A Woman Trying to Know God In A Season of Grief and Grace
As you'll see below, Erin is gifted at communicating the truths about the experiences we all share but can't explain as clearly or as meaningfully as she does. She points to life, but what we see is Jesus because she has a way of finding Him in the midst of her everyday. She is intentional in her relationship with Him and with others, and those of us around her are grateful. Thank you, Erin, for both living your life and sharing your words in a way that points us to Christ!
It’s not as though it came out of the blue. There were signs. But God had always told me when it was time to move on and I had been certain He was saying, “Stay. It isn’t time.” But then, it was time, and He wasn’t the one who told me. Nonetheless, my job ended and my world flooded with grief. My identity had become so entangled with my calling, and my calling so built on the hope of that job that seemed to be the answer to nearly two decades of prayer, that when the floodgates opened, there was no time to move to higher ground. My whole life was buried in the depths of grief.
Having just come through Harvey, I can tell you that grief is a lot like water. At first it seems gentle and unthreatening. And it is, until it isn’t, and you don’t get much warning between the two. You watch it start to rain gently thinking how much the rain is needed. But before you even think to do anything about it, the gentle rain has become rivers that are forcing their way through locked doors, covering all you’ve cherished, all you’ve worked for in murky waters. And every time you think the storm is over, the skies open up and pour out more grief. And just like the floodwaters, grief sticks around for awhile hiding in cabinets and corners and crevices.
But grace comes too, like the Cajun Navy, rogue rescuers to pluck you from the shrinking island and carry you to safety until you can return home. It wasn’t in a boat, but someone did come after me to pull me out of the flood of grief. A sweet friend invited me to work in the mountains of Northern California for a couple of months. Those months were grace. I’m a smart girl and knew I was going to need some time to heal; and what better place than the mountains? I was certain that I would emerge from my two months working in the Pacific North West with clarity and a whole heart. On my off-time, I sat on the riverbank letting the current do its best to carry away my barefeet. I stared at stars and ate wild blackberries and desperately tried to befriend a young buck which I lovingly named “Bear”. It was all grace. But then I had to return home, and I found it heartbreaking to step back into my life here. Grief and grace washed over me continually. And it is the journey of that season I write to you about now.
IN THIS SEASON, WHAT IS CURRENTLY MOTIVATING YOU TO GET QUIET WITH GOD? AND/OR WHAT KEEPS YOU FROM GETTING QUIET WITH GOD?
It was initially the grief that thrust me into God’s presence.
I will never forget standing in the kitchen at the lodge, cutting breakfast potatoes, when a tidal wave of grief swept over me. I had known my co-workers for approximately 5 days and there I stood, crying over purple potatoes. And I prayed. My prayers in these moments of overwhelming grief were not cute prayers. They were desperately honest. I was in the worst pain I could imagine and, at the same time, felt numb to the world. The Lord didn’t seem to say much. His silence would have, in years past, made me wonder if he cared. (Where was he? Why did he not say something to make it better or at least to let me know he loves me? ) But in this season of heartache, I knew he was near. It was an awkward nearness, but it was sweet. He didn’t speak because when someone is in mourning, words cannot fix it. Presence, though, makes a world of difference. That is what the Lord did, He sat with me, in awkward silence, allowing me to feel the fullness of sorrow. And, I’m certain, He wept with me.
So my grief? It sent me running to His presence. And that same grief sent me into hiding from him. Healing never happens as quickly as you think it ought. And there were days dragged-out sorrow shut me down. I didn’t want to cry anymore. I didn’t want to keep talking about it and setting it at His feet and trusting Him with it. I wanted to move on with my life. So I tried to do just that. And I’d wear myself out spinning my wheels, only to realize that I wasn’t going to be able to decide when I was done with the grief. It isn’t something you get to choose.
Grace continued to come in waves as well. It came as a sharp pang of conviction that if I didn’t get myself back to church that one particular morning, I would never go back. It came as a strange social media community of precious women that carried me on their prayers. It came as provision of random jobs and a community group that patiently loved me through my mess. And those moments of grace, they did their part to keep me looking to The One who gives grace. The moments of grace slowly replaced the moments of grief and my sprit relaxed it’s grip on my need for justice. The clenched-fist my heart had around the wrong done opened and the bitterness rolled away.
How does your relationship with God look different than a year ago?
My relationship with God is quieter than it was before this journey of grief and grace. There is less striving, less living by the laws of quiet time. It is more resting, more honesty, more just being together. Much of my relationship with God prior to this season was formed around my other relationships. I needed to spend time with Jesus because people were depending on me. My ministry, my education, my plans-they all required that I have the right answers which meant I read a lot. I studied God’s Word; I studied culture; I studied The Church. And I loved it, but very little of it stopped with knowing Jesus. Knowing Jesus was about doing my job well.
That’s gone. I teach Bible now. Eighty-three 5th and 6th graders pass through my room each day. That’s a big responsibility. One I cherish. But it isn’t why I spend time with Jesus. I want to be with Him. He didn’t force me through my sorrow, demanding that I get back to work. He didn’t tell me I was over-reacting. He wept with me. He walked with me through it. Ten years ago, I would have thought His silence equated distance and indifference. Not so. His silence was His kindness. And His kindness draws us toward Him. I want to be with Him, to know His heart, to be His friend. So we talk more, me with my messy honest words, Him through answered prayers, perfectly timed words from friends, and truths of His working passed down to us in the form of a book.
Waves of grief still wash over me from time to time, but they are less frequent than they were. They come with less force. It is grace that comes crashing in these days.
What would you encourage others to do in this season?
In the grief.
In His presence.
Don’t attempt to rush past the ache and mess. Yes, life moves on, but there is time for you to slow down and acknowledge your brokenheart. Sit with the heartache until you feel the depths of it. There are treasures there. Treasures in the darkness that cannot be found any other place.
But don’t go hunting for the treasures of darkness on your own. You will get lost in the sorrows. Press into His presence. If He seems distant, perhaps it is that He is silently sitting at your side, weeping with you. He will not rush your grieving. He is not put off by your mess, not even when it surfaces as anger toward Him. He is near. He hates that you are hurting and He loves you fiercely.
And community. This may be the most difficult place to stay depending on the cause of your grief. When you are walking around in a cloud of pain, connection with humans who seem perfectly happy and normal can seem impossible. You will want someone to look you in the eye and tell you that you are right. You were wronged. This thing that wounded you is awful and evil. You will want people to validate you. And they won’t be able to do that. This might leave you feeling isolated even in community. You may be tempted to think life would be better apart from people. Don’t runaway. Press in. Have difficult conversations. Cry ugly messy, repetitive tears in front people you barely know. Allow people to love you as best they can. Keep showing up. I am confident that the loneliness will drain from your heart and you will find it has been replaced with life.
Grace will come in a thousand ways, from the rescue boats to the ones who step into the muck to rip out the grief-logged walls. It will come in whispers. It will come in shouts. On the days you notice and the days you don’t, Jesus is near.
How can others pray for you?
I’m entering a new season. One where I’m meeting myself again. My identity is no longer wrapped up in a calling. My job brings me joy but it isn’t my worth. I’m settling back into my skin and I’m enjoying a relationship with my Creator that isn’t based on performance or productivity. It’s about presence, and it’s precious to me. I’d love prayers for sustained joy. Pray that my love for His Word would increase. And pray that I would not revert back to the striving that seems to come so naturally for so many of us.
Thank you for letting me share this season with you. It’s messy but it is life. And He is in it all.
by erin woods
This post is part of the Summer of Seasons that Darcee and I are hosting. Our hope is that as others share about seeking God in their particular season of life, we would all be encouraged to know and love and seek after the Lord more in our daily lives.