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