It’s a curious thing, grief. It settles like a weight in your belly. It’s an ache that is always there. Sometimes you forget the heaviness for a moment. When life fills you with delight or distraction, you throw back your head and you laugh with the rest of the world. But when you are still again, or on your own, you feel it tugging again at your heart. You can feel very afraid, tired and overwhelmed. It’s tempting to give up on hope, to say that it just wasn’t fair, to curl up in a ball and decide not to go out to play anymore.
I watch, as the children I teach, thread wooden beads on old shoelaces. Some of the laces are already full from a previous day. They are knotted together and I watch as they try them on around their neck and then parade around the room. It’s so inspiring to work with children. They have such a capacity for delight. They live in the moment and do not worry what tomorrow will bring. Occasionally they ask, “Can I take these home?” And when the answer is no, they ask me to untie them; they return to the box and let the beads slide off the lace and into the box for the next child. It’s over and they move on.
I find it such a challenge to move on. Not so much because it’s over but because I so desperately wish it was. I find myself projecting my thoughts further and further into the future. I try to make plans about when this is really over but God keeps bringing me back to today. Today her head is fuzzy, her legs are cramping and her bones feel sore. Her words come out of her mouth but her sentences are incomprehensible so she shakes her head and starts to tell me again. Like a child, she tells me she is trying to be brave but she misses me and the days are long. Then she laughs and tells me it’s okay. “How was your day, mum?” and I remember when she was small how I taught her to ask me how my day was, when I used to pick her up from school.
There are so many knots inside me. Knots of regret, knots of pain, knots of not understanding. It’s almost too much to bear. I look at her and wonder where she went and why this had to happen. It leads me to my knees in prayer. All these heavy knots are getting in the way like the knots on the shoelaces that leave the beads suspended half way. Like the children, I am asking Him, “can you help me unravel this knot so the bead can slide down?” I don’t want to be stuck; I don’t want to go around this mountain again.
Deuteronomy 1:2 says, “It is only eleven days journey from Horeb by the way of Mount Seir to Kadesh-Barnea; yet Israel took forty years to get beyond it.” I don’t want us to be stuck here for longer than we need to be. So I cry out to God to help me understand why this journey of healing is so slow and so tedious. I ask Him to help me to remain sweet while I wait for completion to come.
It seems like all the polished beads of my life have been rolled back into the box. That my string is empty. I watch as he lifts the lace to his teeth and tugs on the link where a knot has formed in my heart. I’m familiar with the sweaty, unpleasant taste of the shoelace and I know this isn’t easy for Him either. It hurts as He pulls at my life trying to loosen the grip of the enemy but I give it all to Him. All my grief, all my pain, all my confusion, I yield to Him. I know that if these knots are not removed they will grow tighter and smaller. That the beads will be able to thread over them and cover them. That one day I could hide how much this whole process really did effect me but more than anything I want to get rid of those knots altogether. So for now I hang limp and empty in his hands. I know that the knot at the end will remain permanently in place. He placed that knot there and it is the anchor of my faith. It is the one that will eventually hold all the beads from slipping off the other end of the lace.
I surrender it all, my daughter, her healing and her wholeness. I trust that when He is ready He’ll find new beads and He will wear us like a garland around His neck. This is why He sent His Son:
“To preach the Gospel of good tidings to the meek, the poor, and afflicted; to bind up and heal the broken hearted, to proclaim liberty to the [physically and spiritually] captives and the opening of the prison and of the eyes to those who are bound. To proclaim the acceptable year of the Lord [the year of His favour] and the day of vengeance of our God, to comfort all who mourn – to give them an ornament (a garland or diadem of beauty instead of ashes, the oil of joy for mourning, the garment of praise instead of a heavy, burdened and failing spirit – that they may be called oaks of righteousness [lofty, strong and magnificent, distinguished for uprightness and justice and right standing with God], the planting of the Lord, that He may be glorified.” (Isaiah 61:1-3)
I think it is a fairly magnificent exchange and I have all of eternity to discover it. So for now I make it my endeavour to be content in the moment, no matter how challenging that is.