Last summer, two friends kept suggesting we spend a day at this place their parents had taken them to as children. They remembered driving to a lake that dried up each summer. They insisted it was called “Big Dry,” but no one else seemed to know anything about it. I got out a map to look it up, but couldn’t find it anywhere. We were in the middle of a drought, and rumors had it that even if we could get there it might be closed due to fire hazards. So, I called the Park Service. THEY had never heard of “Big Dry” either. I talked to three different employees until, eventually, we decided our destination must actually be a place called “Big Lake”—And so it was.
The girls and I packed a picnic lunch and took off in search of this mysterious place. What we found was a breathtaking, alkali flat spreading out from the remnants of the lake.
After we had eaten our lunch, we hiked out into the alkali as far as we dared before this happened:
We made the trek back to the car and left Big Dry behind. An alternate route home led us to the site of an old church—what was left of it anyway. It had served its community for many years, but now it was but a reminder of what had been.
This week, I thought of that church. You see, the week started out with a conversation that I just didn’t have the courage to hashtag. Not because it was a particularly bad conversation, but because it was so—real.
Sunday night, a friend at church asked me about a trip I had planned a few months ago. At first, I wasn’t sure what he was talking about. I haven’t thought of leaving town for weeks now. When I finally figured it out, I caught myself looking him squarely in the eyes and saying, “My life has come to a stop.”
Have you ever seen eyes wince without moving? My friend’s eyes did that Sunday night. The words seemed harsh, but they reflect reality. I have not worked a single day since Dad went into the hospital. Instead, my days have been full of doing what it takes to simply survive. Figuring things out. Helping Mom. Walking beside our church, and helping it stay afloat. House maintenance. Yard work. Bills, budgets and bookkeeping. (It has taken 3 days to write this blog!) The list of things goes on and on, and then at day’s end comes grieving…if there is any energy left.
One particular, weekly event has been especially hard. At first, I thought it was just because I was exhausted by the end of the day. But, after fighting tears all the way through it two weeks in a row, I knew there was something more. This week I realized what it was. This event was a special time of fellowship with others…and with Dad. He led the event. It was a precious time…It was…
Last weekend I posted:
I’m a bit of a NASCAR fan—I got it from my dad. When I posted the above, I had just seen Dale Earnhardt, Jr. tweet about losing a special fan. This young man had been to many races even though he was severely handicapped. I replied to his tweet, saying I would be praying for the family and all those who knew him. The word “knew” stopped me in my tracks.
How is it that we’re suddenly supposed to stop knowing someone just because they’re gone?
Still, an enormous part of life instantaneously enters the past tense.
This week, as I sat there listening to what was going on at the event, I thought of that little church near Big Dry. I thought of the blog I wrote the week before Dad passed away, and of that train platform I had clung to all those years ago in Russia. That platform did not budge as the train raced by just inches from my head.
One thought led to another, and I was reminded that beneath the rubble, beneath this new “past tense life”, is a solid foundation—Christ.
The church building at Big Dry was moved several years ago, but, although every wall and window is gone, one thing remains—its foundation. I Corinthians 3:11 says,
“For other foundation can no man lay than that is laid, which is Jesus Christ.”
One of my Dad’s favorite verses says,
“…I know whom I have believed, and am persuaded that He is able to keep that which I have committed unto to Him against that day.” (II Timothy 1:12)
When our faith is in Christ, His saving work on the cross, and His resurrection, our foundation will never move—because He never changes.
Insights for those Adjusting to Loss:
• Sometimes it FEELS like life has come to a stop and is crumbling all around us. Sometimes, it really is. Life can’t be built on emotions, it must have a base that is fixed and firm, just like the foundation of a building. Our foundation will never move if we are resting on Christ and His Word. Find ways to intentionally focus on Him. Remember that He was “a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief.” He understands. Keep Isaiah 26:3,4 close at hand, “Thou wilt keep him in PERFECT PEACE, whose MIND is STAYED on thee: because he trusteth in thee. Trust ye in the Lord forever: for in the Lord Jehovah is everlasting strength.”
• As much as it FEELS like the story has come to an end, it goes on. Where we are today, is not where we’ll be a year or two or ten from now. It seems the best part is now in the past tense. We don’t know what the future holds, but we do know Who holds the future. Consider the story of Ruth and all that she left behind after her husband’s death. She probably thought her story had ended, but it was really just beginning. We may not always see it or feel it, but as we follow God we do have hope.
• Remember to look for reminders of His love in unexpected places. This is one of my favorite pictures from that day at Big Dry. What a precious love note from God! I almost stepped on it!
Insights for Churches:
• Be there and be patient. It’s been six weeks for our family, but that doesn’t mean life is normal again. Life will never go back to that normal, and finding a new normal takes time. Think about how long it takes to adjust to a new town after a move, to a new school, to college. This will take longer.
• Don’t be caught of guard. Find out what’s really going on in the family experiencing loss. Have their lives, their livelihood, their hopes and their dreams all come to a stop? What needs arise as a result of this? In what areas can the church help to ensure the family gets reestablished on a good path?
Insights for Individuals:
• Take time to talk with those who are grieving—to listen. Don’t tell them what you think they need to hear. Listen to what they have to say, where they are, and what is happening. Then point them to Christ and His promises. Not in an effort to fix them, but to strengthen them. In order to do this, YOU must know who God is and what He has promised. Get in the Word, so you will be able to comfort others.
Are you from a fatherless family? How have others stepped up and helped in time of need? Or have you found yourself struggling through with little help? What are/were some of your biggest needs?
Are you a pastor or church leader? How has your church sought to meet these types of needs, or how do you plan to do it in the future?
Are you an individual? What ways have you found to help fatherless families in their time of need?
Please, join the conversation in the comments below.