Today is the twenty-first anniversary of our son, Mark’s death. Last year Mark’s mother, Sharon, shared these thoughts in her blog, treasuresofencouragement.org. I pray her words will encourage you as you choose to walk by faith in the pathway God has marked out for you. Next week we will continue our mini-series on How to Short Circuit the Holy Spirit.
I've tried to come up with something new and fresh for this day, the twentieth anniversary of our son, Mark's Homecoming (I still hate saying "Mark's death"). One title, Twenty Years, Twenty Memorial Stones - almost finished, but it feels forced. What do I FEEL like doing? Finding a room reserved for the broken hearted where tears flow and no one feels like they need to say, "I'm sorry for crying." One of my sisters called early this morning and my initial response was silence because my broken voice wouldn't work right. Grief is still a mystery to me. I didn't start dreading this weekend, in fact, it crept up on me. So when I woke up depressed and sad Monday morning, it took me a few minutes to figure out the root of the ever present tears. Ah, yes. July 6 is coming. That's why. My sister said she thinks grief must have its own hormones. I think she's right..
And yet, my theology, while giving me permission and even empowering me to cry out to God and long for what was and run to Him with my questions and sorrow, expecting Him to comfort me as a Father comforts His child, my theology also compels me to open my life and allow others to see His work, His faithfulness in the midnights of my journey. Perhaps choosing to do that today will offer help and hope to another grieving mother and also turn my heart toward Him.
A New Bible
Two weeks after July 6, 1993, Chuck gave me a new Bible, a road map in this foreign land of Grief, not knowing it would become a journal of sorts as I noted and dated passages to remind me to look into my journal for specific treasures sent to turn my heart toward Him.
It's in these pages that God reminds me that every circumstance of my life can become a platform to reflect Jesus, especially the circumstances that create cracks and crevices in my soul. One of the biggest struggles and disappointments for me after Mark's death was that I could not be the "perfect Christian," I could not declare that God was good all the time and mean it. With my will I tried to sing it, but often just cried, hoping and wishing it was true. My soul despaired of believing that joy comes in the mourning. I wanted to be that woman who literally glowed with the presence and peace of Jesus. Instead, I wrestled and pleaded and wailed, beating on God's chest, demanding that He give me back my son. Like an exhausted child after a temper tantrum, I wearily turned to scriptures, every day, for help and hope. Nothing else in my life was dependable - what other horrible thing was coming our way? Only scripture was unchanging.
Soon that morning time with Him became medication, applied intravenously, rushing through my mind into my heart and soul. I imagined it working like the aggressive chemo therapy I experienced several years before. There was no immediate healing and frankly, healing seemed impossible and out of reach. And sometimes the "treatment" made me feel worse as I read His promises and knew He could never keep them on this earth. But still, He called to me and enticed me to meet Him again and again and again. And so I did. And one morning as I read, "But to each of us grace has been given as Christ apportioned it...." I heard God tell me that this wrestling was a gift from Him, grace perfectly apportioned to me so that I could give it back to Him to share with His people as needed. He freed me to transparently share my battles, my wrestling, as a means to glorify Him and help others run to Him with their questions, doubts, and disappointments. For some my words were like fingernails on a blackboard, they sounded heretical. To others, they were drops of water for parched souls. The treasure in the darkness that I would never have chosen, the Gift of Wrestling, was perfectly designed to draw me into His heart and reveal riches stored in secret places (Isaiah 45:2-3). Riches too good to keep to myself.
And that's what I offer today, this twentieth anniversary of the last time I saw our son, Mark, the last time I hugged him, felt the house rock as he played his new drums and practiced for a band concert with brother Dan and best friend Ryan, the last time I listened to him map a work out strategy with his big brother, Chuck, and the last time he sought advice from his sister, Heidi. The last time I saw his dad hug him. My tattered Bible is a memorial stone, reminding me of those tearful mornings, just me and Jesus, wrestling, talking, listening and not listening, longing for what was, desperate for hope, wisdom, courage, peace, comfort.
I hesitate to share these things for my motive is not pride. I am a broken, wounded woman who is a credible witness of the supernatural strength in the character and love of my God and His Word. All Him, all His grace, all His unconditional love. I long for others to choose to say yes to His invitation to regularly meet Him and dig for those treasures in the darkness.
Twenty years ago. Twenty years closer to seeing Mark, to throwing myself into the arms of Jesus. I hope you are looking forward to that moment in your life, too.
In His grip,
Sharon W. Betters
Check out my blog, treasuresofencouragement.org for more free resources on grief.
MARKINC Ministries is committed to leaning into the pain of life experiences that often go unnoticed by the church. The Learning to See When the Lights Go Out audio library addresses life's darkest circumstances that are difficult to discuss yet we are called on to help one another walk by faith, even when darkness falls. These are the real-life testimonies of people who have walked through these experiences and have learned to see when the lights went out. Browse the library for free downloads on such topics as Drug Addiction, Suicide, Loss of a Loved One, Chronic Illness, Chronic Illness in Young Adults, Widowhood, Divorce, Sexual Abuse and much more. Click here to learn more.