It’s the day before we do our weekly “non-stress” test, with it’s long reassurance of hearing Zoe’s heartbeat, the lump in the throat when she moves away from the scanner, and then waiting for the real news of her birth in a few weeks. That brought about a title for something I was pondering over this week.
Since becoming a Christian, I’ve really been fond of my faith. Like everything else after Doria died, that got stressed, gets stressed, and likely just gets stressed more in this next month as we approach Doria’s birthday on August 17th. So this isn’t intended as a complete story, just a current description of a struggle and win to date.
I’ve been used to seeing troubles and hard times. That’s been quite normal, and every time, just like the New Testament promises, God saw me through. When I needed peace, He was there. When things needed to come together, they came together. So I knew going in that this would be hard. No doubt about that, but I was confident that I wouldn’t be going through alone.
That said, theologically, I didn’t go through this part alone. In the experience, it often felt like it. One way to compare it is the friend who says, “Hey, I’ll be there. I’ve got your back. I want to help” right up until the time comes that you need it. I’ve seen plenty of those, like everyone else, and been plenty disappointed, ticked off, annoyed, and just finally moved on without them. This was supposed to be different, because this friend had never let me down. He’d left me plenty confused, but never disappointed in the end.
But the first steps of walking by faith through the grieving were different. At first, dramatic stuff happened, and there were a lot of cool victories before the adrenaline and shock finally wore off. Then they did, and reality set in, and I was overwhelmed. That’s how it works. I would pray, and nothing happened. I would mention peace, or spend some time dwelling on important promises, like in Hebrews 3-4, Psalm 23, or Matthew 11:28-30, and peace never came. I’d always prayed for focus when I needed it, and things got worse. I could read less, work less, but I could forget more and more than I ever thought possible. It was amazing. Everything that I knew was supposed to get me to the finish line was not doing it, and almost everything kept getting worse. It was odd, like being let down by the best friend I ever knew. It was terribly disappointing. It led to more than a few “Thanks a lot. That’s a pretty outstanding answer (picture military sarcasm here). Just oustanding” kind of prayers, which really aren’t my favorite thing.
Just like watching the NBA Finals and wondering why Danny Green suddenly couldn’t hit a three, or an Iowa State game where referees can’t call a charge or block to save their life, all of it was wrong. I never hit the point where I considered walking away, but it definitely cripples a prayer life for a time. There just seems to be no point. It became almost like hitting myself in the head hoping to feel better. That doesn’t work, either.
But it was worth it. Not losing Doria, but keeping the faith. Keeping the faith was worth it. This may sound like rationalization, or the largest crutch you ever heard, but I believe that keeping the faith was worth it. That whole Matthew 5:4 idea of mourning to be comforted had to happen. If God had simply taken it all away right away, and I’m pretty sure that was my goal, then the rest would never happen. I would be happy about a magic genie God that just made everything all better without making everything real. It sounds kind of cool, but there’s no gain or growth there, just a life where Doria dies one day and I’m OK the next. So it was good. He gave me what I needed, even though it hurt (and can still hurt) like crazy.
I talked briefly Sunday morning about Hebrews 12:1-2 and running the race, which really means “agony”, which describes my running style. The key there was running the race with eyes fixed on Jesus, which really is faith, and then the other important part of running for tired people who would rather fall over and die. Keep putting one step in front of the other. Plenty of days have been all about getting up and putting one step in front of the other. All of August probably will be. Then there will be Doria’s 2nd birthday, her 3rd, if we move away for a job and cry over leaving her grave physically behind, and all the stuff that I have no possible idea about yet.
One step in front of the other. Or, if something else makes this better, and old buddy at an officer school used to say “Erik, this is a good time to breathe.” Then we’d put one step in from of the other.
There were no detours. There never could have been. Can’t walk through the valley of the shadow of death by crossing over a bridge. It really came down to putting one foot in front of the other and moving, slowly, surely, moving.
Those answers to prayer are happening more and more now. I’m more energetic yet than I was 2 months ago, and worlds ahead of January. I may be getting borderline intolerable, which is a goal of mine. The whole relationship is fun again. The danger is still possible, but the hope is very real. The idea machine in my mind is rolling a lot faster again.
If you’re wondering, “Could all that change with a disaster in the next few weeks?” my answer would be “I don’t know. I’d rather not find out.” What I know right now is this:
One step at a time. One step in front of the other.