Last week, the darling husband and I sat around on the beach for two days. My sweet parents kept our three kids, ages 11, 7, and 3. We talked about a myriad of things without interruption that first day. By the second evening, we were staring at each other is silence. Dan broke said silence when he commented that we had covered every topic he could imagine. It was so strange. We usually have several disjointed, incomplete conversations going throughout the week. Instead, we were thoroughly caught up and completely relaxed- not talking. For those who know me, just take my word for it. I was enjoying the quiet.
We have attempted to meet for lunch more during this school year, but those lunch dates often evolve into weekly planner sessions. It was three years ago that we had time alone. And it had been three years before that. So, some peace and quiet was due, I suppose.
Something strange happened while I was relaxing on the beach. Dan had gone back to the condo to retrieve a book. (We do not usually read on the beach; we are usually gathering shells, building sandcastles and life guarding our own kids.) Instead, I sat still reading a magazine article on taking time to enjoy life (no kidding). I suddenly began to cry and couldn't stop. I knew immediately that I was grieving but wasn't sure what triggered it. Currently, we are in a great season of life. Marriage communication and closeness is high, children worries are low. We are not perfect, but we are content. So, why the grief?
A list of hurts and struggles from my friends' lives came flooding in my head like a flashback in a movie. I was overwhelmed by the pain that some of our dearest friends are enduring these days. One friend's sister in law died in childbirth last month. One friend's husband has been searching for a great job for a year, while working too hard at those not so great jobs. One friend is starting a new life with her four young children and without her husband, who is starting his own life without them. One friend miscarried her first baby. Another friend is overwhelmed and has more hard days than good ones. I was still crying when Dan returned to the beach chairs.
We have a need to grieve. We can let go of hurts and take them in stride. We can feel sad for each other, but at some point, the wave of grief may pass over us. I have been crying for days. The floodgate opened, and every tender moment and sweet story or hug from my kids leaves me teary. Each time, though, I know that this season of grief will, by God's goodness, be followed with joy and blessing. I dry up and stand up and walk on.
Because of God's Word, I know that Jesus said blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted. I also know that mourning will turn to dancing. I am reminded that he trades beauty for ashes. We lay down the ashes, and we receive the the crown of beauty.
For many of us, that will be joy. For most of us, that will be a bright light in this dark season of our lives. For some of us, that may be serious solutions to very difficult problems. For a few of us, that may be getting up out of bed and going through this hard life another day. We don't give up. We don't hold on to our ashes. We grieve and then we trade. That word instead indicates an end of one thing and the beginning of something else. Instead changes everything.
Isaiah 61:2-3: To comfort all who mourn, to bestow on them a crown of beauty instead of ashes, the oil of gladness instead of despair, and a garment of praise instead of a spirit of despair.