shame of your youth,
and the reproach of your widowhood you will remember no more.
For your Maker is your husband,
the LORD of hosts is his name.
For the LORD has called you
like a wife deserted and grieved in spirit,
like a wife of youth when she is cast off.
No weapon that is fashioned against you shall succeed,
and you shall confute every tongue that rises against you in judgment.
This is the heritage of the servants of the LORD
and their vindication from me, declares the LORD.
Several authors who wrote out of their own grief both comforted my heart and solidified lessons God taught me:
The decision to face the darkness, even if it led to overwhelming pain, showed me that the experience of loss itself does not have to be the defining moment of our lives. I did not go through pain and come out on the other side; instead I lived in it and found within that pain the grace to survive and eventually grow.
The choice to enter the darkness does not ensure we ever completely come out the other side. I am not sure we can or should – Jerry Sitser, “A Grace Disguised”, 45, 46
And even if it were granted that insurances against heartbreak were our highest wisdom, does God Himself offer them? Apparently not. We draw nearer to God, then, not by trying to avoid the sufferings inherent in all loves, but by accepting them and offering them to Him. To love at all is to be vulnerable. If our hearts need to be broken, and if He chooses this as the way in which they should break, so be it. – C.S. Lewis, “The Four Loves”, 170
As one friend wrote: “As with all of life, this situation isn’t just about this situation; it’s about the Gospel and about ultimate reality. It’s about how the circumstances of our lives reflect or explain God’s character and His salvation plan. There is a big picture here going on, and though we can’t see it yet, it’s there.”
People continue to remind and encourage me that “you will dance again” which is an especially apt and vivid word picture for this lifelong lover of ballet, ballroom, and folk dancing. Another marvelous paradox: a dancer who is wounded yet called to dance all the same.
I imagine future dancing will appear different from any I have done before; as all dancers know, injury will affect your movements. This is true even if you fully recover from a physical injury, if only because your body learned to adapt and compensate during the season of healing.
For now, my steps are tentative, careful, and slow. Yet I am trying to dance all the same–albeit with some cringing. I dance because I know to Whom I belong: the One Who has protected me, strengthened me, and carried me every step I could not take myself. It is all a testimony to the grace and restoration our King works.
Some of the restoration will not be revealed until I get to go Home, but I believe the beauty will return. In some ways, it already has. Perhaps in the most important ways the beauty could never be lost. As C.S. Lewis wrote, even the suffering in love can be an acceptable and worthy offering to our King. For now, it is enough.