Shalom In The Presence Of Sorrow

English: Shalom
English: Shalom (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

 

The  outrage, passion, and  “bargaining “ I hear in all the media since the  Sandy Hook tragedy is too much to bear. I use the word bargaining as it is a familiar term in the grieving process. All of this clamoring is not what is needed right now!

 

I sat at the local coffee shop this morning, gazing out the front window at the heavy falling snow, my mind opened a file from long ago. This file is 30 years old. It was December of 1982 that I was ‘lost in the abyss of ‘bereavement’; the month previous, on November 6th, I buried one of my children. The weight of loss so enormous I wanted to die, I could not. Megan has brothers and a sister who needed me, and God had other plans for me too.

 

Following her death, I awoke each morning with heaviness in my heart that was as much physical as emotional.  Opening my eyes I immediately felt nothing, no agony, it was a brief respite from the sorrow, if only a few seconds. Then, as consciousness engulfed me the searing, stabbing pain of her absence covered me. Sleep is evasive and I coveted the temporary relief from the hurt it brought. That is, unless she was in my dreams.

 

Parental patterns and instincts are etched in a mother’s total being. The child may be gone but her heart, mind, and body continue to seek that which is absent. For many months especially in the morning, I listened for her, expecting to hear her voice as she called to me. I longed for her with every one of my senses. I wanted to see her smile, hear her baby voice, and brush her soft brown hair. I would clutch the clothes  she had worn shortly before her death, closing my eyes I smelled them,  taking in long breaths filled with her scent, hoping beyond hope this was all a bad dream that would be over when I opened them.

 

The sadness was paralyzing. No matter what the circumstances of a child’s death you are disoriented by the strength and stages of grief. My energy in every realm was depleted. I believed in God at the time, but I really did not know Him, and that fact handicapped me.

 

It will always be the hardest time of my life. So many unanswered questions, the biggest of all was WHY? The classic stages of grief are denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance. It was bargaining that I clung to for months. I believe parents of deceased children do this incessantly as we are the caregivers of these little souls who entrust us with their lives. Our brains scream at us saying “what went wrong, you should have been able to protect her, or him”.

 

Thinking that if I had a ‘do over’, change something, figure it out or fix it, she would return. Playing over and over in my mind the incident that caused her death; what could I have done differently? The “what ifs” were maddening. What if I had done this or that, turned left instead of right, gone to another doctor, fed her green beans instead of peas…pleased God more, sinned less. It was all futile to relive this night and day, but it was part of the process. Finally, I could do this no longer. That is when the realization that she is not coming back, sets in…along with depression, then finally acceptance.

 

I understand the parent’s grief, I relive my own. The distressing, shocking way these innocent ones died makes it all the worse. I pray as I know everyone else does that God in His mercy eliminated any suffering. It is with tears that I type this, my sympathy and compassion goes out to all the families of all those who died.

 

What I find disturbing are the personalities in the media, government officials, and a president himself that thinks a finger must be pointed at who or what he deems responsible. This is done before these beloved bodies are even buried. It is precisely at this junction that all persons resist the temptation to “fix” the problem, and blame.

 

Instead of humility in the wake of the horrendous crime, and loss, we have hostility, malicious and offensive behavior. Restrain our need to “make it better” for we cannot. We must not rush to judge, and let anxious emotions rule and continue the chaos, or use this to further one’s ideological agenda, and selfish ambitions. Sowing contention and strife is not helpful. I am calling for respect of the bereft during their incredible suffering.

 

Yes, we will look at any and all things that may have contributed to this catastrophe. We will analyze, and rationally consider the causes and what is reasonable for the prevention of potential future incidents. Equanimity is required, composure, calmness, and shalom. The Hebrew word shalom means more than peace, hello or goodbye. Hebrew words convey emotions, intent and emotion. According to Strong’s Concordance 7965 Shalom means completeness, wholeness, health, peace, welfare, safety soundness, tranquility, prosperity, perfectness, fullness, rest, harmony, the absence of agitation or discord. Shalom comes from the root verb shalom meaning to be complete, perfect and full.

 

I know that this shalom is not known by everyone, for it comes from YHWH, the God of Israel, and is personified in His Son, Yeshua (Jesus). Trusting Him, Yeshua’s bloody atonement for our sin, and keeping His commandments is our part of the Covenant. Knowing the One True God, who made heaven and earth and all things in it, will gain us not only eternal life  but wisdom and shalom.

 

Being a child of the Most High through trusting does not take away our feelings, or insulate our life from hurt, suffering, or pain. Quite the contrary, it often brings more as the enemy assaults those living holy lives.  But He will give us the strength through the Ruach HaKodesh (Holy Spirit), to endure, grow, love-even the unlovely, and forgive, especially ourselves, as He has forgiven us.

 

Another well known Jewish writer said “The Tanakh says, ‘I trusted, therefore I spoke.’  Since we have the same Spirit that enables us to trust, we also trust  and therefore speak; because we know that he who raised the Lord Yeshua will also raise us with Yeshua and bring us along with you  into his presence…This is why we do not lose courage. Though the outward self is heading for decay, our inner self is being renewed daily. For our light and transient troubles are achieving for us and everlasting glory whose weight is beyond description. We concentrate not on what is seen but on what is not seen, since the things seen are temporary, but the things not seen are eternal.”                                                                   1 Corinthians 4:13-18

 

English: "A symbol that Messianic Jews be...
English: “A symbol that Messianic Jews believe was used to identify the first Messianic congregation, led by Yeshua (Jesus)’s brother Jacob in Jerusalem” (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

 

Rav Shaul,  the Apostle Paul, was later  beheaded.

 

The world does not know Him.  Therefore, I cannot expect most behaviors, attitudes, and self interest to be absent on the airwaves, satellite beams or whatever.  I can point the way. It is the only True Way of hope, healing, and shalom.

 

Sarah Anne.

 

Scripture quotations are taken from the Complete Jewish Bible, copyright © 1998 by David H. Stern. Published by Jewish New Testament Publications, Inc. http://www.messianicjewish.net/jntp. Distributed by Messianic Jewish Resources. http://www.messianicjewish.net. All rights reserved. Used by permission.

 

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Personal Journey; And Now It Is Robert

Recently I learned that several of my first cousins’  died last year. That may sound strange as most people have some sort of relationship or contact with their blood relatives. Not so in my family. There has been an estrangement for many, many years.

The alienation was due to the death of my father in March of 1959. It was a fateful night for this seven year old girl. My father was one of the younger ones in his family, dying at the age of   thirty five from a massive heart atatck.He was the second brother to die of cardiac causes, as my uncle Mike died in 1957. Dad was from a large Polish family, most of whom lived in Saginaw Michigan, where we lived also.  I had numerous cousins, aunts and uncles. Time, and life changes took me far away from them.

 Before death, Christmas Eve was a huge clebration at my Aunt Lottie’s and Uncle Wallys house. The tall, white flocked scotch pine, with all blue lights, and what seemed like hundreds of skinny plastic icycles hanging from the boughs fascinated me. We children ran through their big , stately home, playing all evening long. We all were decked out in our pretty holiday attire. The adults remained in the kitchen, drinking “high balls” , eating rich, traditional ,holiday fare.

During the first few years after my father’s death family interaction slolwy began to diminish. It was usually weddings, graduations, and rarely Christmas holidays we got together.  I was closest to my cousins’ Mary and Linda. Our mom’s were widows and they often went out to the “Apple Orchard”, a local tavern, to dance on Sunday nights.We girls would pretend to be grownups having our own little  parties complete with makeup, dress up clothes, dancing to the latest rock and roll hits, and sipping grape juice from a wine glass. Turning off the lights and playing hide and seek in their  basement was fun during holiday break. I remember taking our metal saucers and heading for the hill behind their house in the country to slide, rewarding ourselves with hot cocoa afterwards.

Even my time spent with Mary and Linda bagan to change. My mother had to work full time, and she also got a boyfriend. As an only child I spent far too much time alone; I lived in my head and imaginings became my closest friends.

Ofen, I was shuttled off to one of my mother’s friend’s as she went out with her beloved or searched for the next one. Yet, many of these friends had good and lasting impact on my young heart and mind. Bea, would make me popcorn as we played dominoes. I will never forget the first time I set foot in a evangelical church. Why, they said and did things that were completely foreign to this little Catholic girl. People stood up and gave testimony to what the Lord did for them. Some cried. They spoke of Yeshua (Jesus) as if they knew him. They sang songs about the Lord God, and read from a Bible.

I recall Lorraine LaFleur, she and my mother would go out also. Lorraine tended bar, she kind of walked on the wild side. She did have grandchildren though, and we would play tag on hot summer nights in the city, in the more neglected part of town. Their lives were lead in a not so spotless environment, so different than mine, , ( my mother was pretty tidy…actually, OCD).  Witnessing one girl get disciplined quite severly by her step parent also impacted my heart.

The minimal interaction I had with my paternal family halted when my mother met the man of her dreams and off to the big, big city we went. First it was Grand Rapids, during the  eight grade. Spring  of  1965 they married and we moved to Chicago. I had new family now, but this time I was the step child.

I grew up quickly those ensuing years. Perhaps it was the lack of direction, coulpled with loneliness that pointed me on the path I choose to write about in my memoir. I lived with an alcoholic step father and a mother who chased him out of every bar on the south side of Chicago.

Wanting love of my own I got pregnant and married when I was 16. My husband was an alcoholic also. Throughout my adult life I have rebelled against Ha Shem (God). I have been in and out of various churches, divorce courts, counseling, and bars.  Only a death would bring me back to Saginaw and my father’s family, and  at that I did not often attend.  Eventually, they became extinct to me.

Two weeks ago I decided to internet search a cousin. She suffered  a  sudden onset lung disease a few years ago and I wanted to call her. Sadly, I found her obituary. From there I saw her two brothers had died within the past three years. Then I found my childhood playmate cousin, Mary, died last year, she was 61. The obit stated she was predeceased by a son. This also was news to me. Yesterday, I began searching for other cousins. To my surprise my younger cousin Robert  died in 2011.

Robert was born when I was nine.He was an aqua blue, wild eyed little blond boy. The last time I saw him he was about 5. A cat was frantically trying to get away from him as he laughed and swung it through the air by it’s tail! I do not know what became of him, how he lived his life, his occupation, did he marry or have children, and did he have faith. All I know is the two sentence blurb stating he died in January 2011.

 Rolling this information over and over in my mind has altered my perspective on my life. I considered Mary. She was married to the same man for 43 years. Her children all had the same father, and were not scarred by divorce. She lived in the same area, with the same people, probably doing the same thing all her life. She even went to the same Catholic  church.These are wonderful things and I am not jealous or envious. Mary also buried one of her children, just as I did. Unanswered questions about her faith: did she just attend Mass and put her trust in a doctrine, or ritual? Or, did she have a dynamic relationship with the One True God, the God of Abraham, Issac, and Jacob, snd trust Him with her life and her death?  In fact, I could ask that of my other cousin’s who died and those living, as well.

Mary is no longer alive, nor is Robert, Sandy, Bruce, Ronnie, and Eddie.  I am.

My life has been an arduous journey, very different, atypical.. My autobiography needs to be written  in volumes, small doses so the reader can handle it. In fact people probably will think it is fiction. But it has brought me where I am today. This is the key: I have experienced joy through Messiah Yeshua. I have forgiveness,  purpose for my life, and a future to embrace. All the ups and downs, sadness and happiness, wins and losses that confront us, the most important thing is our standing with Ha Shem (God), and we are confident in what Romans 8:28 tells us:

 Furthermore, we know that God causes everything to work together for the good of those who love God and are called in accordance with his purpose; 29 because those whom he knew in advance, he also determined in advance would be conformed to the pattern of his Son, so that he might be the firstborn among many brothers; 30 and those whom he thus determined in advance, he also called; and those whom he called, he also caused to be considered righteous; and those whom he caused to be considered righteous he also glorified!  Read it again and let it sink in.

Therefore, I realize there is much to be done, much to type, much to share. I do not know how many more times my heart will beat on this earth,  I must give “testimony” while I still have breath, before my name shows up on a Google obituary search.  Shalom, Sarah Anne

Complete Jewish Bible Copyright 1998 by David H. Stern. Published by Jewish New Testament Publications, Inc. All rights reserved. Used by permission. (The Complete Jewish Bible Online)