Monday, June 25, 2018

The interim time - part 3

Dear Family and Friends,

"How are you doing?" you ask. I answer, "I'm OK.” That is pretty much my standard answer. OK is an all purpose expression that depending on voice tone can have meanings ranging from the enthusiastic (OK! let’s do this!) to the unenthusiastic “meh” (How was the party? It was … OK). The context also modifies the meaning and in the context of Carol’s passing you are wanting to know about my well being, if I’m handling things and getting on with life. So when I answer “I’m OK.” it could mean “acceptable” in contrast to “bad.” Or it could mean “mediocre” in contrast to “good.” You walk away thinking my current well being is not all bad but it is not all great. It must be somewhere in between. Sometimes, that is what I mean. Life goes on. But when I take the time to think about the important things, not just the ups and downs of life, the answer is much longer. It’s more like, “I’m where I’m supposed to be.” “Really?” you ask. “OK, here is the long explanation.”

It was necessary to summarize the years of 2016 and 2017 in the previous posts as they provide the background and context for what follows. Another meaning of OK is “agreement” (“That is OK with me.”) or “assent” (“The mother gave her the OK to go to the game.”) Sometimes I use OK as in giving myself permission, as in “It’s OK to not be used to it yet.”

There are feelings and behaviors that are there because they are a part of my tacit experience with Carol. There are so many things we did together that were understood without being directly stated. For example, I knew I had Carol’s tacit approval to invite friends over for a card game. I had come to tacitly know what would please or displease Carol. Now that she is not here, the tacit behavior takes a long time to find a new normal. So, sometimes my best answer is, “I’m not used to it yet, and that’s OK.” For example, in late February, early March, my daughter Kelly and I drove Carol’s car from California to North Carolina for my grandson to use while in the Army. After returning home, I was experiencing sad, uneasy feelings because I tacitly knew Carol would have enjoyed the road trip. I knew how much her presence, pleasure, joy, comments and interactions would have contributed to everyone’s enjoyment of the trip. It was a great trip but I missed her interactions with the people we visited. I missed what I tacitly knew it could have been. That is OK, my feelings and behaviors are adjusting to a new normal. It will take some time as new experiences replace the old ones.

Another way I give myself permission is to periodically review my story. Beginning in June of 2015 I began recording three things for which I am grateful in a journal. I do this about twice a week. Once in a while I will page back through the journal and reflect …. that first year, I am amazed at the care and touches of family and friends …. how insecure I was as indicated by what I was grateful for. Page after page I see my writing slowly changing to confidence in God’s provision and care for me. I can see my grief over Carol’s death is shifting just enough that I’m wanting to feel back to normal. Reviewing my gratitude journal helps me see a bigger picture of my story. More importantly, it tells me it takes time to take it all in. This journey doesn’t happen in a day. Everything— the grief, friends presence, a family’s care, God’s presence, assurances from His Word, the green grass, birds singing, blue sky, a fresh breeze reminds me of Deuteronomy 2:7 where Moses is reminding the children of Israel, “Surely the LORD your God has blessed you in all your undertakings, he knows your going through this great wilderness. These forty years the LORD your God has been with you; you have lacked nothing.” Reviewing my story reminds me I’m OK. I’m where I’m supposed to be in this journey.

But there is more. When I say, I’m OK, it is not just giving myself permission to “not be used to it yet” and reminding myself “I’m where I’m supposed to be” in this journey. There is a weekly and daily component to being OK. Our daily lives are a mixture of good times as well as bad. There are times that seem long and pointless. Times when I’m tempted to lose hope. When will this be over? Occasional times of loneliness, fear and anxiety. So what does one do? There are two authors that have given me perspective on both the good and bad times. Their words are better than mine to help explain.

Tish Harrison Warren in her book, Liturgy of the Ordinary is helping me learn to live in the present. She talks about the reality that we do not control time in the chapter titled, “Sitting in Traffic.”
        “Christians are people who wait. We live in liminal time, in the already and not yet.
         Christ has come, and he will come again. We dwell in the meantime. We wait.
         Waiting, therefore, is an act of faith in that it is oriented toward the future.
         Yet our assurance of hope is rooted in the past, in the person of Jesus of Nazareth
         and in his promises and resurrection. In this way, waiting, like time itself,
         centers on Christ—the fulcrum of time.
         In waiting God has … sown … things that only grow with time—
         with changing seasons and bated breath.
         The future orientation of Christian time reminds us that we are people on the way.
         It allows us to live in the present as an alternative people, patiently waiting for what is to come,
         but never giving up on our telos. We are never quite comfortable. We seek justice,
         practice mercy, and herald the kingdom to come…
         God is redeeming all things, and our lives—even our days—are part of that redemption.”

Being OK is learning to live in the present with hope. The other side of that coin is learning to relax in God’s care.

J. Todd Billings in his book, Rejoicing in Lament, says,
        “I don’t have faith in faith; I have faith in God and his promises. As Jesus says in John 3:3,
        ’No one can see the kingdom of God without being born from above’—we can’t even ’see’
         the kingdom apart from the work of the Spirit. We don’t deserve credit for this ‘seeing.’
        We don’t trust in our own sight of faith. We trust in God. … We don’t hope in hope.
        We hope in a God who can make dry bones of hopelessness live again (Ezek 37)—
        the God who raised Jesus Christ from the dead can surely resurrect my hope from the ashes,
        for we have something better to trust in than ourselves, better than our own heroic ‘faith.’
        We have a God who does not forsake his work in us because it is, after all, his work
        and his covenantal promise to be our God.

I’m OK because God hasn’t given up on me. Relax George, your present and future doesn’t depend on you. It is His work in me in His time. Being OK in the daily ups and downs has to do with being secure in the present and the future. I’m slowly getting there.

"How are you doing?" you ask. I answer,
       “Well …
              2016 - was a time of sadness. A time to be silent and listen.
              2017 - was a time of waking up. A shifting of focus. A new way of seeing.
                         Learning a new definition of self as time passed.
             2018 - is becoming a time of assurance. I’m learning God hasn’t given up on me.
                        I’m sensing that God is writing the rest of my story… learning to relax and allow Him to put the pieces together …
                        Oh, you want the short answer. I’m OK.”

           But as for me, my prayer is to you O LORD.
                At an acceptable time, O God,
                in the abundance of your steadfast love, answer me.

                                        Psalm 69:13

           But I trust in you, LORD;
           I say, “You are my God.”
           My times are in your hands;

                                        Psalm 31:14,15a

Writing is good therapy for me. Thanks for listening.  Grace to you ….  George

        1  Tish Harrison Warren (2016) Liturgy of the Ordinary: Sacred practices in everyday life, InterVarsity Press
        2  J. Todd Billings, (2015) Rejoicing in Lament: Wrestling with Incurable Cancer and Life in Christ, Brazos Press

All my posts are on my blog at along with links to:
        Carol's Memorial,
        and Kelly's Blog

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