Dear January 2012 Self,
Let me first say that I write not from a place of knowing how this will all work out or even being fully convinced that it will. I am not writing because I have felt total peace or have witnessed complete redemption in the past year. But I am writing because I have experienced the beginning slivers of peace and redemption in this year. I write because I remember this time last year and how I would have given anything to know that I would survive. I want to tell you, first of all, that you will. But I also want to tell you that in a strange, painful, sacred way, it will be a beautiful year.
That pain that you feel for the death of your son, that sense of longing so intense that you fear your bones may crumble beneath the weight of it? I cannot say that this will go away. I cannot tell you, dear Self, that it will fade or even lessen. I have heard from others farther along in the journey that it does soften over time. But we are not yet there. What I can tell you is that you will grow around it.
You will learn how to read a novel, shop for apples, even attend a party with desperate pain laced right through your daily norm. You see, dear Self, you have to relearn these things without your beloved son. And this is what you will do this year. I know. I know this is falling on deaf ears. I know you will hear none of it right now. I know that the very thought of reading, watching, cooking and singing without your son sounds like blasphemy. It is treason to you. Don’t worry Self, you don’t have to crusade to find the blessings of life again. No, dear, they will come to you only when you are ready.
One day, quite out of the blue, you will get the urge to hear Tina Turner’s rendition of “Proud Mary.” And you will turn it up loud and call an emergency dance party with your family. You will shake your hips and stomp your feet and clap your hands. Your children will roar with laughter as you belt out about working for the man and big wheels turning, just inches from their smile-lit faces. You will collapse to the floor at the end of the song, in a full family pile-on, and tears will flow as you laugh, not because you have forgotten for a second the grief that you know, but because you have remembered for a moment the joy that you knew.
Might I also bring up a word about your God? The One whom you are now cursing, the One whom you are now questioning? I will not tell you that He is good. I will not tell you to trust. I will not even ask you to pray. You are not ready to hear it. I will only ask you to remember. Remember that cold, dark night at Young Life camp so many years ago when you first looked up at the sky and wondered, “What if this is true? What is He is real?” I ask you to remember how deeply he answered you that night, and how fully He has continued to answer those questions ever since. And I ask you to remain open to the thought that it was not all a big hoax. You have not been taken for a fool. I ask you, broken, beautiful Self, to remember how you once believed and to hold onto every tiny ounce of the belief that remains.
Yes, your God, the One whom you trusted, the One whom you knew to be good, has allowed your worst nightmare to come true. He has allowed you to swallow the bitterest pill and to break beneath the fist of grief. But hear this: He will not leave you to die by grief’s hands. For this God of yours raises the living as well as the dead.
He allowed your son to die. Here and now, in January 2013, I have not come to peace with that. Perhaps that is a conviction for your 2020 Self, or your 2040 Self. Or maybe, you will only truly be at peace with this fact when you are reunited with your heavenly son and can finally touch the good hand of God. But what I can tell you is that though he allowed the worst to occur, He will redeem it. I do not speak from the vantage point of complete redemption. No, I am still, in January 2013, knee-deep in the searing shards of brokenness. But dear January 2012 Self, you will trust in Him to redeem what has become because you will experience the beginning buds of that redemption this year.
You will witness a fire in a sunrise and an orchestra in an ocean, and you will know that God is redeeming. Not changing what has happened, not taking away the pain that remains, but working around it, working through it. You will see in your earthly sons the spark of life loudly roaring. You will love them fiercely. And you will know that God is redeeming. You will see it and feel it. In the most mysterious of ways, you will even be a part of it.
The pain will not lessen, but you will grow stronger. Your strength will not be a brute strength, but a quiet inner strength that you never even knew you had. This strength will be born not in the bearing up, but in the breaking down. So break down, January 2012 Self. Break down. Allow the grief to crush your bones. Allow your suffering to overtake you, but do not forget that Love that once consumed you. For you will one day begin to crawl. And soon, you will start walking. And in January 2013, you will look back and realize that it was God who put your bones back together. You will know that it was God who carried you.
So hang on, dear January 2012 Self. Keep breathing. This will not be the year that you announce a pregnancy or that you birth a baby. This will not be the year that you come out with a list of accomplishments, tangible and respectable. But honey, new life is born in many different ways. And the accomplishments that are deepest and truest are often invisible to the world. You will wail and you will weep. You will ache for your son every second of every day. But you will learn to live with this ache. You will learn to laugh and to shake your hips to Tina Turner with this ache. You will learn to be a friend, to go on dates with your husband, to mother your sons on earth with this ache. Strangely, this will be a beautiful year.
Right now you are to endure, but soon you will begin to enjoy. Hopefully in 2013, a little bit more. And this will be your 2012 year—enduring and enjoying, drowning and rising, doubting and believing, breaking down and building up. In some ways, this will be your life. For your life has been cracked down the middle. Everything now falls into either “before” or “after.” But trust me, Self, when I tell you that God is not finished.
Your January 2013 Self