THE GIFT OF GRIEF


Photo by Ylanite Koppens

Photo by Ylanite Koppens from Pexels 1A


I have temporarily departed from my usual format of exploring the Leap of Faith to process the grief of the death of a family member who committed suicide. If you or someone you know is suicidal PLEASE call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255


The gift of grief?

It seems like a contradiction of terms. After all, how can something that makes you feel like your heart is being ripped from your chest, be a gift? Few things wound us as deeply as the death of a loved one. Losing someone we love is like having a hole carved out of our hearts. When grief is a welling pit of pain and sorrow, it is really hard to see it as a gift. None the less, that is exactly what it is.

I recently heard a sermon on the importance of perspective. The pastor suggested that the thing we need most when we feel completely crushed by the weight of our problems, is a change of perspective. When life threatens to overwhelm us, we need to get our eyes off the problem and onto the creator of the universe. When we recognize that the one who stretched out the expanse of the heavens and formed the foundations of the earth, is at work on our behalf, then our whole outlook changes. The same is true of grief. When it feels like our heart is being ripped out of our chest and put through a meat grinder, what we need most is a change of perspective.

105 people die every minute. That is a staggering statistic. But it is more than a statistic. It represents real people, with real families just like ours. Yet as sobering and sad as it is to think that every minute the families of 105 people are experiencing the pain of loss, it doesn’t have the same emotional impact on us as the death of our loved one. Why not? Are we cold uncaring people? No. We are not impacted in the same way by the death of those 105 people, because we don’t have a relationship with them. This is where a change in perspective comes in.

The reason we grieve is we had a relationship with the person we lost. We did life together. We shared experiences. We laughed and cried together. We fought with each other. We knew each other’s strengths and weaknesses. We had each other’s backs. We grieve because their presence in our life had an impact on us. They were a part of the fabric of our lives. Without them our lives would have been much different. That is why we grieve. While we may be sad for strangers whose lives have ended, we only grieve for people who were an important part of our lives.

At first grief feels like an uncontrolled prairie fire, blazing through everything in its path. When the loss is fresh, the pain of it threatens to consume us. It feeds on our energy, thoughts, even our memories. It seems to draw strength and stamina from the experiences we shared with our loved one. In the first stages of grief, it can feel like everything we shared with that person is being devoured by the flames. As time passes, the pain of loss burns off and what remains are the warm embers of the love we shared. Our grief is a gift because, it enables us to get from the pain of loss to the place where we can cherish the memory of that person and carry them with us always.

If we are grieving, it means we had someone special in our lives. Someone with whom we shared a meaningful relationship. Losing them is painful beyond words. However, the same thing that causes us such pain at their loss is what makes them an enduring and indelible part of our lives. If we are grieving, it means they mattered! They left a permanent mark on our lives. It means we made a real and lasting connection! One that cannot be broken, even by death. Grief is a gift because it affirms their value. It honors who that person was. Grief enables us to continue to hold them close emotionally even if we have lost them physically. As long as we cherish their memory and hold them close to our hearts, they will always be with us. Grief enables us to do just that.

That is the gift of Grief!

© TamellaWhite 2020

HEALING THE WOUNDS

Picture by Raphael Brasileiro

Photo by Raphael Brasileiro from Pexels


I have temporarily departed from my usual format of exploring the Leap of Faith to process the grief of the death of a family member who committed suicide. If you or someone you know is suicidal PLEASE call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255


I sat in church listening to family and friends recount moments in a life that ended way too soon. I was struck by the impact that we have on each other. Whether for good or bad, intended or unintentional, we all leave an indelible mark of our passage through life.

People commit suicide for a lot of reasons. They believe the people they love will be better off without them or that no one will notice their passing. They end their lives because they believe the pain is just too much or they just can’t face another day of the darkness that has consumed their world. I do not know what was in my nephew’s mind when he ended his life. I do know the crater his passing left behind. It left a raw and open wound.

The human body is an amazing thing. When we cut a muscle, the body responds by building up scar tissue to repair it. Scar tissue brings the muscle back together and reinforces it for future use. It’s a good plan. However, if the area is injured again, it will build up more scar tissue. Unfortunately, repeated injuries can cause so much scar tissue to build up that the muscle is no longer able to function correctly. When that happens, a surgeon must go in and remove the scar tissue.

Few families make it through life without developing some scar tissue. For some families that scar tissue gets layered on one injury after another, until the family is no longer able to function correctly. These injuries are intentional and unintentional. Some are the result of generational patterns of dysfunction, or the byproducts of addiction or mental illness. Whatever the source, these injuries leave family members distant and disconnected. Hearts can build up so much scar tissue that individuals become resentful and embittered. If unforgiveness sets in, the death of relationships follow in short order.

Because death has such a significant impact, there is an unparalleled vulnerability at a funeral. When deeply scarred families come together to celebrate a life and mourn a death, something extraordinary can happen. It doesn’t seem to matter if our relationship with the deceased was a positive or negative one. The loss of a family member leaves a wound. As painful as this wound is, it comes with an unexpected benefit. It can be the forerunner of healing.

The pain of death opens us up as effectively as a surgeon’s scalpel. God promises to work all things, even the pain of death, together for our good and His glory. If we allow it, God can use this open wound as an opportunity to cut away deadly scar tissue. Like a divine surgeon, God can remove layers of built up scar tissue in order to restore healthy function to a family.

This surgery requires our consent. We have to be willing to forgive as we have been forgiven. We have to love in a 1 Corinthians 13 kind of way; patiently, kindly and thoughtfully, without jealousy, pride or arrogance. We have to give a love that is not self-seeking, a love that is not easily angered. We cannot take into account the wrongs we have endured. (If we do, justice would require us to keep a record of wrongs we have done.)

“Love bears all things regardless of what comes, believes all things looking for the best in each other, hopes all things remaining steadfast during difficult times, and endures all things without weakening” (1 Cor 13:7 AMP).

We can’t love this way in our own strength. Love like this requires us to cooperate with the Holy Spirit. It comes out of the love and grace God gave to us when He offered up His Son as payment for our sins. While we were still God’s enemies, He chose to reconcile us to Himself through the death of His Son. When we let God love through us, the same love that heals, restores and transforms us, can heal, restore and transform every relationship in our lives. It can even resurrect relationships that have been strangled to death by too much scar tissue. Healing is possible. Will we give our consent?

© Tamella White 2020

 

THAT WHICH CAN NOT BE LOST

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I have departed from my usual format of exploring the Leap of Faith. I found out recently that my 32-year-old nephew took his own life. I hope you will indulge some reflections on grief and loss. This is dedicated to the women in my Cross Points Church group who embody the principals of living and loving openheartedly! Thank you ladies!


 

There are days that remind us poignantly of the fragility of life. The death of a loved one is like an unexpected gut punch that leaves us doubled over, unable to breath. We find ourselves holding the hand of someone who is so overwhelmed, all they can do is stare blankly in disbelief. When loss comes, we come face to face with how tender the cord of life really is. How easily it is cut. How deeply the pain of loss cuts in return.

In those moments that leave us gasping for breath, it is all too easy to run to a dark place. A place where we can pull the covers over our heads and wail. A place where fear whispers that any life can be pulled away without a moment’s notice. The tenuous nature of life and the pain of death, especially a death of one so young, can lead us to believe that the best thing we can do is to pull in and shield ourselves. We may want to gather those we love close and build walls of protection around them. After all, if we wall ourselves off, everyone will remain safe and alive. Right?!

This is a LIE! It is a false sense of security that leaves us completely vulnerable!

When we try to insulate ourselves from pain and loss, we end up isolating ourselves from the people we love. We cut ourselves off from intimacy with the people who matter the most. In addition, we lose the love, support and comfort that helps to sustain us all through the difficulties of life. Similarly, when we try to put walls around our loved ones to protect them, we cut them off from life. We end up preventing them from being and becoming what God designed them to be. We cut them off from fulfilling God’s call on their lives. This is how we lose people.

Maybe that is a small part of what Jesus meant when He said if you want to save your life you must lose it. To truly live, to love and be loved, to fulfill God’s call on our lives, we have to be willing to accept risk and loss. We have to be willing to let go of our personal, emotional safety in order to truly connect with others and share all that life done together has to give.

Being fully present and emotionally available does mean we will experience pain when people die. But the thing is, we will face that pain either way. At least if we are open, if we haven’t insulated and isolated ourselves, we will have the fullness of all we shared while they were alive. We might even be able to catch them before they fall victim to despair and suicide. *

The way we survive loss is not by insulating or isolating ourselves and those we love. Rather it is by giving ourselves wholly to others, without holding back. It’s by coming along side others. Rejoicing when they rejoice. Grieving when they grieve. When we bear each other’s burdens and truly care for the people in our lives, we build the very structures that enable us all to survive whatever comes.

Rather than building walls, we need to live and love the way Jesus did. We need to love openheartedly, authentically, and without fear. We must give of ourselves without concern for future hurt or loss. We need to love joyfully and forgive willingly. Like the good Samaritan, we should reach out to and minister to others without care for the cost or repayment. Jesus didn’t concern himself with what He might lose. He focused on living the life and facing the death to which God called Him.

This is one of the reasons I am so encouraged by the empty cross. It proves that a life of obedience to God, lived in openhearted love with and for others, wins! We need to be willing “to lose that which cannot be kept, in order to gain that which cannot be lost.” People are going to die. We cannot change that. However, if we love them vulnerably, if we give ourselves to them fully, if we open ourselves to the risk of loss, what we experience in the life we live together can never be taken away, even by death.

*We may do everything humanly possible to prevent a loved one from committing suicide and still lose them. Depression is a chemical imbalance that often requires medical intervention. If we lose a loved one to suicide it is not our fault. God is the only one who can truly save a life. If you know someone who is suicidal or need to talk to someone right away, please call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255.

© TamellaWhite 2019

THE LAW OF GRAVITY

 

2902947724_cedd2eedca_b (3)I stood frozen in fear, 25 feet above the river, arguing with myself about what to do. I could climb back over the railing and try to sneak, unnoticed, back to my picnic spot. That could result in falling backward off the bridge. I could jump. After all that is what I had come up here to do. Unfortunately, I had looked down. As a result, my body was not on board with that plan. I briefly toyed with remaining fixed to the railing. While my body was on board with this, my brain knew it was unrealistic. In the end I came to the conclusion I had to let go of the railing one way or another.

I say conclusion because this was not a decision. Making a decision implies that I had settled on a course of action. The realization that I had to let go of the railing was far from a decision to either climb back over or to jump. It was merely a concession that doing something was better than doing nothing. I let go of the railing and stepped tentatively out over the edge. As soon as I shifted my weight doubt screamed out;

“STOP!! YOU DON’T WANT TO DO THIS!!”

It’s called the law of gravity for a reason. It’s not a suggestion or something that can be suspended because you have thought better of testing its dynamic properties. It’s a LAW! Once you traverse the line between the edge and what lies beyond, there is no going back. The momentary doubt that caused my brain to scream its objection to the action my body was taking meant that I fell off the bridge rather than jumping. Make no mistake, there is a distinct difference. The most important difference, is the quality of the landing.

Taking a risk in a state ruled by fear and doubt is ALWAYS a recipe for trouble. Fear leads to doubt. Doubt steals our confidence and conviction, and strips away our faith. In addition, acting in a state ruled by doubt limits our options when we do take action. This rarely ends well. If we take a leap of faith in a state ruled by fear and doubt, the only thing we can do is curl up in a ball and hope the landing doesn’t hurt too much. The intense pain that burst through my body as I hit the water reminded me just how destructive fear and doubt can be.

The same holds true for matters of faith. Whatever motivates our decision, be it determination or desperation, we should never underestimate the gravity of taking a leap of faith. Doubt and fear are enemies we must face and overcome. Stepping out in faith with doubt in our hearts may lead to a hesitancy that prevents us from fully committing. That hesitancy can cause us to fall out of control and miss the landing God has prepared for us. Whatever we are believing for, taking a leap of faith is not something that can be done halfheartedly or half way. When it comes to a leap of faith, the Law of gravity dictates that we do it with 100% commitment and conviction. Once our feet leave that edge there is no going back. Second guessing ourselves in mid-air can have very painful consequences.

© Tamella White 2019

 

THE BOUNDARY OF BEYOND

45200794455_ca0becb4eb_kSo what exactly is a leap of faith?

For me, it is the ledge on the boundary of beyond. It’s that ledge that defines the boundary beyond where we are, to where we want to be. It’s beyond playing it safe on our way to authentic living. It’s the place beyond wishful thinking, where aspiration meets reality. It’s beyond vision and passion to where we take purposeful action. It’s the place where; who we were designed to be, who we are, and who we want to become, converge. It’s a place of uncertainty and potential, hope and actualization. It is terrifying and inspiring in equal parts. Most of all it is a place of risk.

The leap of faith is that ledge we step off of when we risk doing something we aren’t sure we can do but want to do more than anything else in the world. It’s where we step out of the safe anonymity of the crowd and risk standing up for what we believe in. Even if it isn’t fashionable or popular. Even if it could cost us everything. It’s the risk we take when we leave the quiet shadows of mediocrity to be or become all God designed us to be. It’s where we decide, terrified or not, we will jump into the uncertain and unknown, because what lies beyond is worth the risk.

Take a moment. Close your eyes and picture that thing that stirs your soul to seek the boundary of beyond. Picture every detail you can, the sights, sounds, smells. Can you see it?

Perhaps you don’t know what your boundary of beyond is. What then? Maybe you have found yourself on the ledge but you’re not sure if it’s THE ledge, the one worth risking for. Are you on the ledge, caught in uncertainties grip? Should you look elsewhere? Should you backup and reevaluate?

For most of us the swirl of turmoil on the boundary of beyond causes anxiety. We worry over all the potential outcomes of taking a particular action. Past failures may lurk threateningly at the edge of our vision causing hesitation. We find ourselves immobilized by questions. Do I have the resources is need? Am I adequately prepared? Is there a backup plan? Is NOW the right time? Is this the right ledge?

How do we respond to all this uncertainty? After all we shouldn’t be taking a leap of faith for just anything, right?

Make God the utmost delight and pleasure of your life and He will provide for you what you desire most.” (Psalm 37:4 TPT)

It is in God we find an anchor in the storm of uncertainty. Take His hand and the chaos of the uncertain will be stilled. When we make God the center of our focus, our souls soften to His leading. When we give God the right to direct our lives, He can reveal the tapestry of our heart’s desire. His Spirit will guide us to glimpse the vistas of purpose He has prepared for us from the foundation of creation. These are the vistas that will bring authentic fulfillment to our souls. If we delight in Him, the boundary of beyond goes from a place of uncertainty and risk, to the place where God introduces us to our hearts desire!

© Tamella White 2019

FACING FEAR

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It’s interesting to me how often events in the physical realm exemplify principals in the spiritual realm. My journey on the path of the Leap of Faith started on a canoe trip with my husband. The beauty of the White River and the countryside it flows through combine to make it a perfect setting for a float trip. About half way down the designated route, there is a large sand bar that serves as a picnic spot. We put in, found a spot among the throng of about forty people gathered there, and ate our lunch.

At this spot there is an old truss bridge that spans a deep section of the river. It’s a canoe trip rite of passage for those who float the White River to jump off the bridge into the river below. We watched as, one after another, people climbed over the railing and successfully jumped off the bridge into the water 25 feet below. I am not afraid of much, however, heights is one of my BIG fears.

I DON’T like being afraid. No decision I have ever made or action I have taken from fear has ever been a good one. So I take every opportunity I can to face my fears. A 25 foot drop is a good challenge, so we decided to give it a go. My husband jumped enthusiastically. I climbed tentatively over the railing, perched myself on the outside ledge of the bridge and prepared myself to jump. Unfortunately, I looked down. Instantly fear took over!

Try as I might, I could not move. I was stuck like a butterfly pinned to a display board. I couldn’t go forward and I couldn’t go back. The only thing my fear addled brain could determine for certain, was that I couldn’t stand there riveted to the railing forever. I either had to jump or climb back to safety. If I remained riveted there, I would eventually fall asleep and fall off the bridge. Admittedly not every leap is worth making; and I won’t argue the wisdom of getting up there. It does however illustrate what often happens when we step out on the Ledge of Faith.

Maybe you’re risking going for your dream job or giving up a secure job to pursue a calling with less pay but more purpose. Perhaps you’re going back to school at 50 to get or finish a college degree. It could be saying yes to a proposal even though you have failed at marriage in the past. It could be, being vulnerable enough to be seen without your protective facade and carefully crafted image, to risk being known and loved just as you are.

Whatever your ledge is, know that it will not come without fear. Remember the truly deep, inspirational question is NOT: “What would you do if you knew you couldn’t fail?” It is: “What would you risk doing even though you know you could fail?” Risk, by nature, involves the possibility of failure. Fear is a natural part of the equation. The key is in how you handle it. Do you let fear rule you, or do you allow faith to master fear? As for what happened on the bridge, that is a story for another day.

© Tamella White 2019

WELCOME TO THE LEAP OF FAITH

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What would you risk doing if you knew you couldn’t fail? It sounds like the kind of question you might get asked at a leadership training retreat. It sounds deep and inspirational.

Except it’s not.

It’s really an ‘Emperor’s New Clothes’ kind of question. It’s pure nonsense. If we knew we couldn’t fail, it wouldn’t be a risk. It’s only risk, if failure is a possibility. Perhaps the better question is; what would you do if you knew you couldn’t fail?

Unfortunately this question is no better.

We all desire to achieve. It’s in our DNA. And yet, there is something in the core of human nature that simply doesn’t value what comes too easily. It’s as though, deep down, we believe if it comes easily and without risk, it can’t be worth striving for. It seems there is an innate drive in human nature to seek out and live up to challenges. Do we need the uncertainty of success and the difficulty of the struggle to make us value the accomplishment? Can it be that success without striving isn’t achievement? Deep down, each of us has a passion that drives us to risk failing in order to achieve.

The word passion comes from the Latin word ‘passio’. Its original meaning is “to suffer”. This is why Christians referred to Jesus’ death on the cross as the “Passion of Christ”. Passion and suffering are linked. When we have a passion for something we will do what ever it takes to achieve it, even if we suffer in the process. This isn’t suffering in a sadomasochistic sense. The link between passion and suffering is more along the lines of tempering a sword.

To temper a sword you subject it to intense heat, followed by cooling. In between heating and cooling, the steel is beaten and folded and beaten again. You repeat this cycle over and over. This repetition transforms the steel into something that is strong, flexible and able to hold a sharp edge. It’s not an easy process. But, it yields good results.

Striving to achieve our passion can be much like forging a sword. Pursuing a passion can mean facing struggle, suffering and failure over and over. This process is not an easy one. However, it does prepare us for achievement. It forges strength, endurance and character. It sharpens and hones us.

So it would seem that the REAL question, the truly deep, inspirational question is; “What would you risk doing even though you KNOW you could fail?” What would you risk doing even though you WILL suffer to achieve it? What passion calls you to step out on that ledge beyond your comfort zone, beyond the safety of the familiar, beyond what you have mastered, beyond what you can control?

What ever that passion is, it will bring you to the ledge of risk. It is on this ledge that you will encounter your greatest opportunity and embark on adventure beyond your wildest dreams. However, achieving this, will mean leaving the ledge and jumping into the uncertain and unknown. It will mean risking suffering and failure. Be assured, it is WORTH it! Welcome to the Leap of Faith!

© Tamella White 2019