Grieving to fly free


She speaks of grieving as praying our goodbyes. Sometimes what needs to be prayed and set free comes as a surprise.

I can still see the magenta blood pooling at the foot of the black-plastic covered mattress, the new baby safe in her grandma’s arms. My heart beats fast with the memory of the race against the clock, working, trying, delaying the decision to attempt the difficult surgery. She was stable. And then all of a sudden she wasn’t, and within an impossibly short moment, she was dead, still lying on that thin black plastic mattress on the floor where she had lain to deliver her baby.

I’ve grieved her loss before, seen again the images burned into my brain: the blood, the worried face of my midwife-colleague who had called me, the young woman’s aging mother, crouching near the door, wailing, clutching the tiny, tightly swaddled, motherless bundle. I’ve wept. But I’ve not been able to let it go, not been able to see the picture without a cringing that made me want to look quickly away. I’ve not understood why. Until this week.

I had prayed my good-byes to the woman, the baby, the family. I had failed to notice that someone else in the picture had died.

Grace brings me face to face once more with that blood-soaked encounter, shows me the shattering of my cherished “never-messes-up-and-certainly-doesn’t-let-anyone-else-down” image of myself. I had failed. Badly. I had let someone down – so completely that she died.

It was painful to see: I had stopped grieving the loss of her life while I’d still been fighting the death of my own false self. I’d kept trying to resuscitate that old flattering image of myself, to prove, in the face of irrefutable evidence, that it was still alive.

But it’s always grace that allows our false self-image to be shattered. 

And grace that invites acceptance.

Grace saw that my ongoing attempts at self-resuscitation were keeping me from receiving Jesus’ “I trust you.” I struggled to hear His words as anything other than impossibly weighty or puzzlingly impossible until I discovered myself loved and welcomed and invited into His life and work in the context of the irreparable shattering of that no-fail self-image. Now, as Jesus strips me of the outgrown skin that has been squeezing the breath out of me, I can begin to receive more deeply His “I trust you” as the startling “I trust you with my heart.”

When you’ve failed your trust so badly that someone has died and you still find yourself trusted. . . . well, it puts the scratch you made on someone else’s hardwood floor into perspective. This grace with its persistent call to trust and its determination to trust us with His own heart is big enough for anything.

It’s grace that allows old selves to die, and it’s grace, too, that meets us in the place where the outgrown image of self finally gives way and we sit, still damp, clinging to the twig in the cool spring air, letting the blood course through the vessels in our filmy, unfolding, wings. It’s grace that breathes a soft breeze to help the wings dry strong and straight, urging us to test our newly-freed self.

Can you feel his breath against your face? “wwwwhhhhhhhhhhh. . . . . . .”

“Enjoy the gift of your wings, beautiful one. Trust my breath that carries you. I’ve made you to fly.”

How might the One who delights to set us free be inviting you to pray?

To read part 1 of this series, “Love always trusts,” click on this link:  Three words that are shaking my world

This Post Has 8 Comments

  1. Tabbi

    Carolyn, thank you for this. I have had a similar experience that made me doubt my career choice. It is faith, trust and grace that has helped sustain me. I put my trust unto him.

  2. eyeannie

    Carolyn,I’d never thought this before…thank you SO much…for it speak to al/anything within us that we ” just can’t bear to look at”… Bless you for your teaching!

  3. Jo Dee Ahmann

    Thank you, Carolyn. Words fail me but I feel hope.

  4. Klara van der Molen

    Thank you for this image, I have images of butterflies everywhere in my home. God gave me the image ( after I was ill) of a worm trying to crawl through the debris of my life, than showing me the image of a cocoon ( as I tried to recover) and subsequent the image of a new butterfly, all with my own unique colors, set free to fly heaven bound in His grace. In my arrogance,in my times of ” I will not fail again”, and then fail again like a bombshell, your words ring so beautiful and true to my soul. God’s breeze on my wet wings, my feeble attempts to flutter when I could fly in His Grace, set free in Him and Him only, be rid once again of the debris that weighs me down, unable to fly. Never give up as He leads you to share what is on His heart through you.

    1. hearingtheheartbeat

      Thanks for sharing this, Klara. Grace and strength to you as you keep learning to fly free!

  5. enzedclaire

    My dear dear Carolyn… once again your words speak through my defences… and challenge me to face what is painful in myself yet worth facing and embracing in the cocoon of grace. Peace my friend and Thank you.

  6. Jennifer

    Thank you for painting the beautiful picture of grace and freedom… I wonder how long wings stay wet..? Flutter… Flap… Soar… 🙂

    1. hearingtheheartbeat

      Wikipedia says 1-3 hours for butterfly wings to dry. Our process seems a little different 🙂 . . . it seems to me the process of dying and being raised to new life keeps going on in various ways for a long time!

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