Lessons for a wanderer, part I

Last weekend was my first Sunday back at church.

I struggled. (To say the least) Struggled and struggled and struggled all week through whether or not I was going to attend. I opted out the weekend before and stayed at home with my family to heal together and paint the entire upstairs–which is in itself another story. The weekend prior to that we simply stayed at home. (I admit it, we are not nearly an admirable family of church-goers as of late.)

I struggled because it had been a long time since our last participation. I struggled because I didn’t want to be away from my children. I struggled because I didn’t want to see all those large, teetering and glowing pregnant women. I struggled because I didn’t want to sit alone (Dylan was working). I struggled with the thought that people would just look at me and wonder why I was gone/what was wrong with me/insert-your-paranoid-grief-filled-idea-here. I struggled because I didn’t want to sit behind/next to/anywhere near a sweet, soft, little baby.

Ada asked me that morning, “Mommy, are we going to church today? I miss my friends. And I need to bring my money to Jesus.” How’s a mother supposed to say “no” to that? Such an innocent question but so pointed to my hurting heart.

We went. I dropped the kids off. I whisked inside the sanctuary and sat down as far away from other people as possible, in a benign spot that did not feature any children or over-comforting women. I was late of course and worship was commencing around me.

I lost it. I was done. I started tearing up and willing myself to stop being ridiculous, to mask them, to push all my thoughts down. I fought with myself to stay there instead of running out of the sanctuary, away from the reminder of loss, from the power of God that felt so overwhelming. But I lost of course. I cried, I stayed, I listened to Pastor Paul’s message on The Compassionate Heart of Jesus, Compassion for the Wanderers. And I was touched and it was the first time in the last two weeks that I begun to feel like I could move through this. Maybe not yet past, but at least through.

Paul threw out the following challenge to the congregation: Have you received Christ as your personal Savior? Or have you wandered from Jesus’ love? Return to Him.

Uh…what? Were you inside my head this morning? Were you watching from some creepy telepathic angle that in my struggles, in my struggling to deal with our loss, I had begun to pull away from everything lovely and grieve alone, allowing myself to wallow?

I do want to take a moment to point out that grieving is a process that is different for everyone. My struggle is that when I grieve (and I try not to, but who doesn’t?), I begin to grieve selfishly. As in, my pain and my hurt dictates more decisions and words than it should ever be given reign. I guess that’s common with grief or so I’ve been told, but that’s not what I want for me or for my family. And Sunday I was given a check, reminded that I am not defined by loss, by emptiness.

I am defined by a Love that wants to comfort me, that wants to heal my wounds, but I have to let Him. I have to let him remind me in the pain and in the bittersweet moments who I am and who I’m meant to be. We just have to recognize that we’ve wandered away from the surest healer, I have to remember, and simply return.

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