We need Christ. And never more have I needed to feel His embrace than when I have given up one of my children into His arms. Through the years, through the deaths of nine children, I have felt His presence in various ways. Sometimes it is through reading Scripture or a Christian book on suffering ~ Job, Psalms, the epistles of Paul; Nancy Guthrie, Elisabeth Elliot, and Shauna Niequist touch the tip of that iceberg for me. Sometimes it is lovemaking with my husband or handholding with my children. Sometimes it is dessert left on my front porch. Sometimes it is a candlelight vigil on our front lawn. Sometimes it is a baby oak tree, sacrificially planted by a dear brother in Christ. Sometimes it is crying, other times it is laughing.
But the ultimate point is this: I feel Christ’s presence perhaps most tangibly when someone else, another person who is knitted into Christ’s body like I am, is with me. Whether it’s an author, a meal-maker, a note-writer, someone to sit next to me on the couch, someone who wants to look at pictures of my babies or their memorial items… when someone else enters into these moments with me and touches both the joys and the griefs alongside me, it shows an aspect of Christ to me.
I have felt Christ in hugs. I’ve tasted Him in chocolate chip cookies. His compassion has knit its way tangibly into my soul through letters and cards. His empathy has decorated my home with flowers.
When I am in grief, what do I need? I need the arms of Christ!!
I am so thankful for how He has used His people to wrap His arms tangibly around me through the years.
Thank you for the flower bouquets, the notecards, the Pizza Hut gift cards, the food left on my porch, the homemade bookmarks (a tatted one, a scrapbooked one), the emails, the poetry, the rose bushes, the oak tree…
Thank you for the prayers. I know that I don’t always feel them in quite the same tangible way, but I know truly & deeply that the prayers of the saints around the world who have held my family up through prayers during our grief have been life-giving and life-sustaining.
…When I read it, I put my head down and sobbed, in sadness, but also in gratitude, for a woman who knows me well enough, even after all these years, to know what words will stitch me back together when my heart is broken.
~ Shauna Niequist, Bittersweet, p114 ~
When you’re mourning, when something terrible has happened, it’s on your mind and right at the top of your heart all the time. It’s genuinely shocking to you that the sun is still shining and that people are still chattering away on Good Morning America. Your world has changed, utterly, and it feels so incomprehensible that the bus still comes and the people in the cars next to you on the highway just drive along as if nothing’s happened.
~ Shauna Niequist, Bittersweet, p119 ~
We don’t learn to love each other well in the easy moments. Anyone is good company at a cocktail party. But love is born when we misunderstand one another and make it right, when we cry in the kitchen, when we show up uninvited with magazines and granola bars, in an effort to say, I love you.
~Shauna Niequist, Bread & Wine, p132
So when you are faced with an opportunity to bless someone in their grief, do not be afraid to go the tangible route. I’m not saying not to pray for them, of course! But I am saying that one of the greatest ways to minister to a hurting person is through the tangible. Through food, the written word, your physical presence (even if you are holding a candlelight vigil in the front yard while the person is passed out in their bed inside the house), flowers arriving on the doorstep. Be the arms of Christ. Not just through prayer, but through physical acts of mercy.
Tomorrow, on October 15th, I will be sharing some of the things I remember about each of my nine babies specifically. But for today, I wanted to share that some of the things I remember most about my seasons of grief are the various ways Christ’s arms have enveloped me through His people. Tangibly.
When you feel the Lord prodding you to embrace someone in His name, be His arms. It is one of the most beautiful privileges and responsibilities of belonging to Him, of bearing His name as a Christian. To be His arms to someone else. To be His instruments as He heals the brokenhearted and binds up wounds (Psalm 147:3).