One more day until we arrive in Europe. The weather is still pretty, but there is a definite chill in the air. They have added blankets to the beach towels on deck for those that want to bundle up and read. It’s nice. Like going from mid summer back to early spring. You can tell the passengers are getting a little restless. I am seeing lots of card playing and there’s even an impromptu knitting group that meets in one of the lounges. I see them every morning when I walk through to get coffee. I especially love the 70+ man who is knitting something with hot pink yarn. I want to cheer for him every morning when I walk through but I’m pretty sure he wouldn’t appreciate it. It’s interesting to me how people tend to build community wherever they are.
Okay. Today I think this post is going to be a tough one. I have really argued with the Lord about it, but he has gracefully reminded me that the subject of my post on Monday was authenticity, so I think there is no getting around it. I’ve got to talk with you a little about my life as a widow.
So here you go. Authentic me.
Since Keith’s death in 2011, I have found myself with a ministry and a voice that I never wanted. That of cancer and widowhood. I didn’t fill out the card for this one. Didn’t take the spiritual gifts test and get assigned it. Nope. I fought it for a long while, because I really didn’t want that ministry. I was sure the Lord would find something a little more suitable for me to do. But then I realized that whether I liked it or not, this ministry was one I was perfectly suited for.
As I have worked with and talked with widows and widowers across the country, there is one thing that we all have to deal with. Aloneness. I’m not talking about loneliness. I am rarely, if ever, lonely. I have a group of fabulous friends and family who love me, pray for me, check on me, have lunch with me, go on trips with me and genuinely do life with me.
Nope. This is aloneness. It’s knowing that ultimately I am traveling this road by myself, without a partner.
With each person that I talk with, when I mention this they say, “Yes! That’s it!” Even when the pain of the death and loss has eased, and the memories make us smile instead of cry, the aloneness is still there.
Okay…see? Here’s why I didn’t want to write about this. I hear you. That collective, “Awww. That makes me sad.” I see your furrowed brows. Please know that I am not writing this for you to feel sorry for me or to fix it. And I am certainly not writing for you to find me a boyfriend! Heavens no!
I just want you to understand. This widow thing is sort of my thing now, and I want to speak for us.
My being a widow has opened up a lot of doors for ministry for me. One of these is with a young woman who lost her husband tragically last year. We have had many discussions about people and how they want to be the ones to say just the right thing to fix it. To make the pain go away. But you can’t. As much as you love us, and as much as you want to help, you can’t fix this one. Because the reality is that we ARE alone.
I know people who couldn’t handle this part and jumped into another relationship quickly. Sometimes this works and sometimes it doesn’t. I am determined to walk the path that the Lord has for me today. And today I am alone. And it is good.
There is a vast difference between depression and aloneness. If your friend is depressed, there are things that can be done. Medicines that will help. People to talk to. Aloneness is a state of being. Depression is an overwhelming sadness. A heavy mantle that can’t be lifted without help. As one travels with aloneness they learn to navigate the things of life by themselves. Sometimes it stinks. Other times it’s marvelous.
I am a small business owner. Alone. Sure I have two great employees, an awesome accountant, and a wealth of great business advisors, but this business rises and falls on me. And that’s okay.
I am on a transatlantic cruise by myself. Alone. It’s one of the greatest things I have ever done. But I am alone, and that’s okay. REALLY okay.
So what’s the point?
If you have a friend that has lost their spouse, you can’t fix the aloneness. And that’s probably what you are seeing when they are sad and try to verbalize what they are feeling. Lots of things can set it off…having to check “single” on a form for the first time, a familiar place or activity that they hadn’t thought about in a long time, a smell, a memory. Having to make an important decision about their future.
I have a friend who is walking this path with another friend who lost her husband last year. She told me that her friend had a bad church experience as a young woman, and when her husband died she became bitter and angry toward God. That is a tough one. She will not open her heart to even talk about spiritual things, and her grief is consuming her.
I wrote a blog post a couple of years ago called, “When God is Silent.” It’s still here. You may want to read it. It is about my journey the week after Keith’s death when I questioned the very existence of God. I didn’t just question his love for me. I wondered if it was all a myth and Keith was just gone. I obviously came out of that darkness. I made the decision that I was going to trust God. I was going to move forward. I decided to believe. And I have never looked back.
Accepting the aloneness is key. Understanding that the God of the Universe walks beside you is paramount. As I shared in the other blog post, one of my favorite scripture stories is that of Elijah found in I Kings 18 & 19. He had witnessed the power of God displayed in a miraculous way before the prophets of Baal. In fact, he had witnessed many of these great works of God as recorded in I Kings. But I Kings 19 finds him hiding in a cave, fearing for his life, whining that he is the only believer left and feeling REALLY sorry for himself that he is alone. This is the scripture that I love:
But the Lord said to him, “What are you doing here, Elijah?”
Elijah replied, “I have zealously served the Lord God Almighty. But the people of Israel have broken their covenant with you, torn down your altars, and killed every one of your prophets. I am the only one left, and now they are trying to kill me, too.”
“Go out and stand before me on the mountain,” the Lord told him. And as Elijah stood there, the Lord passed by, and a mighty windstorm hit the mountain. It was such a terrible blast that the rocks were torn loose, but the Lord was not in the wind. After the wind there was an earthquake, but the Lord was not in the earthquake. And after the earthquake there was a fire, but the Lord was not in the fire. And after the fire there was the sound of a gentle whisper. I Kings 19:9-12
I know that gentle whisper. It dispels the aloneness. It provides strength and guidance and joy. It provides companionship.
I love this path that I am on. I trust the One who set me on this path and walks with me on it. Aloneness is okay. In fact, for me it is good.
Thanks for listening. For all you widows and widowers and divorcees and singles and even those just feeling alone today, this is what I want to leave with you:
I pray that from his glorious, unlimited resources he will empower you with inner strength through his Spirit. Then Christ will make his home in your hearts as you trust in him. Your roots will grow down into God’s love and keep you strong. And may you have the power to understand, as all God’s people should, how wide, how long, how high, and how deep his love is. May you experience the love of Christ, though it is too great to understand fully. Then you will be made complete with all the fullness of life and power that comes from God.
Now all glory to God, who is able, through his mighty power at work within us, to accomplish infinitely more than we might ask or think. Glory to him in the church and in Christ Jesus through all generations forever and ever! Amen. Ephesians 3:16-21
Blessings, my friends!