Learning to Fly in the Valley of Suck


I realized today “I’ll Fly Away,” is a terrible hymn to sing when your best friend and the love of your life is dying.  Sorry, but I really had a hard time singing this hymn today.  I know she will soon fly away and I know her pain will be over but it does not change the reality of how bad the valley of suck can get when your spouse is leaving this world.

I do not want her to fly away.  I want her back.  I want her the way she was when we first started our newest adventure at Bethelview UMC.  I want her back so the children of this wonderful church could hear about Jesus from her.  I want her back so she will be there for all the next steps her own two children are going to be taking into adulthood.

But the Garden of Eden is no more.  It was blown to pieces by sin and what was left was this valley of suck.  And theologically speaking, yes, sin has corrupted this world and it has led to death; awful forms which have been imagined by human beings and forms that come from mutated cells and destroy lives, families, and dreams.  

I don’t want her to fly away but I do not get a say.  

But I did have a say about going to our Annual Conference for North Georgia United Methodist Churches today.  I could have bowed out but there were friends and mentors retiring so I tried to make it in time.  That did not happen.  Even so, I stayed through the Service of Remembrance where the clergy and clergy spouses and lay leaders who died this past year are recognized.

I was okay till it got to the last hymn.  The whole service I kept meditating and praying and listening, “God what am I here for?”  Then we started singing “I’ll Fly Away.”  I was not sure where I was anymore.  There was such a joy and excitement around me but I did not have it.  I did not get it.

Then, God said listen.  Then, God said look.

And as I listened and as I looked I realized this is what I needed.  Just like Nyquil, which tastes terrible and works wonders, this was medicine to my soul.  While I maybe walking in the valley of the shadow of suck, it will not last.  One day, I will sing again but it is not my day to sing with joy.  No, today I sing with sadness and grief.  Even so, I was with the Church of Jesus Christ in Athens, Georgia made up of a bunch of United Methodist Christians and I sang a song of hope on a day when my hope was crushed.

One of the most important means of grace I see taken for granted is the grace of worshipping God together.  We miss the grace which comes to us when we gather with other followers of Jesus.  When we get our feelings hurt and our underwear in a bunch because someone didn’t do things our way and so we leave, we miss grace.  When we turn so far in on ourselves, then we cut ourselves off from grace only available in moments of worship with other people.  When we demand everyone to be perfect as we are, we miss a whole lot of grace. I am glad I stayed through worship. I needed today so I could see the valley of suck for what it is: a place we pass through on our journey.  It is not the destination.  

Emotionally, I could not stay after the song ended.  But had I stayed, then I would have been present when the entire Annual Conference stopped and prayed for Heather, our kids and me.  I still received grace from all who texted me and told me of the prayer.  What grace might I have received had I been there?  Don’t know nor will I dwell on it either.  I got grace enough for this day.  I glimpsed wings flying away beyond the valley of suck to undying lands where grace abounds and love prevails.  I can't help wonder if we're not meant to learn how to fly in the valley of suck? Hmmm.

No matter how dark the shadows grow, you need not walk the valley alone.  You are not supposed to do it that way. In the valley, we are to walk together; in community.  Jesus did not call one, he called twelve.  

May I Ask: Who are you walking with through your valley?  

May I Suggest: Take time to consider what you are expecting out of church.  Reflect on the disciples with Jesus and the churches where Paul sent letters.  How perfect were they?  How perfect are you or your situation?  


Susan Taylor said...

Flying in the valley of suck may not be possible. The love and prayers of all the saints are with you, and even with all that support its only natural that you feel like your wings are clipped and you can't get any lift to fly. God is with you even when your heart is breaking, and it still sucks. Loving you, loving Heather and loving your children during these awful days.

Ken Hagler said...

Thanks Susan. Yeah, that is why I said "learning" because we can learn a lot before we actually get the chance to fly and test our knowledge. My observation today was being in community is seeing the song can be sung with joy and hope even if I can't do it now. I am so thankful to have had the few minutes today to connect with the Body of Jesus Christ. Thank you for your prayers and encouragement. Thankful to be in ministry with you.

Teresa Angle-Young said...

Holding you and Heather and the children in my prayers Ken. May you feel all of us lifting you up until you can fly. Your sister in Christ, Teresa

Cynthia Astle said...

Ken my brother, you continue to astound me with your ability to share the spiritual experience of your family's journey with Heather. I ache for you all, I pray for you, and all I can do from afar is to share your wisdom with others through United Methodist Insight. Yours in Christ, Cynthia

Carolyn Moore said...

I love this word, and your transparency. And the grace you give yourself that teaches the rest of us to give grace. Thank you.

Ken Hagler said...

Thank you all for your gracious words and comments. I feel helpless to do much but what I can do, I hope I can do. Thank you for your prayers and words of support and encouragement. Much love from the valley of suck.

Warren said...

Still praying. I cannot imagine your journey. I have traveled through the Valley of the Shadow of death. I actually saw the place in Israel earlier this year. It was a dark, dangerous, barren place, but a necessary passage through which shepherds had to move the sheep to the prepared table. There is something beyond the valley. But when we are in the valley we cannot see it. However our confidence is sure, because The Lord is our Shepherd. May the God of all comfort be with you, friend.

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