Resurrection Day

Happy Resurrection Day, friends! May you know new life, peace, and hope today, tomorrow, and forever. 

     Christ toreador  by Paul Werner ( source )

 

Christ toreador by Paul Werner (source)

 

Lord of the Dance

 

I danced in the morning
When the world was begun,
And I danced in the moon
And the stars and the sun,
And I came down from heaven
And I danced on the earth,
At Bethlehem
I had my birth.
Dance, then, wherever you may be,
I am the Lord of the Dance, said he,
And I'll lead you all, wherever you may be,
And I'll lead you all in the Dance, said he
I danced for the scribe
And the pharisee,
But they would not dance
And they wouldn't follow me.
I danced for the fishermen,
For James and John
They came with me
And the Dance went on.
Dance, then, wherever you may be,
I am the Lord of the Dance, said he,
And I'll lead you all, wherever you may be,
And I'll lead you all in the Dance, said he
I danced on the Sabbath
And I cured the lame;
The holy people
Said it was a shame.
They whipped and they stripped
And they hung me on high,
And they left me there
On a Cross to die.
Dance, then, wherever you may be,
I am the Lord of the Dance, said he,
And I'll lead you all, wherever you may be,
And I'll lead you all in the Dance, said he
I danced on a Friday
When the sky turned black
It's hard to dance
With the devil on your back.
They buried my body
And they thought I'd gone,
But I am the Dance,
And I still go on.
Dance, then, wherever you may be,
I am the Lord of the Dance, said he,
And I'll lead you all, wherever you may be,
And I'll lead you all in the Dance, said he
They cut me down
And I leapt up high;
I am the life
That'll never, never die;
I'll live in you
If you'll live in me -
I am the Lord
Of the Dance, said he.

-- English folk song written by Sydney Carter, adapted from the nineteenth-century American Shaker tune “Simple Gifts” by Joseph Brackett

(Click here to listen to a recording of the song by the Dubliners.)

Into your hands: Tamara Hill Murphy [Retrieve Lament]

(You can read all of this week's stories of lament here.)

Jesus gave us a litany of last words as a Sufferer; we refer to them as the Seven Last Words of Christ. The deathbed words of the Suffering Servant provide a framework for the stories of lament I'll be sharing here this Holy Week.

I'm grateful to the writers of the mourning stories on the blog this week. Their words and courage have helped form me in my understanding of suffering. On this Holy Saturday, as we wait what sometimes feels like an especially long day for the release of resurrection, I've chosen to share in more detail some of my own story. I first shared these words six years ago at a Good Friday service in our church in Austin. While I'd shared often in confidential prayer and teaching sessions and with individual friends, that service was the most public setting I'd chosen many of these details. I've also referred to everything you'll read here at one time or another on the blog, but today's post puts things more plainly and is, by far, the most public sharing I've ever done. It's possible that I've been writing this blog for twelve years just so I could get the courage to share today's story. I'm understandably nervous.

I hope only that the words of my story will encourage you to turn toward the Christ who lived, died, and was buried in order to take the place of every single sin you've ever committed and every single sin that's ever been committed against you. Only He can fully bear that weight, but in his mercy he allows us to help bear each other toward the cross. Like so many other of my friends, church community, and family members, each person who's told their story here earlier this week has, by their courage and humility, acted as a fellow burden bearer. I hope you'll take comfort, not only in these online witnesses to suffering, but even more in the community around you. May you seek and find fellow burden bearers to walk walk with you toward the tomb today. 

     In the Heart of the Earth  by Julia Stankova ( source )  [H/T: Victoria Emily Jones at  Art & Theology  blog]

 

In the Heart of the Earth by Julia Stankova (source)

[H/T: Victoria Emily Jones at Art & Theology blog]

Then Jesus, calling out with a loud voice, said, ‘Father, into your hands I commit my spirit!’ And having said this he breathed his last.
— Luke 23:46 (ESV)

I was born 9 months and four days after my parents were married, my father an associate pastor in a tiny church in the Adirondack mountains of northern New York state. A few years later, after a short stint in a Washington, D.C. ministry role, we moved back to my father’s hometown where he took a job as a youth pastor in his home church, an old church in a very conservative denomination. It was during the years we lived in the downstairs apartment of the missionary house adjacent to the church parking lot that I prayed a prayer one night before bed that Jesus would come into my heart and save me. It was during these years -- somewhere between my second and fifth birthdays -- that I was sexually abused by a man my family should have been able to trust.

Soon I had a little brother and a little sister and my parents wanted to move us to a house with a yard. They chose a developing suburb in the back roads of a neighboring town. Our house was tiny and inexplicably covered with a lot of faux blue marble and grey paneling. But it had a yard -- two whole acres for us to roam, for my father to plant a garden, for my mom to hang a tire swing. It was also in the lower corner of this yard -- over a woodsy hillside, toward a soggy creek bed filled with fallen logs, broken beer bottles and a rusted-out Volkswagon that is forever etched in my memory -- that a teenage boy my family should have been able to trust, on the pretense of taking me for a walk through the woods, sexually abused me when I was approximately six years old.

Another significant event took place in this house that, in the way of foggy childhood memory, has become inextricably intertwined with my memories of abuse: my father broke away from the church of his denominational upbringing and began pastoring an overflowing living room full of the most backward group of people you’d ever want to meet -- new Christians, disillusioned Christians and fake Christians -- began meeting each week in one living room or another as the first sanctuaries of the church my father would pastor for the following twenty years. 

Our little congregation of church misfits began to outgrow the living room and took up worship in the musty storeroom of a local Christian bookstore. It was in this building that I began to more clearly understand what it means to be a preacher’s kid.

As a perceptive child, hyper-observant but ill-equipped to interpret what I observed, this is what I remembered from those years: Lots of people liked to approach my family after Sunday service to tell us how much they loved our father, and then lots of those same people would call our house every day, often late at night, to tell him all of their problems. Later, these very same people seemed cranky instead of happy; they frowned a lot at my family, and said really angry things about our father during church meetings. Lots of those same people would then stop coming to church.

Somewhere inside, my wires got jammed and I began to interpret people getting angry with my dad to be directly connected to all of the emotional and financial hardships our family suffered quietly, behind the closed doors of our home. Since I was already convinced by the shame and confusion of sexual abuse that something was terribly wrong with me, I concluded that it was my responsibility to protect myself, my parents, and my siblings in what felt like a capricious, threatening world. I began to build mini-campaigns to make sure that everyone who came to our church would think my dad was such a good pastor that they would never frown or say mean things during church meetings, and, most importantly, that they would never leave our church. At home, I determined to make everyone happy with a mishmash of survival strategies that included, but was not limited to the following: never have a dirty bedroom, never weigh too much, and never make anyone, anywhere angry with me.

I didn’t sleep very well and I cried a lot. 

I probably got this idea -- that I could be good enough to keep people from being angry and leaving our church -- from watching the way my father tried to be such a good pastor. How he picked up the phone every time it rang, even during dinner -- and it always rang during dinner. I decided this must be the reason he was gone so often to meet with people who needed him. I decided that it must be more important to let people do whatever they wanted, say whatever they wanted, and think whatever they wanted about us than it was to risk losing them to church. In my child mind, I interpreted this dissonance in our home and in our church, to mean that Jesus must want our family - and me, in particular - to commit my spirit into the hands of people rather than God. This is what I interpreted it meant to be in ministry.

In my pain, I vowed that when I was grown up and in charge of my own life, I would never, ever marry a preacher, live on a preacher’s salary, or sit in a church meeting that I didn’t feel like sitting through. [Note: even though this is a somber reflection, it would be totally appropriate to laugh out loud here since I am, in fact, married to a preacher and living on preacher's salary. It should be known, however, that I often refuse to sit through church meetings that scare me.]

It's only been in the last dozen years that I've begun to recognize how much damage this behavior of pleasing people at all costs has done. I began to realize how, without knowing it, I’d decided as a little girl that the best way I could love Jesus was to never say no when an unsafe person intimidated, disrespected, or violated me. I guess I thought his crucifixion was enough to take the place for other people, but not for me.

God has gently and persistently invited me to walk into healing and restoration for all of these misunderstandings and misplaced loyalties. It seems to me that He has found every means necessary to reorient my confused, abused, lonely, ashamed, and terrified heart to what is good and true and beautiful about Him, his world, and his people.

Some of the ways He's met me have been in small, almost imperceptible moments that bit by bit have accumulated into making me new. Other moments, while on the surface might seem small, have had the effect of being knocked over by an ocean wave and resurfacing on a brand new, beautiful shore of health and wholeness.

One of those knock-out experiences occurred about thirteen years ago. I'd joined a small group of women who met to sort out together the ways we’d been relationally, emotionally, and sexually broken. It was in this group that I first said the words out loud to people, other than a counselor or my husband, "I think I've been sexually abused." I had stammered my way through the confession because I'd become convinced that my story - so sketchy in my memory, still so foreign to my understanding of myself as one worthy of protection - that the women would doubt me or ask me to get my story straight before they could pray for me. Instead, they overwhelmed with their kindness, and prayed for me and with me. They offered me one of the greatest gifts I've ever received: they believed me.

On another night, a year later, I tried to articulate to the group this deep wounding I'd experienced growing up as a preacher's kid. At that time, Brian and I had begun to sense God calling him to pursue ordination, and while my heart was open and eager for that calling, a huge, unhealed part of me was terrified. 

The woman leading our group, Sherry, leaned over and looked me straight in the eyes. She worked to hear me -- to listen to my heart and to understand my words. I said that I was exhausted by the despair of believing that there was no justice available to fix me. All of the injustice I'd experienced in my life felt jumbled up and unresolved. I felt like I'd already prayed and tried so hard to be well, and that I'd come to the end of my healing journey with no hope it would ever get better.

When I was done talking Sherry did a funny and totally unexpected thing. She leaned forward toward me. She spread her arms out and looked me straight in the eye. She said, "Tamara, I am so sorry for what we have done. We have hurt you and your family for all these years. We didn't know we were doing it and I am sorry for that, too." As she spoke, I felt like the Holy Spirit helped me imagine a word balloon holding a caption over Sherry's extended arms: This Is What Jesus Did. This is Injustice for Injustice.

Sherry had never personally hurt or violated me (or anyone else in my family, as far as I knew). Yet she was taking on the burden of responsibility. She was apologizing on behalf of the people I'd carried around in my memory all of these years. She stood in the place of the guilty (or at least those I considered guilty) so that I could have a place to drop the burden of wounding, bitterness, and unforgiveness.

Somehow, God used this very simple apology to act as a healing salve on some of the most excruciating pain in my spirit. In one unexpected moment, I found a way through the place I'd been stuck for so long.

On another occasion which deserves a longer, separate telling, an older man whom I barely knew offered me a similar gift. We were gathered at a week-long training session to help us learn how to walk with people toward relational, emotional, and sexual healing. We learned by first receiving that kind of help for ourselves. One evening in the large group of both men and women, the teacher leading the training invited anyone in the room who'd been sexually abused as a child to come to the front of the room so that he could pray for us. I tried to cement myself to my chair because I absolutely did not want to be part of any such group. I'd become more open to sharing my story in small, confidential settings, but this felt too big, too exposed, and, honestly, too out of my control. Frankly, I wanted to control what my image as a "victim" looked like and I didn't know if I'd want to be seen together with a group of broken people who might look and act like a version of a victim that repulsed me. It sounds ugly, but it's true. 

I went forward anyway. 

As soon as my feet moved toward the front, something hard and choking dislodged in my spirit. It rushed out in tears. So many tears! Brian was across the room praying for others and unable to comfort me. When I returned to my seat, still wailing, there was only this man - who unbeknownst to him - carried a resemblance to one of my abusers. He and his wife reached over and pulled me into a group hug. Like Sherry's simple act of moving toward me, their tenderness set something right in my spirit.

These are two examples of several similar healing experiences, yet I still carry much pain and much fear. In the past two years, in particular, I've been walking into the face of one of my greatest fears as I learn what it means to be married to a priest. For the rest of my life, my husband and I will be working out our vocation as ministers to God’s people.

Lent has become a touchstone in my journey toward wholeness and healing. Each year, I carry a little bit more of the grimy places of my hard heart to the cross and bind it there to our crucified Jesus, to be buried with him. I keep needing to be saved from this death.  

I need resurrection, yes, but I never want to skip the burial because this is where all the old things are laid to rest. Only when they've been completely killed can they be made completely new.

It was during the darkest hour of betrayal, forsaken even by his father and his God, that Jesus said these words, “Father, into Thy hands I commit my spirit.” This act marked a final moment of epiphany, as the hardest hearts watching that day replied: “Surely this was the Son of God.”

It was Jesus’ unwavering allegiance to the one true God that caused him to lay his own soul into the only place worthy of its keeping, his Abba Father’s hands. His willingness to suffer the injustices of all the world made a way for me to lay down my own wounded, abused and betrayed self and entrust my whole self to the Abba of Jesus, “Father, into Thy hands I commit my spirit."


Once, ritual lament would have been chanted; women would have been paid to beat their breasts and howl for you all night, when all is silent.
Where can we find such customs now? So many have long since disappeared or been disowned.

That’s what you had to come for: to retrieve the lament that we omitted.
— Ranier Maria Rilke, "Requiem For A Friend"

(You can find links to all of the Retrieve Lament stories from previous years here.)

It is finished: Wendy Wall [Retrieve Lament]

(You can read all of this week's stories of lament here.)

Jesus gave us a litany of last words as a Sufferer; we refer to them as the Seven Last Words of Christ. The deathbed words of the Suffering Servant provide a framework for the stories of lament I'll be sharing here this Holy Week.

I count it a high privilege to know -- at least in a small part -- the writers of the mourning stories I'll be sharing now through Holy Saturday. Their stories have helped form me in my understanding of suffering and I believe they could also encourage you too. Today's guest is a friend from all the way back in high school. While we have not seen each other in person for many years, we've enjoyed being able to reconnect online - two small-town, Christian-school girls, who married and had kids young, and are now, at our very young ages, are entering the season of an empty nest at the same time.

In hindsight I recall a sense of "deep calling to deep" even when we were young, and now from across the country (literally - Connecticut to Alaska), there is still that resonance. I've been honored to watch Wendy walk the way of the cross with her family, suffering much pain - of which, I know very few details - and what is most obvious to me is Wendy's desire to become more like Christ in the unexpected outcomes of her journey, and as a result, to become more like the woman He's always imagined her to be. Godspeed, dear friend

May I recommend you read Wendy's story of lament like a Psalm and listen with an open heart for any words Christ might be speaking to you? 

  Good Friday, 2002  by Maggi Hambling  (source)  [h/t:  Art & Theology  blog]

Good Friday, 2002 by Maggi Hambling  (source)

[h/t: Art & Theology blog]

When Jesus had received the sour wine, he said, “It is finished,” and he bowed his head and gave up his spirit.
— John 19:30 (ESV)

 

It Is Finished

by Wendy Wall

It is finished. It is over. Life as I know it, the life of being his wife is done. Tears fall; my hair and my pillowcase are soaked with tears. My eyes are swollen, and tissues litter the bed. Here in the dark, I grieve.

My thoughts wander to a phrase I’ve heard often, “The ground is level at the foot of the cross.” I go there in my mind - to the foot of the cross. I sit there with Jesus, my Lord. He has breathed his last breath. He’d lived his life, and now there was nothing more he could do or say. So I sit at the foot of the cross, still alive, but with nothing left to give; nothing left to say. No hopes. No dreams. It is finished.

In a way, it’s beautiful to be so empty, so broken. There are no more valiant, heroic measures to try to save the marriage. No more prayers and hopes for a miracle. After twenty-five years, it is finished. No more praying through the book, The Power of the Praying Wife. No more begging for the truth and longing to be loved. No more working too hard to find a way to measure up. Always striving for more: more wealth, more power, more recognition, and more love. No more busy running here and there, over-committing to good things that distract and deflect from the best things.

But once it’s finished - this dream of the perfect family, the perfect ministry, the perfect job, and the perfect house - there’s no more striving. When it is finished, there is a time and a place to simply be. A place to stop. A place to walk and not run. A place for clarity. I can no longer win the race, so I now enjoy the moments I’m given. In a way, this life is full of more grace, of more beauty, and of sweet resignation.

At the foot of the cross, I mourn what should have been, but is no longer. On the cross, Jesus let his spirit go. With his last breaths, he said, “It is finished!” Then he bowed his head and released his spirit. The NLT Study Bible has a note regarding this verse, John 19:30:

“Jesus called out in triumph and exhaustion that he had finished the work he set out to do. On the cross, he was not a victim, but a servant doing God’s bidding.”

So this practice, mentally going to the foot of the cross and sitting alone helps me move forward in my grieving journey. Here, at the foot of the cross, there is no posturing greatness. There’s only real, living-in-the-present grief. It’s a place where it’s OK to sob and cry out loud. It's a place of cleansing. It’s a place to leave all the pain, all the mistakes, all the unmet needs, and all the lies and betrayal. Christ also felt all the pain of separation here. This is the place to come to let it go. Only after it is finished and buried can there be the hope of resurrection. The hope of new life.


Wendy Wall.jpg

 

 

 

 

 

Wendy Wall enjoys exploring the beaches and trails of Juneau, Alaska with her dog Pandy. She loves spending time with her three adult children and their spouses. Currently, her greatest joy is being a Nana and spending time with her granddaughter. 


Once, ritual lament would have been chanted; women would have been paid to beat their breasts and howl for you all night, when all is silent.
Where can we find such customs now? So many have long since disappeared or been disowned.

That’s what you had to come for: to retrieve the lament that we omitted.
— Ranier Maria Rilke, "Requiem For A Friend"

(You can read all of the Retrieve Lament stories from previous years here.)

I thirst: Brett Alan Dewing [Retrieve Lament]

(You can read all of this week's stories of lament here.)

Jesus gave us a litany of last words as a Sufferer; we refer to them as the Seven Last Words of Christ. The deathbed words of the Suffering Servant provide a framework for the stories of lament I'll be sharing here this Holy Week.

I count it a high privilege to know -- at least in a small part -- the writers of the mourning stories I'll be sharing now through Holy Saturday. Their stories have helped form me in my understanding of suffering and I believe they could also encourage you too. Today's guest is a man Brian and I know from our days living and working in New York state. I first got to know Brett through his kind offer to share poetry with my art-starved self. It was like a cup of cold water - which is a fitting metaphor for the day we remember the parched and dying Christ.

It'd be silly to pretend that the form of suffering Brett so vulnerably shares with us today isn't among the most culturally vulnerable positions in our world today. His lament acknowledges a complexity of suffering that makes the majority of the world, and, sadly, the Church, too uncomfortable to acknowledge. 

As we near the Feast of the Passover, I'm thinking a lot about our Israelite forebears being rescued from slavery in Egypt - dramatically freed from a backbreaking life that led to death by route of the stark, uncomfortable wildnerness. In this context Brett's question, Can we grieve the loss of an unholy life?, feels a bit like what the Jewish fathers and mothers might have meant when in their austere desert provision they found themselves remembering fondly the melons and cucumbers they were fed in Egypt. What might those longings have sounded like if they'd stopped short of building the golden calf as an idol to their faulty memory of the "good, old days"? I wonder if it might have sounded a bit like Brett's honest, thirsty lament.

Would you read Brett's story with me, and listen with an open heart for any words Christ might be speaking to you?

  A Man of Sorrow  by Scott Erickson ( source )

A Man of Sorrow by Scott Erickson (source)

After this, Jesus, knowing that all was now finished, said (to fulfill the Scripture), ‘I thirst.’
— John 19:28 (ESV)

 

Grieving Our Vinegar Thirsts

by Brett Alan Dewing

Jesus’s call of thirst from Golgotha calls us all to examine the thirsts in our lives. Are they holy thirsts that bring us closer to who God calls us to be (thirsts for His blood in the Eucharist), or are they worldly cravings that bend us toward idolatry and consumerism (thirsts for the vinegar He was given)? There are times in our lives when two roads diverge in a foggy wood, and we, groping, take the wrong path. When we realize our error, what do we do? When we find ourselves back on the straight and narrow, what do we do with our time on the crooked and wide?

Sixteen years ago, God led me out of a gay identity into something much wilder and less contained: an identity in Him. For a dozen years, I thrilled in the experience of chasing God and His ways, but I didn’t know what to do with my time as a gay man. Were those times, those relationships, those drives to be all labeled not-good and thrown on the trash heap of the past?

In the last four years, my sexual identity has not been so sure. I have found myself again wrestling with my old desires – good desires like companionship and community and love that were twisted ever-so-slightly into unhealthy thirsts. And again I must ask, what do I do with the path I daily refuse to go down again.

Can we grieve the loss of an unholy life?

When we turn from our earthly desires toward Him, we all must leave things behind. For me, that meant leaving behind a life of seeking fulfillment in another man. That meant the very real possibility of never knowing someone sexually. That meant the loss of an identity that promised inclusion and the picking up of an identity that seems even today to lead to loneliness and Otherness.

But in my searching, wandering heart, I have found that it is holy and healthy to mourn those things that a gay identity promises, even though they are not things God wants for me. We all must mourn the paths we didn’t take, even if – no, even though – they are not the paths God would lead us down.

It is OK.

It is OK to cry out to Him in my loneliness, in my frustrated sexual being, in my uncertainty, to mourn the life He called me out of, even if I find myself desiring it once more. It is OK to weep for the loss of a broken life. We must, in fact, let go of every “if” or “might have been” to truly follow Him without reservation. Let them float away like balloons, in an array of tears, offerings to Him that set us on the good path. He knows what we gave (give) up, and He can take the tears of pain and anger as we grieve our vinegar thirsts.


Brett, I'm praying with hope for you and all of us the words of our sister Julian of Norwich who found herself enfolded so deeply in the love of Christ that her proclamation "all shall be well, all things shall be well" comforts our troubled hearts even today. May it be so. ~ Tamara)

Brett Alan Dewing.JPG

Brett Alan Dewing is a poet, playwright, teacher, and critic living in Binghamton,
NY. He grew up in Warren Center, PA and was educated in Canada, where he earned
three BAs and an MFA. He has interned at Brookstone Performing Arts in Toronto
and studied under Canadian legends Iris Turcott and Judith Thompson. His play,
Requiem for a Broken God has been performed on both coasts, and his plays my first sex poem and One Is Silver were performed at Redeemer University College in
Hamilton, Ontario. He self-produced plays throughout high school but has yet to
enjoy his professional American premiere.

You can buy Brett's book here, and read his reviews at b-a-
dreviews.blogspot.com
.


Once, ritual lament would have been chanted; women would have been paid to beat their breasts and howl for you all night, when all is silent.
Where can we find such customs now? So many have long since disappeared or been disowned.

That’s what you had to come for: to retrieve the lament that we omitted.
— Ranier Maria Rilke, "Requiem For A Friend"

(You can read all of the Retrieve Lament stories from previous years here.)

Why have you forsaken me?: Amy McLaughlin [Retrieve Lament]

(You can read all of this week's stories of lament here.)

Jesus gave us a litany of last words as a Sufferer; we refer to them as the Seven Last Words of Christ. The deathbed words of the Suffering Servant provide a framework for the stories of lament I'll be sharing here this Holy Week.

I count it a high privilege to know -- at least in a small part -- the writers of the mourning stories I'll be sharing now through Holy Saturday. Their stories have helped form me in my understanding of suffering and I believe they could also encourage you too. Today's guest has walked with Brian and me through most of the joys and sorrows of the last seven years - as partners in a relational healing ministry and as beloved friends. In God's kindness, He led Amy and me to the same spiritual direction certification cohort without us even planning it that way. So, we continue to work and learn together from our respective homes in Austin and Bridgeport. Amy embodies what it means to be a wounded healer, and I'm grateful to her for share with us this Holy Week.

Would you read Amy's story with me, and listen with an open heart for any words Christ might be speaking to you?

    Quilt by Junko Oki ( source )

 

Quilt by Junko Oki (source)

And about the ninth hour Jesus cried out with a loud voice, saying, ’Eli, Eli, lema sabachthani?’ that is, ‘My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?’
— Matthew 27:46 (ESV)

 

Bella

by Amy McLaughlin

The gift came to me in a circuitous, even painful and confusing way. We were helping a Hurricane Harvey family entrenched in all levels of poverty. We were weary with the cycles of addiction, abuse and dependence in the family we were serving and had questioned whether we should have ever become involved. Then one day I brought a friend out with me to visit the family and to play with the kids. As we rode together, I shared with her a bit about my own hand-to-mouth childhood and about being raised by a single mom. She listened and then commented that I could relate to this family because of my story. This family’s situation was so stark that I simply hadn’t made the connection. As we were leaving that day, beautiful, blonde, three-year-old Bella became frantic and started screaming and banging the inside of the duplex door we had shut behind us. We drove away with the heaviness of Bella’s chaos.

Over the next week I began to unravel. I ached for Bella and felt the grip of my own three-year-old grief close around my throat. God seemed to be using us to love this family and the family to love me, for He ushered in a grief that He wanted me to embrace in a deeper, completely joined way. He wanted to be there with me then and now as I faced my own three-year-old panic.

It was November and my spiritual direction cohort gathered for training. I was half-way through a two-year program to earn a certificate in spiritual direction. I had greatly grieved and wrestled over the abandonment of my father numerous times but never before alone with the Lord in this way. Over the course of my training weekend, I was given three hours of silence for two afternoons. I'd just had rotator cuff surgery and knew I needed to stay inside and not venture out. As I sat with the wide window of green hills in front of me, the grief of Bella and then my own “banging the inside of a duplex door” loss rose in me. I fought it and reminded “it” that I had been over this numerous times. After some attempt to put it aside, I let it be and God invited me to grieve with Him, to see Him holding my bare-chested, diapered self then and my raw lonely self now. I lost time that afternoon. I only knew He was grieving with me as real as the closest of friend.  As the first day ended I thought maybe it was all out.

Afternoon two of silence began and I sat aware that I was not finished, that He had more for me.  Anger began to rise. In whatever ways I protected my Dad from my heartbroken reality then, and in whatever ways I still maintain much silence about the cost to me now, I began to unleash questions of my dad, then questions of my God. Questions like, how at the end of the day, Dad, could you actually walk away from your own flesh and blood? I have kids and that has only served to strengthen my question.

And Father, how did you arrive at the conclusion that the way this would play out would be good for my sister and me?  Why has it taken me so long? Why has it taken you so long? I felt as if God let me stand close and beat his chest with the depth of my pain. He did not waiver. He did not stop me. I felt I was to get it all out. And He was there when I settled. I didn’t have an answer. This experience became a sort of answer. A deep bonding happened between God and me, the one who dreamt me up back when He was casting stars into existence. The one who stayed close when my parents were reeling with their own brokenness. The one who honors me and delights in me and gives me all good things now as I step into my 50’s on this Easter morning!

To think a little abandoned blonde three-year-old, after years of insomnia and self referenced living could move into her 50’s with such an intimate knowing of her Father’s nearness is beyond what I can take in, certainly beyond what I or any of us deserve. But it is true and calming and full and life giving. And after this skin-on-skin grieving with such a good Father, I feel more a part of the family than I thought possible.

Psalm 73:28 says, “The nearness of God is my good.” From this place, I can pray for Bella.


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Amy is wife to David, mother of two teenagers, Slater and Gracie, and a learner in the ways of grace, healing, waiting and trusting God. She directs a relational healing ministry at Christ Church Austin, she teaches, keeps her LPC license current and is in spiritual direction training.


Once, ritual lament would have been chanted; women would have been paid to beat their breasts and howl for you all night, when all is silent.
Where can we find such customs now? So many have long since disappeared or been disowned.

That’s what you had to come for: to retrieve the lament that we omitted.
— Ranier Maria Rilke, "Requiem For A Friend"

(You can read all of the Retrieve Lament stories from previous years here.)