To Know and to be Known, a Joy in Marriage

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Taking Jana out for lunch after she passed her Certified Pharmacy Tech test. I will always be so proud of her. 

Jana, I miss you.

For this reason a man shall leave his father and his mother, and be joined to his wife; and they shall become one flesh.

Gen 2:24

Let no man separate. To have and to hold from this day forward. For better or for worse. Till death do us part…

I look for you in the morning, when I wake up. The room is quiet. No gentle breathing next to me, or the soft glow of your phone as you sift through various apps. You’re not there to plan the day with, discuss upcoming challenges, or hash out current events. No deep spiritual discussions occur in the room anymore, except for my continuous plea to God for answers…that do not seem to materialize. Your things, the stuff I have not packed into bins yet, are still there. Some things I want to leave just as you placed them, maybe in vain hopes you will come to retrieve what you left. No…you’re not coming back. I am slowly, ever so slowly, realizing this.

Reminders. They are everywhere. Reminders of a love lost. Reminders of your interests, your joys, your passions. I know you. I joked so many times, I know you better than you know you! Now, I know nothing. I am swirling, spinning as a bird with one functioning wing. The one has become less than one. Just a part of me left. And it isn’t the best part, you are gone.

I function. I am up, walking, talking, and carrying out the necessities of the day. I will not curl up in my bed and watch videos of you all day, even though I may want to. I will look at your picture, all day long, but only in short segments because if I linger a beat too long, I will cry. I can talk business, do the shopping, and even smile. This is not me. Not now. My very thin exterior is my front and my protection against my painful emotions that are churning just under the surface. You know me. You would see through my thinly veiled shell. You would easily dissect my behavior and get to what’s wrong. There is a warmth and security in being known by someone else. We were open to each other, willing to love and be loved. You hold my heart and my secrets…but, now the room is empty and quiet.

Jana, I miss you terribly…

I want somebody to share, share the rest of my life
Share my innermost thoughts, know my intimate details
Someone who’ll stand by my side and give me support
And in return, she’ll get my support
She will listen to me when I want to speak
About the world we live in and life in general
Though my views may be wrong, they may even be perverted
She’ll hear me out and won’t easily be converted
To my way of thinking, in fact, she’ll often disagree
But at the end of it all, she will understand me

“Somebody” – Depeche Mode

Secret Memories Lost Between Lovers

One of our “Date Nights”, this night was to Zona Rosa in KC.

Intrusive thoughts, guilt, and regret.

Thoughts of Jana at the hospital appear in my mind without warning. I was the one to notice her Cheyne-Stokes breathing and, after hurriedly calling for help on the 6th floor of Liberty Hospital at 4:50am, I went to her and watched her take her last breaths as the staff began to crowd in and eventually introduce several machines to keep her alive. I remember those moments. It was the end of an hours long struggle with the worst pain I had ever seen a human being endure. These memories haunt me. They invade and take up temporary residence. I have to force myself to move on in my mind.

It’s not fair. Fair…?

Of course, illogical guilt feelings begin to crop up. What could I have done? Was there something that should have been done sooner? Let’s go way back, maybe I should have done something different months ago… Somehow detect what was going to happen and change the course of it all. Ludicrous. But, these are the thoughts that persist.

Quickly, the guilt flips to regret and back again. Why didn’t I take better care of her? I can identify all the mistakes that I have made in the last 20-some years… And, beat myself up for it. Jana, I won’t disagree with you anymore. You can be right. You usually were anyway… If I could have one of those silly discussions back, I would just give in and give you the satisfaction of being right! But, maybe that was part of the fun of our relationship…the playful arguments over nothing in particular.

This talk is no more…

There are so many silly things that two people share. To anybody else it is, in fact, silly. Although, when a piece of nonsense is shared between two lovers it becomes important. Certain memories are held onto for years. Then, one day, something reminds them of the memory and the private joke is resurrected and laughed at. Only the two of them know the joke. Nobody else. Nobody else needs to know. When one of the pair is gone, the memory is rendered meaningless…

I can look at nobody else, with the look we shared that only we knew, and laugh. I am now the only one who holds the memory. It’s a loose end. It’s not connected to anyone. There is no one else that knows, or cares…

Lonely,

Alone,

But…

He brought me out to a spacious place; he rescued me because he delighted in me.

Psalm 18:19

What do you mean, “I didn’t ask?”

A word on my previous post’s title…

Generally, Facebook is a happy place full of vacations, kittens, and somebody’s dinner photos. Things like pain and sorrow don’t fit the “usual” narrative. The collective Facebook user has not “asked” to hear about things that may be a downer.

But…

Look around. There is suffering everywhere. You may not be in that season of your life now, but, you most likely will, in some fashion, in the future. Loss is a part of life. It can be an incredibly lonely place, too. My thought is to share with those who maybe need to feel “normal”, whatever that is, in their grief. I want to say, “you’re not alone!” Many wonderful people have, in fact, asked me how I am doing and they keep tabs on me.

My fear is that, generally speaking, there are far more that are feeling the pain of sorrow and depression and, for the most part, it goes unnoticed.

Here it is…even though you didn’t ask.

I want to share, I want to be transparent, and I want to offer what I can of my journey in grief. I’m suffering. I’m in pain. I physically hurt. I mentally hurt and feel disorganized. My heart hurts, and my emotions are in turmoil. I think all day about Jana, my wife who died just under 3 weeks ago. I still have trouble using that word…died. I’ve tried to sugar-coat it and say “passed away”, but that just doesn’t stand with my feelings for what happened. It was jarring, ugly, and awful. Worst day of my life. ‘Died’ may not even do it justice. Listen close, do you hear my anger seeping out? That difficult emotion is in the mix, too.

Trying to function in my usual circles is proving difficult. In all actuality, I am having trouble functioning anywhere. When I am with people, I can’t stop talking about my pain, when I am alone the thoughts and suffering reach fever pitch. Time is my enemy. Too much time to think sends me into a spiral of sadness and a deep depressed state. I have not suffered with depression in the past, but, I do know a bit about it. I am a trained counselor working on a doctorate in care and counseling. I have worked as a grief counselor, chaplain, and hospice counselor for years. Now, it’s my turn. We’ll all get a turn or two at this grief, won’t we? If you get close to people and have deep meaningful relationships…you will.

Jana and I were married just over 21 years. We enjoyed a happy marriage and close family with our 2 teen-age daughters. For the last few months, we had progressively watched our new business grow and that proverbial light at the end of the tunnel was getting closer as we reached for success. We gave all of our time and energy over the last year and a half toward our new enterprise. Then, she was diagnosed with cancer in her bone marrow, Leukemia, and began 24-hour hospital-based treatments on July 26th. On August 7, she was overcome by complications from the chemotherapy and died in the hospital. It was all over. All the plans, all the dreams for our future, for the kids future…all gone. In just a few hours she, and all of our shared thoughts, were gone.

Since that day, I have been chipping away. I envision this grief to be a giant block of granite and I have a small hammer and chisel. Each day, I wake up and pick up my tiny tools and get to work chipping dust, small fragments, and occasionally a little larger piece off that rock. I am not sure what the final product will look like or what, exactly, is under that rock…but, it’s my work. The weight of this grief block is overwhelming at times. I can’t see past it, but, I know there are people, events, and even joys beyond this stone. Maybe, if I keep my head down, and my work steady…I will reach the other side.

Getting to the Root of Troubles

The group is made up of individuals. Each individual must “work out their own salvation.” (Here is a good video that breaks Phil 2:12-13 down) Through our personal walk of obedience we bring wisdom and encouragement to the group. In other words, the struggles that we experience each day and the lessons that God is teaching us personally are also lessons for the group and shoud be shared.

Our troubles are often the focus of information shared in the group. Our work, as individual Christ-followers, is to clearly identify where our problems come from. The following is a note from my study of 1 Peter 3:17:

Where do my troubles come from? It does make a difference, doesn’t it? If my problems are born of persecution because I have made a stand for Christ, or I have been obedient to the Lord, this would be a blessing. If I have troubles due to my sinfulness, I am experiencing something I deserve. The root matters because, how I go about dealing with the trouble is different. If persecution; I ask God to sustain me, praise Him in suffering, and endure for His glory! If suffering through my own decisions; accept the consequences, confess my sinfulness, and repent (change) my sinful behavior. IF God chooses to intervene in the consequences, praise be to Him. If He decides not to intervene, praise be to Him! The question before me in times of trouble, “What are the roots of my trouble?”

For it is better, if God should will it so, that you suffer for doing what is right rather than for doing what is wrong. 1 Peter 3:17

Sometimes, others can help you to reflect on where your problems originated. This would be a significant purpose of the group. James 5:16 encourages us to, “confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed.” Quite often we choose to ignore our own sinfulness, rationalizing it away. A brother or sister speaking to us in love will help focus in on the truth of our own behavior.

5 notes for discussing troubles in the group:

  1. Come prepared to “dive in” to your own life. Be fearless. You may find things that aren’t pretty.
  2. Realize that others are in a similar, vulnerable, state. Working on yourself is hard! Emotions come up that you didn’t expect.
  3. Speak the truth in LOVE. If your comment to another is not out of love, don’t say it. Consider your personal issues and motives before doing emotional surgery on another.
  4. Tie your behaviors to scripture. Let God guide the findings of your group exploration. What does scripture say about the topics?
  5. Know that God is working in you for His purposes. We work out our salvation and even though this is a tough work, we know that God is ultimately at work within us to accomplish His will! This is a freedom to seek Him through your individual and group work!

Purposeful Body

Guinness World Record – with Drones

Individual believers, with individual purpose as created by God, join together to form groups. The Bible better describes the group as a body, the Body of Christ. God most certainly has purpose for this body. The work of the Church is plentiful and far reaching. It started after Jesus was resurrected from the dead. He gave the Church its purpose; going throughout the earth, sharing the good news of salvation, teaching and baptizing in the name of Jesus Christ (Matt 28:18-20).

From R.C. Sproul’s Ligonier Ministries, I quote, “In the era between the ascension and return of Christ, the church is the beachhead in the Lord’s plan to fashion this one people. It manifests in part the unity to come on that final day, for as believing Jews and Gentiles live together in love, creation catches a glimpse of the future.” The Body of Christ is who stands in the gap, the gap between a world who does not know the saving grace of Jesus and the Heavenly Father. We are called to reconcile these two sides as ministers

 

All this is from God, who reconciled us to Himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation: 1that God was reconciling the world to Himself in Christ, not counting men’s trespasses against them. And He has committed to us the message of reconciliation.
2 Corinthians 5:18-19

The Body has a purpose. This purpose can seem somewhat overwhelming to the individual. A mindset of “one-by-one” should be adopted. Even in groups, attention must be given at a single, personal level. This is where the empowerment comes. The Holy Spirit empowers us to react, engage, and listen supernaturally on an individual level. His work is all-encompassing and has ultimate purpose, but He works with each of us at the heart level.

I recently saw a news article from China. Thousands of drones were gathered at night and sent up into the air. Each drone had a light, or set of lights, on it. When the drones were organized and flew in order, giant pictures and words were formed by the lights in the air (See Here). You get the illustration. Each of us serve as a member of the body. My further study is to discern God’s intent for how the Body interacts and accomplishes the overall purpose.

Ligonier Ministries. One Body, One Spirit, One Call. Taken from: https://www.ligonier.org/learn/devotionals/one-body-one-spirit-one-call/

From the beginning…

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At the beginning of the trailhead, Mt. Massive, Colorado. 

Groups. More specifically, groups in the Body of Christ. Church small groups, cell groups, life groups…two or more believers gathering together. Obviously we are to interact with others. God has designed us in this way. A quick examination of our physical bodies, senses, consciousness, and inate desires as human beings demonstrates the Creator’s intentions for people to interact. So, in short, groups are a part of life. Why?

It would seem logical to take a step back from the group and address the individual’s purpose. Tony Reinke wrote, “We are spreaders of God’s glory” (2015). We accomplish this through being image-bearers (Gen 1:27), being created for God’s glory (Is 43:7), and reflecting God in this world like a mirror. Reinke goes on to summarize that, “We are being changed into the image of Christ” (Rom 8:29).

As a believer, being sanctified by Christ, I am to spread God’s glory and, by His Spirit, become more like Jesus daily. That is my mission and purpose. Somehow, any Christ-followers who interact with one-another should retain their individual purpose and find it upheld and strengthened in the group. Immediately we are faced with a problem; whereas God created us to interact in groups, it is not in our nature to work together like this! In Mark 7:21-23, Jesus said, ““For from within, out of the heart of men, proceed the evil thoughts, fornications, thefts, murders, adulteries, deeds of coveting and wickedness, as well as deceit, sensuality, envy, slander, pride and foolishness. All these evil things proceed from within and defile the man.” Our very nature fights with us to pursue our purpose. We need help. We need supernatural help to work in groups.

Reinke, Tony. (2015) Why Do I Exist? Taken from: https://www.desiringgod.org/articles/why-do-i-exist