|Francie Taylor, Keep the Heart|
Thursday, October 26, 2017
VW. We immediately think of the little bulb-shaped car that has been around since the 1930s. It was popular with surfers, hippies, and lovers of fuel efficiency. And it's still popular, but I've never even had a ride in one...yet.
VW is the acronym that I've chosen for my widowhood. I didn't choose to be a widow; God chose it for me. So my task is finding a way to live in this new role without being a constant source of tears, gloominess and irritability. Full-time work.
Here's my initial take on the word "widow": It needs something in front of it.
The new VW.
A "vibrant" person is defined as "full of energy and enthusiasm." Many of us were that way before our loved ones passed, but suddenly, we may have become somber and often solemn. To become vibrant again, we will need to walk and wait: Walk with God, and wait for the healing. It is simply unrealistic to expect to be our old cheerfully bright and joyous selves while laboring through grief.
Vibrancy is a worthwhile goal, but it is not meant to be immediate. I have vibrant sister friends in my life on purpose. They remind me what it looks like to live abundantly, and they encourage me without infringing on the essential processes of grief. Vibrant people are good for us, especially when our vibrancy has been placed firmly in the "off" position for a season. By God's grace, one day we will be vibrant again, but this takes time. A heart that has been overwhelmed by grief needs the healing time and grace of God to mend. "From the end of the earth will I cry unto thee, when my heart is overwhelmed: lead me to the rock that is higher than I." (Psalm 61:2)
You may find that people want you to be upbeat when you're clearly down. Do not fake it. Do not. And don't feel obligated to explain yourself, either. Those who have grieved recognize grief. There are those who understand that it may have been your crowning achievement just to get showered and dressed for the day. And then there are those who have not had their turn in the classroom of grief. Patience is required, on both sides.
With God's help and in due season, the vibrant spirit will return.
A "virtuous" person lives a principled life, and the best way to achieve this is with God's Word as the foundation. After a traumatic loss, there is a real temptation to abandon habits that kept us spiritually healthy and whole. Resist with every fiber of your being, and add a layer of protection by having an accountability partner in your life. I have a few people with whom I can be completely honest, and they keep a prayerful and caring eye on me while I am in this valley.
There is a tremendous risk of having our foundation destroyed during the dark days of grief, and we will need to be vigilant and alert to this risk. "If the foundations be destroyed, what can the righteous do?" (Psalm 11:3) What a waste it would be to come through this difficult time without having learned or grown at all. With all the energy and effort that we expend just to survive the unpredictable tidal waves of grief, we don't want to come through the flood physically alive but spiritually dead. If we ever needed the Word of God, we need it now. Truly, we need God before, during, and after grieving.
By God's grace, we will develop a closer walk with Him as He develops virtue in us.
A "valuable" person has "desirable or esteemed characteristics or qualities." They are admirable, and someone we would count as a wise pattern. They are also dinged and dented by suffering, so they have a virtual storehouse of compassion from which others can draw in times of need.
I am writing this blog at 6a.m., after having been awake since 2a.m. I had a question for the Lord in the middle of the night: "Who can I call at this hour?"
I'll bet you guessed the answer: Only God.
"When my father and my mother forsake me, then the LORD will take me up." (Psalm 27:10) My family and friends love me, but it seems a lot to ask them to endure second-hand insomnia just because I happen to have an abundance. No. Even those who have said, "Call me anytime, day or night" are not going to hear from me at 2a.m.
But during the normal daylight hours, there are several sister friends that I can call, and they are not all widows. They are simply willing to lend an ear, a shoulder, and a box of tissues. On a recent trip to Israel, there was a sister friend who took a keen interest in looking after me, and it wasn't in an annoying way. It was in a treasured and special way, allowing me an outlet when I needed to cry, talk, or just vent. Some people truly have a gift for this, making them valuable.
Widows can develop the gift of being good listeners without trying to be "fixer uppers." It is more valuable to be a good listener than to be a great problem-solver. Why? Because there are times when a person is just longing to be heard; not repaired. Those of us who know grief can easily recall the stunning shock of the initial loss, followed by agony, anger, anxiety and so much more. We didn't want to be fixed; we wanted someone to listen with both empathy and sympathy. It is best to leave the repair work to God. "He healeth the broken in heart, and bindeth up their wounds." (Psalm 147:3)
Current widows have the shoes of grief in their closets, and that makes us valuable to those who will be given their own pair to wear in the days ahead. Think about it: every married sister friend that we know has a likelihood of waking up to a life without her beloved (unless she passes away first).
With carefully chosen words, we can be a godly encouragement to those engulfed in fresh grief.
I'm not at any of these places yet. I'm not vibrant, and I refuse to pretend. I don't "feel" virtuous, but I am sticking close to the Lord to sustain my broken spirit. And as for value, a massive identity crisis has consumed my thoughts, leaving me feeling like my "value" has decreased...even though my rational mind (when available) knows this to be untrue. I don't fit any of these descriptions yet. It's not time...yet.
I want to be a VW: a Vibrant Widow, a Virtuous Widow, and a Valuable Widow. It will take time, and will only come after the trying and purifying times of grief do their work in my heart and life. My job is simply to yield. God does the rest.
And since I've never ridden in a VW bug, maybe I'll rent one on vacation one of these days. Who knows? Maybe I'll even need to buy a used VW as my signature vehicle.
"But he knoweth the way that I take: when he hath tried me, I shall come forth as gold."
(Job 23:10 KJV)
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