‘How long, Lord ? Will you forget me forever? How long will you hide your face from me? How long must I wrestle with my thoughts and day after day have sorrow in my heart? How long will my enemy triumph over me?’ Psalms 13:1-2
For sure, the thirteenth Psalm reminds me most being in the midst of my Dad’s decline from brain cancer. It was the darkest, hardest, most emotionally draining season of my life. Hope was an irrelevant concept for the most part. I knew of the word. I had an idea of what faith was. But, the fruition of either was nowhere to be seen. Not even a slight glow or flicker. Nothing was tangible, but, the weight piling up on my chest. In the midst of it all, on October 31, 2011 after returning from another doctor’s appointment where we’d received yet another portion of disheartening news, I wrote this poem:
On the rolling surface of the water
Through the torrents of rain
And the churning gale
The notion of a darkest hour
Before some supposed dawn
Surfacing for a moment
Elusive at best
Leaving me here
Having learned only this lesson
That there is
A darker day
While hope springs
Does the darkness
That causes us
Or so it seems in this moment
When the instruments that I have
To aid my navigation
Are under water
Indeed, the road continued through harder and darker places than I’d experienced yet at the time I wrote that poem. For three months and twenty days more I would continue making memories that I wouldn’t want to remember and crashing into moments that I would buckle under the pressure of, leading up to the moment when, with my head on his chest, I listened to his heartbeat slow to a stop on an uncharacteristically snow-covered, cold February North Carolina night.
The pain and grief of what had transpired, the loss, the manner in which it all broke down, and my mourning would continue to toss and turn me for days, weeks, months, and years to come.
I couldn’t feel the presence of Jesus in so many of those moments. My emotions were having their way. But, the truth is, He never left my side.
A few lines later, the scripture quoted above goes on to say…
“But I trust in Your unfailing love; my heart rejoices in Your salvation. I will sing the Lord’s praise, for He has been good to me.”
As a long time R.E.M. fan, I’ve been familiar with and loved one of their earliest songs, “Gardening At Night,” for some time. I’d bet that Michael Stipe never intended it to be connected with a post such as this, but, I couldn’t resist connecting the apt poetic imagry of the song to my spiritual experience noted here. By God’s grace and in His time, I’ve been able to taste the rich fruit of that which we hope for, but, that is not seen. The deep emotional toil that He walked with me through, now, has proven to have been the churning of fresh, nutrient-rich soil out of which blessings unimaginable have grown.
Now, the dark season that He brought me through serves as a strong reminder to hold fast to Him, above all else, going forward, because, truly, His love is all that we can count on for sure and the glory that we will get to experience in eternity will far outshine any pain we experience here (Romans 8:18).