Wednesday, January 11, 2017

To Extend More of Him

"You will be wounded so that in the binding up of your wounds by the Great Physician, you may learn how to render first aid to the wounded everywhere." -Streams in the Desert

I can hardly believe that six years ago today, I was on my way to (or perhaps already speaking at) my dad's funeral. 

I remember that morning. 
I put both contacts in the same eye. For lack of focus-pure exhaustion-the surreal-ness of it all....?
It was still so strange to be in the bathroom. 
I wore the dress I had purchased from Old Navy just a few days before with Ash and Tiff and D. 
I remember that I felt pretty and rather thin. 
I remember frantically searching for something to say. 
A limo. 
Aimlessly choosing and reading cards at Walgreens. Cards for my dad. My dead dad? 
We wanted to leave cards in the casket. 
The casket? We had chosen a blue one I think.
Trying to think of the last words I wanted to say to my dad. Words I would never actually say. Words he would never read or hear. But still words that I needed to put out into the universe. Words that lay unspoken and unread over his heart, clasped by his hands, far below ground. 
What could I possibly say to sum up my dad?
The one time I wanted more time to think and to work. The one time when working under pressure just would not do. The one time that it had to. 
I needed a lifetime to write of a lifetime of love and memories and wisdom and lessons. Another lifetime to share them. Or at least 22 years. 
I remember that I did the only thing I know how to do in those moments. The thing I inherited most certainly from my father. 
I laughed. 
And I convinced other people to laugh with me. 
We laughed and I kept the whole thing sort of sweet and simple. Truthful. The way he always was. 
I remember holding Charity's hand.
The intense feeling of numbness. 
Like maybe I wasn't even there. 
I remember not believing any of it until I saw them roll the box down the center aisle. 
Until I stood to speak and realized my dad would no longer stand behind me or sit in front of me-sometimes obnoxiously with his oversized digital camera-in these moments. 
That I was somehow more alone in the world than I had been one week before. 
That growing up a little faster and finding strength when there seemed to be none was a necessity. There was no other choice now. 
All of that between letting go of Charity's hand and walking to the front of the room. 
Avoiding eyes. Refusing to cry there. To share my grief. I wanted to keep it all to myself. 
I also remember feeling so guilty for that. For refusing to grieve with my family. So selfish in my loss. And I remember thinking, if he could come back for only a few moments, I would let my mom have them all. 
Every last one. 
Even though I would want so much to keep them for myself. 
But often I've seen him and heard him in my dreams. I never can get as close as I would like, or ask him all of the things I really wish I could, but still I love it when I find him there. 
It's cloudy and confusing, but still somehow knowing he is there even if for only a little while, is something I hold onto. 
I honestly don't tell myself that he's looking down on me or watching me from above or whatever it is I am supposed to tell myself. Because I don't know how true that is and I don't like lying to myself.  So instead I assume that on this day six years ago, he stopped existing in my life. That he does not know the Seattle-nanny-Godmother-Mexican teacher version of myself. 
And I know that sounds dark or harsh or something, but for me, closure is best. 
And closure is something we did not really get. Though God was gracious and kind in so many ways. 
That may have been the most difficult part of losing him for me. 
It was sudden and felt so unfinished. I couldn't even remember the last thing I had said to him. 
It was so incredibly void of closure. And so I had to create it for myself. 
And so now in my mind-my heart-even my Facebook photo albums, there is simply life before and after I lost him. 
And it's sad sometimes, but also strangely okay. 
Because I know that my dad didn't just love me, he loved me like Jesus. 
And that means that even if he had been given the choice to leave or to stay, he would have chosen every time what was truly best for me. For us. 
And if Jesus told him that he needed to go in order for me to be exactly what He had created me to be, my daddy wold have left every time. 
No matter how much I didn't want him to. 
No matter how many times I begged him to stay. 
He wanted for me whatever would make me the most like Jesus. And for me that has meant whatever life happens after 22 without my dad. 

But it is also for the sake of others. 
He wounds but He also heals. 
His love is not weak. His love is not afraid to let us hurt in order that we may become more like His Son. His love wants only the very best for us and more often than not, our view of what that means is skewed and our views of Him skewed as well. 
Therefore, in order to love like Him, I must suffer like Him and I must also be willing to allow and perhaps even inflict hurt for the sake of growing and bettering others. 
That in the end they may look more like Him. 
I think one of the most detrimental phrases in our language and culture today is this:
"If you love someone, you won't hurt them. "
If you love someone and they are walking towards the edge of a cliff, you will not ever let them walk off of the cliff. You will reach out and grab them, yell at them if you have to, anything to keep them from falling to their death. If you love someone, you want the very best for them and the very best most often means not leaving them where they are. It means pushing them forward. Reminding them of who they are and where they have come from but most importantly of where they are going and who they are becoming. And like it or not, it means standing by and being present as they walk through the good AND the bad. And refusing to rescue and pull them out of places that are needed to make them more like Jesus. 

I for one am eternally grateful that God did not leave me where I was. That He looked at the story that is me and the person He longs for me to be and all of the dreams and plans that He has for me, and He refused to leave me somewhere back there simply for the sake of sparing me hurt and pain. That He wanted more for me to become like Him than to remain safe and untouched and comfortable. I am thankful because in Him I know true love. 
In facing the deepest most heart wrenching loss in my life thus far, I came face to face with the deepest, richest, truest, parts of His heart and found a love unlike any other. 
That in losing my dad, I gained so much of Him. 
I am thankful because now I understand His love and His grace and comfort and peace that are unexplainable and that come to meet you when you need them the most. 

Because now I am able to extend more of Him to others. 
And isn't that the point of it all anyways?

"The world is full of hurting and comfortless hearts. But before you will be competent for this lofty ministry, you must be trained. And your training is extremely costly, for to make it complete, you too must endure afflictions that are wringing countless hearts of tears and blood...And you will bless God for the discipline that filled your life with such a treasure of experience and helpfulness." -Streams in the Desert

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