My sister, Jennifer, recently described this season as a season “with the stench of death”. As I reflected upon her words, I began to realize that it really perfectly describes what I sense and feel. As we talk, she can often put into words verbally what I am thinking and feeling. During the months of January, February, and March - there is a literal heaviness upon me - not just emotionally - but physically as well. The long cold and dark days of our winters contribute greatly. Yet, I have to recognize that much of it comes from the season of my mom’s death. I say season, because unlike my father who passed immediately, the slow dying of my precious mom began months before her last breath.
It was horrible and it was dark and ugly. I don’t desire to go back to those visions of her illness and decline. I spent several years processing and dealing with those things - finally leaving them at the cross. Yet, I also can’t deny that the long and slow process of her illness in those last months no longer has an affect on me.
It just isn’t so. It has left scars that my precious heavenly Father has tenderly tended to - healing and soothing over the four years since her passing.
I am not in the midst of fresh grief or grief ignored, it is just simply the season. The combination of the scars from that traumatic time, the dark winter, and my ongoing struggle with anxiety make for a battle of the largest proportions during these months.
I hide deeply in my Heavenly Father during this season. His Word breaks through the darkness, lights my path, and His Spirit empowers me to overcome. We walk this season together.
Of course, this season also tends to be one of the busiest ministry seasons for me where work and ministry ramps up to another level. And this definitely causes an unhealthy distraction and can contribute to my level of stress and anxiety.
So, I work overtime to find those times to sit with Jesus. I ponder, I reflect, I contemplate the goodness and faithfulness of our God.
The death of both my dad and mom put the cross in new light. Easter held a different meaning. I felt in some way that I identified with Christ - the act of surrender to a will that broke me. I found myself understanding Mary’s sorrow as she watched her son, in death, leave her side. I knew the wondering heart of Peter. I doubted with Thomas. And dear Judas, identifying with him serves as a painful reminder of the darkness as I considered my own betrayal of Jesus. Identifying with Judas to the point of even contemplating death by my own hand.
I am reflecting upon this phrase, “stench of death”. Yes, I know the stench of the death. The dark, indescribable heaviness and sorrow. It’s a thick cloak that weighs you down causing you to feel as though you may not survive. I let myself go back there and it causes me to shudder and even weep.
Easter reminds me of deep brokenness. My despair without Christ. And it brings indescribable joy as it brings to mind our Father’s great faithfulness. A love that never fails and never separates. He was love that took our place and heals our brokenness and forgives our failures.
There is a stench of death even as these days before Easter lead to the cross, but you see, I know what is coming. I may have experienced a season that stenches of death, decay, and ruin. Oh, but following that death came a great resurrection. A resurrection as God breathed life in me again and awakened me to new life in Him. It was a resurrection to life as He began to prune and tend to the dead branches of my spirit and soul. He tenderly pulled away, broke, and soothed the ruined places. And he began to rebuild, restore, and redeem.
Little by little, the stench of death ceases. Dark winter is laid to rest, and spring bursts forth in bold and glorious colors of life and beauty. This is Christ in me!
Are you in a season that stenches of death? What parts of life lie in decay and ruin? What darkness permeates your day?
Stay faithful to the One who will be faithful to the end. The One who shows that with every death, resurrection and life is waiting on the other side! New life doesn’t mean all is well with no more pain, yet you can be assured of His power and presence to sustain. The One who is faithful will do it.
He promises restoration and redemption. He takes the broken pieces of a heart shattered and scattered, and he lovingly gathers them and in his mercy begins to bind them together again. All along the way binding our heart with His.
Below is a prayer that I pray regularly. It draws me near and recenters me. It’s my own paraphrase taking scripture from Psalm 32 and John 1. I pray it for you today - whoever chooses to read this. Believe in God’s faithfulness and the new life promised to you.
"Bind my wandering heart to you”. I am prone to stray, wander. Yet, I know where peace is found. The light that is needed to overcome the darkness I often fight is found near you, with you, and in you. Be not like a mule without understanding that bucks and fights to pull away. A mule that needs to be bound and bridled to stay near. No. Rather, I hide myself in you. I bury myself away, deeply where only light exists and darkness cannot be found. Your steadfast love surrounds my inconsistent ways where I am then made steady. Throughout my day when the darkness threatens to overtake me, I remember the darkness cannot be overcome by the light that is in you. Therefore, if I stay hidden within you-I am covered and protected. Your love will steady my anxious mind and body. When I need wisdom and instruction, you have promised to guide and counsel me. You do not leave me. As much as I am prone to stray, you are prone to draw closer, to reach farther. I invite you in, the fullness of who you are. Live within me, breathe life into me. Offer your grace and I will open my soul to receive grace upon grace. What great love you have lavished on me. I have neither reason to fear or dread. You have called me daughter, and I have been made a child of God. I call you Father. Protector, provider, my strength is found in you.