Yesterday, there was softly falling snow. Today, there is a hard rain hurling itself against the windowpane.
In my ears, the quiet shush of snow has always sounded like the voice I most want to hear. It has always seemed like the embrace of the One who is so often hidden from us.
But if the snow whispers I Am, this rain screams Why? Why? Why?
It is the unanswerable question the world keeps on asking. Why do terrible things happen? Why did this terrible thing happen?
To be honest, it’s a question I don’t want answered. At least not yet. If there is an answer, I know that I am not ready to hear it. The only question I feel able to ask is this: what happens next?
What comes after the nightmare?
The answer I’ve considered this week has surprised me. I am not sure why that is when I have felt it before. For me, what comes after the nightmare is a strange sort of peace.
I once watched my son begin to die in a suburban Florida frozen yogurt shop. Two bites in to his dairy-free frozen treat and some trace contamination caused his throat to swell shut. I realized what was happening in the same second that I realized I had forgotten to carry his epi-pen.
A stranger in that shop saved my son’s life when she pulled an epi-pen junior from her purse. She had curly, red hair and two kids by her side. I struggled to uncap the pen because my hands would not stop shaking.
My son recovered so quickly he didn’t even need to ride in the ambulance that arrived a few minutes later. But it took me longer to recover. It took a long time for my hands to stop shaking and an even longer time to realize that all the fear I had carried since my son’s first allergic reaction was gone.
I felt sad and guilty and shaky, but I was no longer afraid. I understood that I could never keep my son perfectly safe. I understood that life and death are so much bigger than I am. So much bigger even than the love a mother has for her child, and that both, life and death, are held in someone else’s hands.
Today, again, I am sad and shaky. Today, again, I feel guilty. Before, I felt guilty and ashamed because I had risked my son’s life through forgetfulness. Now, though I recognize it isn’t logical, I feel guilty that I still have a husband. That my children still have a father in their house.
But I am not afraid.
I no longer think that losing my husband or even my child to death would be the end of me. I could lose even this house, this hilltop where I have planted so much of myself, and still go on. I have seen how it is possible to smash into a thousand pieces yet remain, not happy, certainly, not well, or whole, but held. Sustained. I have seen how God carries us through the very thing we imagine we cannot endure.
It is written, “perfect love drives out fear” (I John 4:18). I have read those words and imagined this love like something familiar, something sweet like the candy hearts my children have been eating for days. But fear is powerful. Enormous. It takes a very big love to drive it out.
I don’t know if this love causes terrible things.
I don’t know if this love allows terrible things.
All I know is I cannot look at the terrible thing without also seeing love.
I hate the sound of this driving rain. I don’t like the questions it is stirring up. But though I still long for the comforting blanket of yesterday’s snow, I am grateful for any rain that washes all my fears away.
I am grateful to be where I am. Here, in the churning, foaming center of a great river of peace.
I know exactly what you mean about no longer being afraid after death comes far too soon for someone you love. I felt the exact same way after my niece died last spring. And being held, that is so real too. Keeping you and your family in my prayers.
Thank you. xoxo
This is exactly what I understood when my husband deployed. No, I didn’t lose him. He came home. But somewhere deep within me I was prepared to go on. It makes me think of how one Narnian described Aslan: “Oh, he’s not safe. But he is good.” Thinking of you, your sister and your family often. Praying for His continued goodness.
Thank you, Shari. These are both good things – to have your husband come home again but also to reach that moment of release and trust. Thanks for being here and sharing your experience. xoxo
“I have seen how it is possible to smash into a thousand pieces yet remain, not happy, certainly, not well, or whole, but held. Sustained. I have seen how God carries us through the very thing we imagine we cannot endure.” So true; in so many varying devastating and traumatic experiences. thank you!
Thank you. Grateful for your comment and your presence here.
So beautiful and true. I have also felt held in the midst of deep grief. Love to you, Christie.
Much love to you, Katie.
Christie, I stopped breathing reading this. Thank you…
Thanks for being here in this space with me, Val. Hugs.
“I don’t know if this love causes terrible things.
I don’t know if this love allows terrible things.
All I know is I cannot look at the terrible thing without also seeing love.”
This. Is truth. We do not know so much. But we do know love. And we choose to trust that love.
Thank you Christie.
Thank you, Lea. Grateful to have you here in this space.
You have amazing gifts of word and wisdom!
Thank you, Cindy. That is an encouragement.
Thank you for sharing your heart. Hugs.
Thank you, Melissa.
Having lost my brother, the closest person to me in the world, when I was eleven years old, I have lived most of my life with a sense of foreboding. A sense that “today could be the day” that I lose my husband or that I lose my kids. I don’t live in fear–I live in the reality of death and it is OK for me because I trust the One who holds me. You captured so much of what I feel, Christy. Thank you.
Thank you for these words, Shelly. I think you know well this reality I am only beginning to grasp. But it is a good place to be. Hard but good.
Christie I hope you are feeling better today. Thank you for your heart. It again touches mine. I think those rain drops have turn to tears of mine. I am so happy that the Lord is bringing you step by step through this….Always praying for you and yours. XOXOXO
Much love to you, Barbara.
Thanks for letting us listen in to the thoughts of your heart right now, it’s a blessing.
Thank you for being here, Devi.
Oh, oh, Christie. These words. In just under 90 minutes, I am scheduled to meet with a dear friend who is suffering terrible heartbreak. I’ve been nervous, even anxious about this meeting, finding sleep difficult and waking? Difficult, distracting and disturbing. This. I needed to read this. Right now, in this moment. Thank you so much.
Oh, Diana, thank you for leaving this comment. It helps me so much to know that God has a plan for the words I write. I am so glad they were an encouragement, and I pray for you as you help carry this burden of grief for your friend.
Christie, thank you for this heartfelt, beautiful, and transparent sharing . . . as delicate and intricate as soft-shawling snow, as persistent and piercing as staccatoed rain. It is both difficult and comforting to read, because I have read your recent story and the great tragedy that has befallen your family through the loss of your beloved Shawn. I have also seen you comforted by God’s abiding love and grace through your friends’ support and through the things you have written, personally, about all that has occurred. I remain so sorry for your loss, so your allusions to it are difficult. Also, very dear friends of ours lost their fifteen-year-old boy fourteen days ago. He retired early because he was not feeling well, and his father found him dead on his bedroom floor. If pelting rain thunders a thousand whys, then they, we, are experiencing a tsunami of questions–questions flowing and flooding and overwhelming. In some ways, death removes fear (the worst we feared has already transpired); but in other ways, I will admit to being fearful of what . . . or who will be next? Whom will I have to relinquish? Or perhaps my husband and daughter will need to relinquish me. I am praying for God to fill me (and especially my friends) with His perfect love that casts out fear. Thank you beyond words for such a crucial reminder! From all you are saying, somehow, it seems to me that the opposite of fear is not peace, but it is Love. You’ve presented much to ponder. It’s sunny outside today in St. Louis, and I will tell you that I can question just as much by sunlight as I can by rainlight (or by day or by night). But right now, I am going to start praying for an answer of love–to see God’s love *in* the rain and *in* the dark, in the past and in the present, and assuredly in the future. I am praying for His LOVE to reign.
I am so grateful for your words and your prayers, Lynn. Thank you.
I guess this is the same place Abraham found himself all those years ago – being willing to trust God in the midst of sacrifice. I believe God brings us all to this place sooner or later where He asks, ‘Do you love Me more than these?’ It’s the test of True Love. Pure Love. This wrenching of spirit and soul. This trusting in the unknown. You have expressed it all so beautifully Christie. Thank you for taking us on this journey with you, and for being so real. There is peace to be found in this puzzle, though it takes some time to get the pieces to all fit where they belong. God’s promise to Abraham for his commitment to love God through the pain and fear, was that ‘through your offspring all the nations of the earth will be blessed.’ God bless you, and your lovely sister and her children too.
Thank you so much!
Thank you for your words. Although I don’t know what it is like to “smash into a thousand pieces”, I certainly relate to the fear surrounding the notion of that one day happening. I continue to love with deeply and fully, banking on the truth that I will be “held and sustained”. Brave and encouraging words.
Thank you, Kit.
Oh the tears this has provoked tonight…I have been struggling with a heart wrenching situation with my son and what you wrote hit the nail on the head as to what I am feeling. And, it has provided a reminder of how to move beyond the fear. Such great timing as I needed to read this at this very moment. Love what the others have shared in response as well…so much wisdom in their words.
I am so glad, Michelle. God’s timing is good. I’m praying this love carries you through the fear.
Beautifully written. I’m still a little dumbstruck by all the ups and downs of your recent weeks. Mainly, I’m thankful He is making Himself known–I’d say “as usual” but somehow that doesn’t do justice to the Lord’s faithfulness–but walking with Him has taught me to expect Him to show up in tender and surprising places. Blessings on you and your family Christie.
Thank you for putting into words the feelings of my heart as well. My husband and I were in Flight school with Shawn and Kelli as well as stationed with them in NC. This has caused me to face my fears of loosing my husband and or children. And yet at times I feel guilty that my husband is still here. I rest in His love and faithfulness and am deeply comforted by the comfort He has shown to Kelli.
Christie, I’m back again and I have a lot on my heart. My sister’s 56 year old husband has been diagnosed with stage 4 lung cancer. Without a miracle, which I’m praying for, it will be a short battle. Your words touch the deepest part of me….the place where my faith waivers….God is using your pain to help bring me through this pain. I was wondering what words you find for your sister. I am struggling to know what to say. We live 12 hours apart. I want to pack and go and then I question that decision. Any guidance? I sense the guilt you speak of in this post and I hesitate to even talk about my simple life matters when desperate matters fill her life. I don’t want to let her down. I hope you know what a gift you have. Thank you for sharing it in your hard time, Cindy
I put my phone down to catch my breath at the part of losing a husband or child, asking myself what I’d do. But it’s so true that whatever we go through in the future God will be there holding us. I’ve been seeing over and over again in my life that it’s not the reality or power of God I question or doubt, it’s learning to trust His love and goodness. Because if I truly trust in His supreme love and goodness I don’t have to fear.
“But fear is powerful. Enormous. It takes a very big love to drive it out.” Can’t stop thinking about these words today.