It’s a Butt Load of Experience I Didn’t Ask Foron July 11th, 2012
Being a widow is not the same as being “single”. When I was “single” I was walking on a known path, living in a socially acceptable fashion, doing what all single people do as they take care of themselves and head towards finding a life-long relationship and having a family (if that is their goal). When I was single I was sometimes confident/sometimes not confident that I would be able to work my way towards a satisfying life. When I was single I still had dreamy expectations and a desire to explore new adventures in life that I had never experienced before, no matter how small and boring they might seem to others.
But being a widow is not the same as being single. When I was single I didn’t have this entire wheel-barrow load of grief to carry around with me. In the wheel-barrow are the lost dreams of a future with my dead husband, the lost hopes of sharing adventures and achievements/failures with him, the unbearable loneliness of having to take every breath without him, the fears of being fated to be alone for the rest of my life, and the knowledge that something/someone I wanted so badly in my life was not meant to be.
The event of being widowed is not the same as being divorced or single. It carries a darker burden. It carries a level of anxiety, depression, and fear like no other state of being. I, for one, am unable to look into this dark abyss on a regular basis. I have to breathe. I have to lift my face to the sun. I have to shake off the clinging shreds of the nightmare and try to turn my mind towards the possibilities for the future. If I don’t make an effort to look away from the abyss, I am doomed to fall down into it and stay there. It is a hard place to escape and so very often I find myself teetering on the edge of it.
How do I get away from the abyss? How do I dump all this crap out of this wheel-barrow? How do I survive this new state of being – living as a widow?
God has a plan for me, whether I like it or not. He did not consult me when devising this plan. He didn’t check to see if I’d rather do something else. He created me for exactly the path He needs and wants me to take. At some point during the 19 months of my husband’s cancer treatment, I accepted that God’s plan for me was that my husband was going to die and that I was going to be called upon to take care of him and shepherd him to death’s door step. I accepted that. And that’s about as far forward as I could think it through. I didn’t have the capacity to think about myself and what was going to happen to me or how I was going to deal with the aftermath and the abyss that I didn’t know was awaiting my arrival.
God’s greatest desire is for us to live happy, joyous, and free lives through Him, for which He provided a direct tool for our use in achieving that goal through His son, Jesus Christ. When I was experiencing the worst nightmare of my life and all the worldly help and support I was being given from family and friends was not enough to prevent the world around me from crumbling out from under me, there was only one thing left for me to cling to … God has a plan, whether I like it or not, and I must be faithful and obey.
Developing us into human beings who are able to fully embrace happy, joyous, and free lives is God’s mission. He allows us to freely choose what we want and desire. He allows us to freely pursue what we think will make us happy or get us where we think we should be here on earth. And, sadly, He knows that many of us will be satisfied with that. But He also knows that there are many who seek more than to just “be happy”. We seek spiritual fulfillment. And that is hard to achieve unless you are willing to put some work into it. Spiritual fulfillment comes from God. And we can only achieve it by following God and pursuing the path He has determined for us.
I will never understand why my husband had to die and why I had to become a widow. God’s divine plan is too big for me to comprehend. And God doesn’t expect me to be able to understand it. That’s why His only expectation is that I be FAITHFUL – trust that He is doing what is best for me whether I like it or not – and that I OBEY Him – walk forward on my path no matter how scared, sad, mad, or overwhelmed I might feel.
I knew that there was nothing I could humanly do to save my husband or prevent him from developing cancer. I was not in a position to change whether he lived or died. I realized early on that God’s divine purpose for me in this situation was to be of SERVICE. God had put me there to take care of this man (and his family) while he was in the process of being called home to the Lord. I did more than I ever thought I could do and I endured more than I ever thought I could endure and I provided more than I ever thought I could provide (emotionally, mentally, physically, and spiritually). But it wasn’t my doing. As God put me on this path, so too did He provide for everything I was going to need … money, insurance, resources, support, understanding, patience, endurance, stamina, intelligence, faith, etc. And I was faithful and I obeyed and I was of service to God and to my husband and to his family.
And then it was over. My husband died. Three months later my step-son moved out. And I was left alone … widowed. Is this my reward for being faithful and obeying? Widowhood?? The abyss??
Nope. It is just a transitional place along the path that God has set for me. God has parked me. I don’t know what in the world He has set up for me next. But obviously He considers that it was necessary for me to experience what I have gone through so that I will be prepared for where He is taking me, for His glory and for my good.
I sit still and am quiet. I pray and listen for His answer. I ask, “What am I supposed to do now?” and “Please show me what You want me to do”. And I hear silence. My heart is not moved in any particular direction. My answer is that there is no answer at present. This can mean 2 things … NO – you’re going the wrong way, turn back to Me … or WAIT – get ready for something fabulous I am getting ready for you.
Sometimes His answer is “NO” because we have not done what is needed to make us ready for the next step on our path and we need to receive more lessons/experiences before we move forward. Sometimes the answer is “WAIT” because He has not yet set all events in motion to be ready for us to take the next step on our path. Regardless of which answer it might be, I am sitting still. And then I realized that just because I am sitting still doesn’t mean there’s not also a purpose in doing that.
While sitting still I can rest and allow my body, mind, spirit, and heart to heal from this nightmare ordeal. While sitting still I can focus on taking care of my own health and restoring/healing myself from what was drained from me. While sitting still I can focus on improving my financial situation, re-connect with friends/family I lost track of during my nightmare, begin attending church, reach out to help others where possible, and demonstrate my FAITH and OBEDIENCE to God. I can Walk the Talk. I don’t have to stare down into the abyss. I have other things to do while God has me parked and is allowing me this downtime.
And I have the opportunity to start finding joy, happiness, and freedom … wherever I can … in whatever ways that I can … to live my life to the fullest and not waste my time in the darkness of the abyss. I feel like I am supposed to be getting ready for something. I am very hopeful that it is not because I need to be of service for more death and sadness. But if it is, I know I will be doing what God has prepared for me and I am not afraid (I have learned never to say “never” and never to say “no” to God).
Yes, it is hard to turn away from the abyss. To me, the abyss represents the darkness we experience when we live our lives away from God. Falling into the abyss means falling into an indulgence of self-pity, self-recrimination, self-loathing, and selfish behaviors. Falling into the abyss means falling into Self. And we never find happiness, joy, and fulfillment when we indulge in obsessing about ourselves/our worries/our difficulties/our sadness/our losses/etc.
Yes, it is ok to be sad. Jesus felt sadness. It is ok to feel scared, alone, and depressed. Jesus felt all these things. Yes, it is ok to feel desolate and despairing. Jesus felt abandoned and forsaken, too. But in the end, Jesus turned away from the abyss and was faithful and obeyed. And Jesus fulfilled God’s mission for him by being crucified. At least following through with God’s plans of service for me did not include being nailed to a cross. So why would I intentionally try to put myself into the misery, depression, sadness, and desolation of being nailed to one in the abyss?
Although I have these feelings (and so many more), I try not to dwell upon them and get lost in them. Rather, I burst out in pleas and prayers and ask for God’s help in relieving me of the sadness, of lifting my spirits, and of helping me turn away from the lure of the abyss. Some days are better than others. Sometimes I am strong and sometimes I am not. But I am trying. And in trying, I am being faithful and obeying. God doesn’t expect us to be perfect. All He wants is to see that we are choosing to try and that, in our hearts, we desire to follow Him, whether we like it or not.
I would never have chosen to be a widow and I have no idea why God set me upon this path and I have absolutely no clue as to where He is taking me. The one thing I will say is that the experience I have just completed that led me to this place did much to reinforce my rock-solid faith that God loves me and will take care of me, no matter what.
I’m starting to get a little excited to find out where I am going. I’m starting to feel a tiny twinkle of hope. And I’m beginning to understand that being a Widow just means I am a single person who has a butt-load more experience under her belt than most.