30 November 2010


"...emotions like anger or self-pity, however natural and legitimate, do not define reality. Our feelings do not determine what is real, though the feelings themselves are real. We cannot ignore these feelings, but neither should we indulge them. Instead, we should acknowledge them without treating them as if they were ultimate truth. The feeling self is not the center of reality. God is the center of reality. To surrender to God, however contrary to our emotions, will lead to liberation from self and will open us to a world that is much bigger and grander than we are."

A Grace Disguised, Jerry Sittser

Surrender. I've thought about that word a lot lately. Sometimes I picture a battlefield, smoke thick and hanging low, the crackle of gunfire reverberating long after the fighting has ceased. As the smoke clears, someone raises a white flag, waving it tentatively. This is the sign of surrender, of granting victory to the opponent.

Sometimes I simply picture open hands, the context of surrender not always being combative. In this way, it is acceptance of the way things are, a relinquishment of the insistence on having things my own way. It's feeling all the emotions, accepting them, understanding them and living with them in such a way that they do not dictate reality. This is hard work. It is exhausting. And it is anything but simple.

As time marches on, the losses compound. No Thanksgiving, no Christmas shopping for Ewan. More babies being born, more pregnancies announced. All the simple unspoken hopes I had as a mother -- imagining family photos, rocking my baby, reading to him, bathing him, seeing him smile and hearing him laugh -- continue to rise to the surface, and each must be acknowledged and for now, buried again. I get angry, and sadness is my constant companion (even in those times when I smile and laugh). 

It feels like just about everyone but me are having healthy babies. It seems like so many others are enjoying with relative ease the life that I fought for, but lost. God makes healthy babies all the time, and yet He gave me one that was too sick to live. It feels sometimes like God forgot about me, or wants to watch me writhe in agony.

This is not reality. These feelings are not the truth. Surrender, again and again.

The truth is I am not the first to have suffered such a loss, or to feel so singled out in what I grieve. The truth is I am not being punished, and neither was Ewan. The truth is, when it comes to suffering and loss and grief, Christ went there first.

Perhaps this is part of why grief is so exhausting: the emotion speaks so loudly and convincingly, begging to be heard, and sometimes goes so far as to call the truth into question. The truth has not changed, but the world seems so upside-down at times that it's tempting to think that it has. It is a constant tension of acknowledging the feelings and checking them against what I know to be true. And so surrender is hearing the feelings, and then acknowledging and affirming the truth, over and over again, no matter what my feelings have to say.

In due time, I hope to experience that liberation Sittser speaks of, of seeing a world that is grander and bigger than I am, bigger and grander than I ever knew. Instead of being trapped and embittered by the loss, I hope with God's grace that I will let it transform me.

And so I learn to surrender, again and again.


Nadine said...

<3 Praying for you each day...my heart aches for you. I'm sincerely sorry for all you have to go through Kirsten.

Emily said...

Praying for you daily Kirsten, I wish there were an easy way to move past this for you. I am so sorry for your loss and the emotions that come with it! You are stong and beautiful!

Unknown said...

Despite our own individual situations, I believe that everyone can find a situation in their lives that feels this way. I felt exactly the same way when we lost our first. But learning to surrender is exactly what I had to do in order to breathe every day. You are absolutely right. And your words speak volumes.

di said...

your words continue to slay me. with our circumstances as different as can be, the emotions and surrender again and again i can certainly relate to. grief is such a pain. thank God the thoughts that accompany are not reality. not the truth. not the last word. thank you for sharing your gift Kirsten. truly.

Katie said...

You are teaching us all so much...surrendering is so difficult. I will continue to ponder the picture you eloquently painted with your words on surrendering. I'm sorry for your despair, you're in my prayers sweet friend.

Anonymous said...

Thank you for the gentle reminder that surrender is the path to the peace I beg for. Thank you for reminding me it could all be so much worse. Thank you for sharing yourself so openly with us.

I pray for often. I weep for you often. I am thankful because of you often.

Sarah said...

Gak. This sucks so much for you. When I think of surrender, I see you with your hands open, yelling at God but loving him at the same time. You still have my prayers and my tears more often than I can ever tell you. Love.

Shay said...

beautifully written. I love your opening quote....thought provoking and very true, but hard to do. Only in God and His strength can we surrender...thanks for sharing your heart, emotions and all that you are learning as it is teaching me as well. you are in my prayers! <3

Unknown said...

continually awestruck at your ability to articulate how you feel .

I think ,
for very different reasons of course,
that surrender is a large part of why I am at peace .

it wasn't always so , but it makes so so much difference.

very timely words in light of Advent t Kirsten.

love you.

christianne said...

This post made me cry, my friend.

Gina said...

Praying for you. I wish I had better words but know you are on my mind and my heart.

Anonymous said...

I know that you will be transformed. God loves you and he will bless you with His grace to do it.
Your words are truly such a gift to all of us and I am so thankful for them and for your open heart.
Your are in my prayers.

Ingrid's Organic Body Care said...

so thankful that you can look past emotions and see that "christ went there first" He is our hope. praying for you, for peace and comfort amidst the constant company of sadness.

Leslie said...

These are wise and true words. I understand the clamouring voice of grief and pain as well. I understand the feeling that others are granted what has been withheld from you. For me, it is unremitting illness and pain. The loss of health and its affect on my life and my family - years and years and years of it. While others appear to be granted a relatively healthy and "normal" existence. For you, a beautiful baby boy who is in heaven and not in your arms. For others, a childhood marred by abuse. The list goes on and on.

Yet, as you say, the truth is still the truth. There is One who suffered for me and before me. And yielding to Him is the only way I seem to be able to perceive any light in my darkness. He is, for me, light and life and love and beauty, even though...