It’s been a while since I wrote about my faith. I’ve been somewhat stuck in a mental block of grief and anxiety. But I read a book the other day that resonated so much with me that I found almost an awakening. I will be reviewing that book in another blog post, but I found myself pouring out words of faith, words that have been muted up to now.
Writing about my faith isn’t always easy, mostly because I don’t want to alienate those readers who don’t believe the same. But I can only hope that my words spark some thought and continue to bring comfort. My religious posts are the least popular, I presume because people simply don’t want to know, can’t relate or dislike the idea they might be ‘preached to’. One thing I’ve learned about talking to bereaved people is not to talk about God! But if my words speak to one other grieving parent I will know it has been worth writing.
In the not too distant past, religion and belief played a key part of everyone’s lives. Life was fragile, death was a daily fear no matter what age. As we have developed ways of extending our lives and knowing more about how to keep ourselves healthy, we have settled into a frame of mind that is no longer fearful of our death and now more about enjoying life, getting pleasure from material things, chasing personal goals and aspirations.
We grow up believing that we will live to a ripe old age, that we have plenty of time. So we don’t need to worry about God anymore, we don’t need to think about ‘what’s next’. When death takes someone we love, we are surprised, shocked, angry that it could happen at all, and the trauma stays with us. Yet death is the most certain thing in any life. For every thing that lives will die.
We live as though death is an illness. We live as though death is an inconvenience. We live as though death is the end.
How can it possibly be?
Bread of heaven
How can we possibly exist without God?
Can you make a loaf of bread by accident? Throw in the ingredients and hope for the best?
Bread needs exact measurements in order to rise. And, fundamentally, bread needs a baker to gather together those ingredients and combine them in such a way as to create the perfect loaf. (I’ve tried making bread and never seem to get it right!)
If God is the baker, then we are each his perfectly created bread rolls! Different varients on the same perfect recipe. But all tasting wonderful and loved by him.
Okay, it’s not the most profound way to describe the Lord and creation, but you get the gist.
I’m not particularly academic, but I am interested in science and astrology. I am always interested to see the facts, to read, learn and grow my knowledge and understanding of our world and the universe. But even with discoveries such as the Big Bang, I come back to the bakery again.
Something caused it.
Living in the dark
We are humans. With fantastic minds. Capable of achieving great things.
We feel a complex range of emotion. We cry if we are upset or stressed. We care for others. We live to a moral code of right and wrong. We love. We grieve and mourn our dead. We are spiritual. We are ever evolving.
But we’ve switched off the light.
Man’s desire for control and power has confused us. So much so that we have not only turned off the light but closed the door to our spiritual home. We are done with religion. We are done with the suffering. We are done the emotional struggles of life. We are just going to live and get on with it, enjoy the ride while we can.
But when death comes to your door far sooner than you’d expect, it feels as though you’ve fallen through that door and landed on the floor, fumbling in the dark.
So our bodies fail us…
They just stop working!
But where is our spirit?
What is the point of a lifetime of thoughts and emotions if there is nothing else?
What was the point of her laughter, her tears, her dreams if it ends there?
Heaven is home
I know many grieving parents now. Some believe in God. Some are Christian, like me, others follow other faiths. Some have lost all faith, having had meaningless religious platitudes rammed down their throats. Some are spiritual. Some never had faith but are curious. Some don’t believe full stop, never have, never will.
I respect each view. We may not be able to control our physical situations but we can at least control what we believe – freedom of thought.
The main issue people seem to have with God, is the fact that we suffer. Why would someone who is supposed to be loving and have the power to do anything wreak lives by making people ill or destitute or dead?!
But I see this world in two parts – light and dark, happiness and sorrow, good and evil, alive and dead.
Without suffering there would be no joy. And I don’t mean that to dilute the very real suffering we feel when we lose someone we love, especially a child, or the physical and mental suffering we or they experience. I’m not out to shove religious sentiment down anyone’s throats.
“It is not spiritual to put a happy face on a horrible thing” (Levi Lusko, Though the Eyes of a Lion)
Our suffering is both the bigger picture and the smallest personal moment.
I have suffered in my life, in many cases, in ways only I know about.
People I know and care about have suffered.
The world suffers.
But we each somehow find strength in adversity, coming together, and are blessed. We suffer together and alone, but through God we find strength.
If life were perfect, with no pain, no worries, no fears, no harm, no evil, it would be a very different world… hold on, that’s heaven!
I am not trying to romanticise death here at all. I sit here and type this during a difficult period of my grief, where I’ve turned to medicine to try and help me cope.
My child died. I grieve every day. My world has changed. I wish she was here so much. I would happily trade places with her. My safety net has gone. I ask God why it had to happen.
But death has happened to me. To my family. To my daughter! I wasn’t expecting that at all.
But I was expecting something!
I felt a foreboding in me for over a year before Abi died. Life was ticking along. It was busy. It was good. There wasn’t much time to think deep. Yet I had a feeling something bad was coming.
My marriage hit a rock. I thought it was that. But no. It was just a bump in the road.
I fell pregnant, miscarried early, then fell pregnant again straight away. Ah. It was the miscarriage. The second pregnancy is going to make it all okay.
That pregnancy ended in a horrible event at 14.5 weeks.
With grief already heavy in my heart, I was convinced that this was my ‘bad news’.
The worst was yet to come.
Within two weeks of losing my baby, my first born child collapsed and died.
She went home.
It’s taken me a long time to reach a point where I feel I in some way can begin to process this.
I wonder how I would feel if life hurt me again. If one of us got cancer, an illness or disability, or when one of us dies. If we were harmed, burgled, lost our jobs, or our home.
Would I embrace it with thanks? ‘Thank you God for allowing me to suffer again, I’m sure there’s a benefit at the end of it.’
No. I don’t think I would.
But I would definitely ask Jesus to come with me on the journey. I’d need Him more than ever. Whether I live a long time, or die tomorrow, I know that, with God’s grace, I will be at perfect peace.
At home with Him and Abi.
There are people I know suffering right now. With cancer treatments. Loss. Pain. Worry. Struggling to feel God near them. Angry at Him for their suffering. Yet wanting to believe in Him, in something, to ease their feeling of isolation. Needing desperately the hope of someone out there to help.
I’m no means a perfect Christian. Not even a particularly good one! I’m as bad a sinner as the next person. I don’t go to church as much as I should. I give in to the easy option all too readily. I have poor self control. I feel I don’t do enough for others. I don’t read my Bible as much as I should. My faith is largely a personal one.
By the time of Abi’s death, I had decided God was fiction and people like Dawkins were the sensible ones. Yet at my furthest point from God, he was there for me in total forgiveness, in a flash. Just like a parent with a rebellious teen.
Finding hope in heartache
But how have I possibly found hope after Abi’s death? How have I grown from her death? I’m on antidepressants for goodness’ sake!
Firstly it opened my heart to God and made me realize that life is not a dress rehearsal. It’s a gift that we are mostly wasting by choosing to close the door and turn away from things we do not understand.
It made me realise that just because the sun is shining, doesn’t mean the stars aren’t still in the sky. I cannot see them but I know they are there. We don’t need to see everything as proof that it exists.
You know how I’m starting to look at it… evil decided to meddle with me. It had already turned my heart from God as I was decided He wasn’t real. It could tell my heart was wavering back to Him so it threw more crap my way, and then the ultimate blow. My child. Evil believed that would definitely cement my hatred of God.
But it did the opposite.
At Abi’s death bed I reluctantly agreed to have her baptised. But as the priest anointed her with oil, I felt a pang of comfort through the despair.
I reluctantly lit a candle in the Chapel. I stared at the cross. Confused. Was God angry with me?
Then I saw her body. Glowing in death. A smile on her beautiful face. She looked like she was enjoying the most wonderful dream. Riding a pony across golden sand. Running through fields. Dancing. Playing.
Just like in the heaven scene in the film Gladiator (one of the most moving depictions of heaven I have seen), I saw her go home.
I saw what I had been blind to before. I saw what evil never wanted me to see. It was then I felt Jesus near me. He was grieving in the moment with me. Reassuring, yet full of heart break.
Abi may be safe at home but we were left to pick up the pieces. God is shaping me to use my words to help others, to get the most out of the life I have left. To finally be happy with what He has given me and see Him all around me.
I have met people I never would have met.
I have experienced things I never would have experienced.
I have stopped doing things I didn’t want to do just to please others.
I have helped others in ways I never imagined I would ever help anyone – it’s not the way I expected but then of course, it wouldn’t be!
That is God, turning my suffering into something good. He’s not denying my pain, but giving me the opportunity to grow and live with it rather than letting it destroy me.
There is so much I don’t understand and while I will always ask questions, I’m no longer trying to find the answers to everything. I will know in good time.
For all of you with your own personal suffering, I pray for you, that you feel strength in the days ahead and that you find healing and peace.