Saturday, May 31, 2014

Living with Loss

Some people seem to live charmed lives, never being touched by the pain of loss. Others seem to get more than their fair share. Loss comes in all shapes and sizes - from the loss of a job, a home, a dream, to the loss of a parent, spouse, or child.

For those who know this pain, who have walked the road of loss, finding a way to live with the loss is a difficult road to walk. There are no quick fixes, or easy options. Every person's loss is unique, so although there are some generalities that can be gleaned, in the end, the only way to find a way to live with it is to walk the road.

These past few weeks I have had the privilege of walking the road with several others who have been doing a course at church. However, walking with others means being vulnerable, and my own losses have surfaced again...

In my life I have lost a lot...

  • my parents divorced when I was still young, which split my family
  • friends with whom I have no real contact anymore
  • I have been abused
  • my first child...
  • my third child...
  • my dream career
and that's not counting things like losing my grandparents, my other elderly family members, nearly losing my dad to cancer...

In the grand scheme of things though, I still have a HUGE amount...

  • an incredible husband
  • two incredible living children
  • a house
  • a stable and secure job, that I actually enjoy
  • both parents still alive, with an amazing step-mother
  • a large extended family that loves me
  • a car, clothes on my back, food in the cupboard
And, of course, that's not counting the blessing of being a child of God and all that goes along with that.

Yet, the blessings don't take the sting out of the things I have lost. The blessings make it possible to continue living, but the pain is always there, just under the surface. If you scratch a bit, it surfaces again. This past week I was reminded that these losses leave holes in my life, and periodically I fall back into the holes, and experience their depth and darkness. Time doesn't heal wounds. Instead, over time, we learn how to climb out of the holes so that we don't have to sit in them for weeks or months. It doesn't stop us falling into them though.

Saturday, May 10, 2014

Death and drugs

A few years ago, in our previous cell group, we had a member of the group who was living on the streets. His name was Steven. Steven was a homosexual who was infected with HIV and he was a drug addict. I saw 'was' because he died last weekend. He didn't die from AIDS, from the TB he had contracted. He didn't die from exposure from spending most of every day being on the streets. Steven died, we presume, from a drug overdose.

Steven had his 'spot' at two different traffic lights where he would sell whatever he could - jewellery he had made or second hand books. After we left that cell group to lead another one, we saw Steven at church occasionally, but we saw him regularly at the traffic lights. We would always wind down the window and have a quick chat between the light changes. It never ceased to amaze me how cheerful he was despite his circumstances. 

He was a young believer, with a lot still to learn about God, but then, if we're honest with ourselves, I think we all still have a lot to learn about God, no matter how long we have been believers.

I won't lie and say that Steven was a friend. He wasn't. He was secretive and, quite honestly, his poverty, HIV and drug addiction made me uncomfortable. I was comfortable as long as he was kept at arm's length. My kids knew who he was, but I had deliberately not told them his background, because I wanted to give them the opportunity to respond to him without my baggage, without my prejudices. I wanted them to just see him as another human being. They liked him, and for that I am grateful. I think to have the love of a child is healing, and the surprise on his face when my daughter would rush up and hug him was worth my discomfort.

But about 2 weeks ago my prejudice caused me to pull back when really I should have reached out. I was in a rush, not that that is any excuse. I just didn't want to have my "perfect" life interrupted and discomforted by him. So when we stopped at the traffic light on this occasion, and despite the little voice in my head telling me something was wrong with him, I moved on with my life. I did not help him with the small request he had of me - for a bottle of water. I could easily have done so, but I chose not to. Even had I not helped with that, I should have stopped and had a proper conversation with him, because I could see he was in trouble. He was not his usual self. He was filthy and scruffily dressed, despite living at the Salvation Army and having access to clean clothes and showers. His eyes had a feverish look to them. I knew something was up, and I chose not to stop.

A week later, the cops found him, disorientated, and complaining of chest pains. They took him to hospital, and he died there. He died of a drug overdose, we think. I don't know whether an autopsy was done, but if it was, I doubt I would hear of it.

I could wallow in guilt, that I chose not to respond to my fellow believer in need. I could wallow on guilt that I did not respond to another human being in need when the solution was so obviously within my ability to help. I could wallow in guilt that the example I set my kids was beyond poor. I could wallow on guilt over my selfishness. But I won't. I have asked god's forgiveness, and when I see Steven in heaven one day, I will ask his forgiveness too. 

Instead, I hope that in reflecting on this whole horrible mess I have learnt a lesson. I hope that the next time my fear and anxiety threaten to prevent me from disrupting my own life, that the next time I find myself with an opportunity to let my life be discomforted, I will make the right decision - the decision to be the hands and feet of Christ in a broken world.

My privileged upbringing has isolated me from my own humanity. It has bred in me a fear of others who are different to myself. I know that the journey to change all that will be a long one. I am not now suddenly 'fixed' because of this one experience. I know that this journey will be a long and difficult one, but this is a journey I must make if I am to truly become like Jesus. It's a journey I have not wanted to make, and have avoided (& excused myself from) for far too long. I still don't want to, because I don't want my nice comfortable life to be discomforted and disrupted, but increasingly I hear the voice of God about this, and increasingly I understand the value in embarking on this difficult journey.

The way of the cross is not easy, nor is it comfortable. Jesus never promised us an easy life. I hate that about Christianity. I want an easy life. I want to be comfortable and isolated. Yet, my heart is melting slowly, and I find myself moving closer to the edge of something more exciting - a life that is more than just comfortable....

Monday, May 05, 2014

More! Give me more!

They say that a hug a day keeps the doctor away. Certainly research indicates that people need physical touch to be healthy, and that without it we quickly become depressed.

One of the things that I am positively lapping up at the moment is the amount of physical affection my son volunteers towards me. I don't need to ask for hugs and cuddles, or kisses (although I do!) because at least three of four times a day, often many many more than that, he will just sidle up to me and give me a hug or a kiss or a cuddle.

He doesn't do it to get any thing from me in return - it's not like he wants sweets, or a favour. He does it just because he loves me, and wants to cuddle with me.

This kind of unconditional love is amazing, all the more so because I know it won't last. I know that at some point it will become uncool to show Mom affection. I know that at some point he will prefer to give his affection to a girlfriend. At some point he will move out of home and marry some girl, and while mom won't be forgotten, she will be less important.

So while I can, I'm lapping it up. In the fabled words of Mugg & Bean: More! Give me more!