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