(This is a cropped picture of a painting I have by Ann Hardy. I thought it captured part of the mood of this series. So I shot it with my camera. Cool thing is that the glare from the flash put a "sun" in the sky. The symbolism made me smile...)
Welcome back to my interview with Kathy Padgett from 121 Community Church! If you're just joining us, the series started a few days ago. You'll want to scroll down, perhaps, and begin at the beginning! OK, Kathy. We're winding down with the questions... just a few more to go. Question #8: What can be gained from the valleys? Anything?
In the long run, a tremendous amount can be gained from the valleys. But during those valley periods, there is a desperate need to cling to your relationship with God. I really feel sorrow for people who don't have a relationship with God, especially when they lose a loved one. The scary part of the "valleys" is the fear that seems to linger there. It is usually unfounded/false fear, but it is felt fear, which makes it real to the grieving person.
Fear can leave a person immobilized. The fear of being alone, of not being safe in the home, of financial ruin, of not loving again, of not trusting again, of losing sanity, etc., can cause a person to stay in the valley. Prayer, friendships, church support...many things can help a person be lifted out of a valley. When you talk to a Christian who has survived a tragic loss and is now actively helping others through grief, they will tell you that they wouldn't trade a single second of those valley periods, for they felt God more strongly then than any other time in their lives.
The feeling of rescue by God is like none other. Yet in all of our lives there are inevitable periods of "silence." Experiencing pain and hearing your own echo is a miserable thing. But, as you say, our relationship with God can be greatly strengthened through faith and perserverance. Knowing that God has led us through something, though we may be changed and even scarred, has a way of shaping our character and growing us up.
You mentioned the psalms earlier. The Lament Psalms can be white hot and almost shocking in their intensity. A familiar cry of the laments is this sense on the part of the psalmist that God must not be seeing, hearing, caring, etc. It's a picture of abandonment. Yet, the psalmist always gets back to a focus of trust in God. On the other side of raw emotion is a return to an unclouded vantage of a merciful and just God and a place of hopeful withstanding on the part of those who suffer (like the "hupomone" we read about in the NT).
Writing on the psalms for the Christian Research Institute (CRI), Dennis Bratcher said this:
The function of a Lament or Psalm of Petitionary Praise (Westermann), is to provide a structure for crisis, hurt, grief, or despair; to move a worshipper from hurt to joy, from darkness to light, from desperation to hope. This movement from hurt to joy is not a psychological or liturgical experience only, although it includes those. And it is not a physical deliverance from the crisis, although that is often anticipated. The movement "out of the depths" from hurt to joy is a profoundly spiritual one.
Bratcher called the emotion in the psalsms "an honest expression of pain in the face of grief and ending"... and "a valid Biblical response to God in prayer from the depths of our humanity."
I was thinking of your comment yesterday, Kathy, that grief is "messy." We see this "messiness" in some of the psalms. This should encourage us to be expressive, "unplugged" and totally real with God and to never, ever lose hope.
Question #9: Kathy, is there anything that can accelerate the process of healing?
Yes! But like I said earlier, it involves pain, and people are so afraid of pain that sometimes they will delay their own healing process. Deliberately facing pain will mellow pain! And I mean will not could. It does! God is faithful! Not facing pain will cause the pain to linger. Facing it will cause it to lessen over time.
Two years ago, my Uncle Joe died. His wife, my Aunt Clara, loved him for 65 years. She said she quite literally can't remember a time when she didn't love him, and they were married for 63 years. She says there were many days when she couldn't get out of bed in the morning.She would just lay in bed and cry. But she did cry, and she would talk to God (and to Joe) and she would pray for strength. She faced her pain. She didn't deny it and get busy and can some peaches and pretend like she wasn't dying inside! She faced it daily when she went to the Senior's Activities Center and continued to play games, she faced it when she went to church and sat alone, she faced it when she sat in her kitchen and ate alone, she is still facing it, and she is strong today, in spite of the fact that she will not stop missing him until she sees him again in Heaven. Clara helps more people today than she has ever helped in her life. She has passion for life and for others. There is an "other side" to loss, and she is living it out.
That is such a poignant story about your aunt and uncle. We can learn so much from others. Thanks for sharing that and for everything you're teaching us, Kathy.
The last blog post on grief with Kathy Padgett is coming tomorrow.
Kathy Padgett is the Women's Lifegroup and Pastoral Care Minister at 121 Community Church in Grapevine, Texas. Prior to joining 121, she served as a hospital and home-care chaplain. Kathy is a graduate of Dallas Theological Seminary (DTS).
On my iPod... Stuck in a Moment You Can't Get Out Of by U2