The Weight We Walk With in the Valley of Suck

I was watering plants today.  We don’t have many around our home in need of watering.  I am not a fan of annuals.  I prefer perennials.  They only usually need tending to in times of drought.  We haven’t kept many houseplants either.  Still, we have three.  One is a Christmas cactus from a couple of years ago.  But there are two others.  Both of these have been with us before we got married because they were both Heather’s.  

As I watered, it occurred to me why I have been feeling a weight - subtle but ever present - on my mind.  My heart.  My soul.  I am living for two.  

Those two plants represent this.  What was hers did become mine.  What was mine did become hers.  This is what we said would be the case, it was part of the mystery of two becoming one.  As I keep moving forward and living each day, I find those things which were hers but now, are mine and they are my responsibility.

Most of it is stuff but it is stuff embedded with meaning because it was HER’S.  She owned it, cared for it, touched it, read it.  She saved or kept it precisely because it had meaning to her.  Little by little, piece by piece, I carry these items of her’s and make decisions about what to do.  
Every widow handles it differently.  As I listen and read and journey, I think it is good and right for us to do things our way.  One of the biggest things I had to do was to go through her closet and clothes.  I needed help for that but for me, and it was just me, I could not leave them there.  The same was true for our bedroom furniture.  This was actually her request which made it easier.

On entering hospice, Heather did not want many, if any, reminders of home.  I tried to bring things or put things out but she said no.  She had a clinging cross she held or kept at her bedside.  Some flowers came but memories?  No.  We did not talk about it but it seemed she was separating from this world.  Things did not matter any longer.  But things never really have mattered much anyway, do they?

So I carry on.  I have a Celtic cross with some of Heather's ashes in it now.  There are still things she left behind which I must sort and struggle with.  I feel the weight of taking responsibility for her memory, her life, and her love.  Heather’s legacy is in the lives she touched as she lived out love.  She wanted to do so much more but it was in her gentle grace and firm resolve to follow Jesus faithfully, so many saw God’s presence.  She gave up so much throughout her life to be a wife and mother and disciple.  In the end, she gave up all to have Jesus.

I must carry on.  I must do the mundane and difficult tasks of closing accounts and notifying institutions.  I take on the role of CFO of our home.  This Sunday I began stepping back into my role as a pastor too.  I carry on as a single parent and try to prepare my kids, now young adults, for the next steps of their life.  I must carry on.

Do not confuse my emotions and reflections with depression or denial.  You miss the point of these reflections.  Throughout the Scriptures, both the Jewish people and the Church were commissioned to watch our for widows and orphans.  The first martyr of the Church, Stephen, was commissioned not to start new churches but care for the widows (Acts 6:1-5).  Like most writings of Scripture, there are implications here which go beyond merely cultural aspects.  Some will slip into depression as the valley of suck, strips away joy and hope.  But anger and bitterness are just as destructive and widows and orphans are apt to be consumed by these emotions also as the valley of suck offers few alternatives.

In a time of their own, resolution and redemption will come.  What needs to be made clear; what needs to be preached far more attentively, is there are times of desert living and times of walking in darkness and the valley of suck.  Preaching always of blessings and the Lord’s favor without the reality of suffering and death and disappoint, is a false gospel.  It denies the human condition and reality.  It denies the words of the Psalm writer of Psalm 46...

1 God is our  refuge and strength,
a very  present  help in  trouble.
2 Therefore we will not fear  though the earth gives way,
though the mountains be moved into  the heart of the sea,
3 though  its waters roar and foam,
though the mountains tremble at its swelling.
4 There is  a river whose streams make glad  the city of God,
the holy  habitation of the Most High.
5 God is in the midst of her; she shall not be moved;
God will help her when morning dawns. (Psalm 46:1-5)

Here is the reality the Psalmist observes: namely, trouble WILL come.  The earth WILL give way under your feet.  Some days WILL suck.  And even so, God WILL be in the midst of your valley.  Morning WILL dawn.  There isn’t a date or time given to it; only the promise.  But if we know Scriptures, if we hold to the means of grace; to a simple spirituality; to being with God’s people - we will hear of God’s faithfulness in keeping those promises.

No matter what you find yourself carrying in the valley of suck, there is a coming dawn.  I do not know when but I do believe it.  While the valley of suck may take hope and joy, it cannot touch the promise of God’s faithfulness.  Keep looking for the morning dawn for it is promised. Much love from the valley of suck.


NGA Mike said...

Good read. Thanks for sharing. You have a powerful word and witness. See you in September.
- Mike

Ken Hagler said...

Thanks for your words Mike!

Ken Hagler said...
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