"...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.