Tuesday, December 18, 2012

I Can Only Imagine

(I realize that it has been a super-long time since I wrote on here, and I also realize there are hundreds of thoughts in the blogosphere right now relating to the school shooting at Newtown. I would still like to process some myself. Thanks for reading....)

When we had our two miscarriages in 2008, I immersed myself in anything that would offer me comfort in my grief. I read Scripture, books on loss and suffering, and found many blogs of women like myself who were struggling with loss. I learned what to say and what not to say to a grieving parent. You quickly realize that well-meaning words said to comfort can easily cause more pain if not carefully considered first. I emailed my friends, grasping for any straw of healing words to be spoken to my thirsting soul. Specifically, I sought out blogs and friends who I knew had experienced the loss of a baby, knowing they had been down that dark road and had felt the feelings I was experiencing. I wanted to badly to not feel alone in my grief.

Some of the things I read, or the words that were spoken to me, gave my aching heart respite and relief for a moment, that moment of need, maybe for a few days. Some of them spoke words that I have truly hidden in my heart. They changed my perspective, my reactions, my thoughts as I moved forward and have found myself in the position of comforting others in similar experiences. One blog in particular has stuck in my mind. I wish I had saved it so I could link to it now. It spoke of the differences between the phrases "I can't imagine" and "I can only imagine."

As I have read the news stories of the Newtown shooting, it has been glaringly obvious to me that this could have been my Abigail, my first grader, my girl about to turn seven on Friday. As I looked at the pictures of sweet faces that, just like my own daughter's, are in the transition between baby and big kid, I could have just as easily been looking into the face of my own girl.  As my eyes soaked in the words of these childrens' love of drawing, horses, the colors pink and purple, and what awesome big siblings they were, I may as well have been reading the biography of my firstborn.  And as hard as it was to do, as much as I did not want to do it, I imagined Abigail's face. I imagined her name. I could only imagine.

Hopefully, I will never experience the level and depth of pain that these parents are experiencing this very minute. But to say I can't imagine means that I will not allow my mind to go there, that I would shut off the thought.  To say I can only imagine means I will try. When a parent feels grief over loss, they need someone to imagine.  They need someone to try really hard to feel what they feel.  They need to feel that grief will not isolate them from a world who would rather shut off their minds than to think that the unthinkable could happen to them.  What may seem like frivolous semantics to some may be just the words that would be healing balm to a mother or father's heart, that a person would try, just try, to go there, too.

Scripture offers many promises of a God who "goes there" with us. God is our Comforter. Our Healer. He is close to the broken-hearted. When we walk through the valley of the shadow of death, His rod and staff comfort us.

As God comforts us, so are we called to comfort each other. To go to those dark places no one wants to be. Galations 6:2 says, "Bear one another's burdens, and thereby fulfill the law of Christ." In that is the difference between "I can't imagine" and "I can only imagine".  It is the promise of, "I know I have not experienced this myself. But I love you and do not want you to bear this grief alone. I may only be imagining, but I will do my best to identify with your pain, and to bear this burden with you."