There’s been an idea in my head for the last couple of days, so I’m just now getting around to it. Weekends really aren’t any less busy, so I don’t even pretend like that’s catch up time. A couple of things are still pending, but I wanted to write a little about the beginnings of knowing peace in this whole grief thing. This is still a work in progress, and I don’t want to be arrogant enough to say or think that I’ve mastered it. I know that’s a lie. Most people reading would know that’s a lie, and God knows it’s a lie. This is simply about the beginnings of knowing peace with Doria’s death and my life.
Months ago, when things were reaching their lowest point, and I couldn’t read, couldn’t write, and just basically couldn’t do anything right to save my life, I was talking with a good friend about my frustrations with that. For some reason, I really didn’t enjoy the concept that my life would fall apart. My friend asked me a couple of questions that really struck a nerve for a highly-competitive type-A+ person. He asked (and I’m paraphrasing, “With everything you’ve been through, why do you have to rebuild so quickly? Why is it so important? And what if, in the worst case scenario, you actually do fail? Is that the worst thing?”
If you ask anyone who knows me, yes, failing is the worst thing. I hate losing. I hate failing. I kid with my students that I understand if they don’t like their grades, and I tell them a story of a paper where I scored a 99.5 percent and wondered what the professor’s malfunction was because it was a good paper. Doing the impossible is the standard. Failing is the worst thing. So my first answer was easy. But we talked more.
I warned people early on that I think and believe from a born-again Christian perspective, because I am one. That’s my world. As I walked to my car (we were done, I wasn’t storming away. That’s my story.), a Bible verse started to ring and resonate in my head, and it led to a wonderful night of reflection and prayer. The verses were was Philippians 4:11-12 (love that letter), where the apostle Paul wrote “11 Not that I speak in regard to need, for I have learned in whatever state I am, to be content: 12 I know how to be abased, and I know how to abound. Everywhere and in all things I have learned both to be full and to be hungry, both to abound and to suffer need.”
We usually use that verse to refer to financial and physical needs, and they are both right there. Paul had learned to be content with God when he was broke. He learned to be content with God when he was doing well. He learned it when he was hungry, and he learned it when he was full. Paul learned to be content with God when he had enough and when he didn’t. No matter what, Paul learned to be content with God.
The idea of contentment behind that verse, though, led to some powerful places. I’m not hurting for food. I’m a grad student, so I’m not wealthy, but our bills are paid. Those have never been problems. But I am short one daughter physically present and living here with us. Doria died, and she’s staying home with Jesus now. She won’t use (or need) her crib. She’s good, but I’m still here hurting. Contentment is a challenge.
That’s kind of the idea here. Contentment is hard. It’s hard when we have plenty, because we want more. It’s hard when we don’t have enough, because we need more. In this case, my circumstances really couldn’t change. I can’t bring Doria back. God isn’t doing that. Ten months ago today (August 23rd), we had the funeral to bury Doria, and that deal is done.
What I can do, and all I can really do, is to accept that yes, Doria is gone. Yes, things are hard. I see such a difference right now, but on that day, I was right at the precipice of total failure. I could keep slamming my head against the wall trying harder, but I would just fail harder, get more frustrated, and fail harder. What I was doing wasn’t working, and it never would.
I’d asked a friend to talk and help, and he did. That night, I spent time asking God to help, and He is. I made a choice that night. I was going to be content, no matter the outcome. If failure happened (and if you know my professor, we talked about that possibility a couple of days later. She was pretty militant, and it was fun.), then failure happened. If things turned around, then things turned around. Either way, somehow, I was going to learn to be content with the situation as God put it together. That was one of the hardest decisions I have ever made, and that was the beginning of peace.
It didn’t lead to instant success. It did lead to a start of it. I managed to put together a paper good enough to finish the semester. It was no 99.5, but it was good enough. I learned how to start focusing again, and how to clear out distractions. I was able to begin reading, and start getting back into shape. I began to enjoy the work again, and then I really started to realize how much I was missing out on. I’ve been able to start doing ministry things again, and that’s a welcome thing. Nothing dominant, nothing earth-shattering, but it’s changing my world.
I’m reading up a storm right now. At times, I’m right where I used to be. At times, I’m way better. At times, I outright fail. We usually call those Thursdays. All in all, though, I’m learning to be content, even though I’m missing my Doria.
The whole point of this blog is just to share for the next guy out there how the journey goes. If you’re in the club of hurting parents, it stinks. That doesn’t change. Life can and does fall apart. If you see the valley from where you’re at, that’s OK. You’re not alone, and you don’t have to go down. Even though it’s impossible, you still get to win.