A morning shower. Most people would say they need it to start their day so that they can wake up. They need to be refreshed and renewed so that they can face the day. In the weeks that followed Garrett’s death, morning showers became this and much more. I showered, not only in water, but in droplets of His grace, which covered my mind and soul. It became a time for God to converse with me. I would share all my thoughts, and He would respond in truth, clearly and concisely.
On this particular morning I had such a heavy heart. My overwhelming sadness started metamorphosing into boiling anger. I was so mad at God. All the feelings of self-pity started to arise in my mind. I wrestled in prayer with Him, pleading, “Why me? Why does she get to go to bed at night with the warmth and security of her husband next to her? Why do those children get to have their daddy’s arms to hug and hold them, and mine do not? Why must I face this valley of sorrow, and they are on a mountain of joy? Why would you do this to me? Why would you come into my house and take a part of my beautiful family? Why Lord, why?? It’s not fair.” The comparison of others’ present lives had been rubbing my wound raw.
You might say that this type of venting is normal. In fact, these feelings of self-pity and “why me?” complaints to God was my all too natural tendency of dealing with life’s struggles. When I had to face the struggle of uprooting my life and following Garrett to the other side of the country, I compared my life to others and asked, “Why me Lord?” When I experienced complications in my first pregnancy, I asked, “Why me?” When my first child was colicky and I lived in the middle of nowhere, with no family near, I again asked, “Why?” Others’ seemingly “perfect” lives would cast a spotlight that glared into the hard places in my life. Many times after getting another round of bad news during my pregnancy check-ups, or bending over backwards (literally) to calm a screaming infant, I would cry out to God and ask, “Why? Why can’t my life be like theirs? Why can’t I have that easy route? Why do You have to make this so hard on me, when all You have to do is just say a word and it shall be?” Many times, in those hard moments, I’ve been reminded of John 15:1-2:
I am the true vine, and my Father is the gardener. He cuts off every branch in me that bears no fruit, while every branch that does bear fruit he prunes so that it will be even more fruitful.
God has been pruning me to create growth in my life. I can honestly look back through every valley that I’ve had to walk through and know that I’ve grown in enormous ways because of it. My mom said, “You are not the same Megan that left Ohio in 2008.” All of these “pruning periods” have changed me for the better. I was even thankful for those experiences. If all of life was happy and everything was fine, I don’t think I would grow in the ways I have. I don’t think I would see God as clearly either. I’m facing the biggest valley of my life right now and God has never been so clear. When I look back from this current valley, I am confident I will see His goodness every step of the way. I already have. In my favorite book right now, Streams in the Desert by L.B. Cowman, I read this great story:
A child of God was dazed by the variety of afflictions which seemed to make her their target. Walking past a vineyard in the rich autumnal glow she noticed the untrimmed appearance and the luxuriant wealth of leaves on the vines, that the ground was given over to a tangle of weeds and grass, and that the whole place looked utterly uncared for; and as she pondered, the Heavenly Gardener whispered so precious a message that she would fain pass it on:
"My dear child, are you wondering at the sequence of trials in your life? Behold that vineyard and learn of it. The gardener ceases to prune, to trim, to harrow, or to pluck the ripe fruit only when he expects nothing more from the vine during that season. It is left to itself, because the season of fruit is past and further effort for the present would yield no profit. Comparative uselessness is the condition of freedom from suffering. Do you then wish me to cease pruning your life? Shall I leave you alone?" And the comforted heart cried, "No!" --Homera Homer-Dixon
After throwing out every angry and confused question this devastating loss had handed me, with tears covering my face in brokenness, I stopped and waited.
Showering me with grace, God clearly answered, “There’s no escaping pain and loss on this earth. It’s inevitable. In this world you will have trouble, but take heart, I have overcome the world.”
Suffering is inevitable. It is certain that, in this life, we will face pain. Yes, I am suffering in a more unique manner than most, but does that make my pain more difficult than yours? Would it be better if Garrett grew old with me and then died at an old age? My answer would be wholeheartedly yes because I desire to live this life with my husband. But would the suffering have been easier then? I don't think so. At one point or another, I was going to lose him, or he was going to lose me. I just faced this inevitable circumstance earlier than most. Pain and suffering is unavoidable. God’s reminder that He had overcome the world, and this pain is nothing new, was just what I needed that morning.
So [I’m] not giving up. How could [I]! Even though on the outside it often looks like things are falling apart on [me], on the inside, where God is making new life, not a day goes by without his unfolding grace. These hard times are small potatoes compared to the coming good times, the lavish celebration prepared for [me]. There’s far more here than meets the eye. The things [I] see now are here today, gone tomorrow. But the things [I] can’t see now will last forever. 2 Corinthians 4:17-18, The Message