It’s that time of the year again. School is back in session. The final summer vacations have wrapped up, and the weather begins to get a little cooler. (Well, in theory at least. We still have 7 more weeks of hot weather here in the desert. ) But it also means school picture time is fast-approaching or maybe has recently passed. It’s when the curling irons come out, the fancy hair bows are put into place, and the hair gel has sufficiently tamed the wildest of locks.
Two years ago, I remember begging my teenage son to use at least some product in his hair. I made sure his favorite Arizona Cardinals football shirt was laundered and reminded him to SMILE and not try to be all cool-looking. As he got out the car door that day in the high school drop off line, I would never guessed that would be his last Monday here on earth, let alone his last school picture day.
Several weeks after Joe died, I got a phone call from the high school, saying Joe’s school photos were waiting at the front desk to be picked up. I had completely forgotten he had even had them done….but at the time, it seemed like such a gift. As I walked up to the lobby desk to pick up the photos, I barely made eye contact with the school secretary. She quietly handed me the envelope and said, “We’re all so sorry for your loss.” It was all I could do to try to hold myself together. I nodded my thanks and with tears in my eyes, made it to the car before slowly pulling out the photos. And staring back at me, with tears in his eyes, was my sweet boy.
The photo struck me as odd. Joe almost always took great photos. But there was no denying that this photo was different. My mama heart knew he was sad on this day, on this moment when the picture was taken. But why? What had happened? Did someone make fun of him? Was he not feeling well? Had he been upset about something? My mind went back to the day I picked him up after picture day. I asked him how it went. He said it was fine. There was nothing I could recollect that would give me any insight into why that picture showed deep pain in his eyes.
Oh, the unknown! That is perhaps one of the hardest parts about grief. There are so many unknowns that plague the grieving soul, from the “what ifs” of somehow altering the course of events that led up to a death to perhaps, even more gut-wrenching, the unknown of future events. We wonder what life would have been like if our loved one hadn’t died. I am no exception. Would Joe have been a good driver? What would it be like to have a high school junior now? How tall would he have been? What college would he have chosen? Who would he have married? How many kids would he have had?
Being two years into this journey of grief, I still just. miss. him. But I also miss what will forever be unknown to me. And as I continue to struggle with watching other people’s children grow and move forward beyond the years Joe was given, God has been inundating my heart and mind these past few days not with my struggles of the unknown, but of what He has made KNOWN to me about who He is during these past two years.
Although I will never know God in all His fullness, here is what I KNOW about who He is, deep in my heart, without question.
God is good.
For the Lord is good and his love endures forever; his faithfulness continues through all generations. ~ Psalm 100:5
God is love.
And so we know and rely on the love God has for us. God is love. Whoever lives in love lives in God, and God in them. ~ 1 John 4:16
God is faithful.
Because of the Lord’s great love we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail. They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness. ~ Lamentations 3:22-23
God is with me.
The Lord your God is with you, the Mighty Warrior who saves. He will take great delight in you; in his love he will no longer rebuke you, but will rejoice over you with singing.” ~ Zephaniah 3:17
God has a plan.
For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. ~ Jeremiah 29:11
God gives hope.
Yes, my soul, find rest in God; my hope comes from him. ~ Psalm 62:5
God’s promises never fail.
“You know with all your heart and soul that not one of all the good promises the Lord your God gave you has failed. Every promise has been fulfilled; not one has failed.” ~ Joshua 23:14
The circumstances and trials you and I have walked through, are walking through, and will walk through as we journey this life will NEVER change who God is and what He is doing. Ever. Take comfort in this, my friends!
My future remains unknown. And so does yours. God’s plans are not for us to comprehend, to fully know, or even understand. But it is
enough to know that God knows every intimate detail of our lives and who we are. He knows every thought, every feeling. He has seen every tear we have cried. And despite His intimate knowledge of us – the good, the bad, and the ugly – He still loves us with an everlasting love that defies all comprehension.
It’s that grace that keeps me moving, breathing, and going forward as I anticipate and live through another September 5th. May it also strengthen you as you walk your journey and bear your cross.
“I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the Lord’s holy people, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to KNOW this love that surpasses knowledge…”.
~ Ephesians 3:17-19