By Justin Rossow
I have been sad all day today. I can’t really tell you why. Or, rather, the sadness comes from many different sources, some of which I am not even aware of myself. That’s how it goes sometimes.
I didn’t even recognize I was sad at first: kind of mopey, a little down; in a blue mood maybe, but not exactly sad. I’ve been practicing noticing what I’m feeling and inviting Jesus into that experience, whatever it is–even if I don’t know what it is. Not until I stopped to wonder about the mope did I realize I was grieving.
Again, I think I am grieving a lot of different things, many of which are at least partially hidden from me. I’m aware that I still grieve what could have been, and what didn’t turn out like I expected. It’s also been really hard to write recently (my current project is on it’s fourth title, though I think I finally have the swing of what this book is trying to be…) and a writer who is not writing is not particularly happy.
And I am a writer. Whatever else I am, I am that. And that recognition brings some affirmation. But saying yes to anything is also saying no to something else; and we’re back at grieving what could have been or might have been or what I really thought was going to be, but isn’t.
So writing has been hard (grief) and making a living at writing has been just as much of an uphill challenge as I thought (grief) and I had a really good weekend preaching and meeting new people and having exciting conversations, and that kind of high always leaves me a little low when it’s over (grief). And my kids are growing up, and it’s awesome, and I am proud of them, and I love what is and what is coming, and making room for something new means I grieve for what is ending and will never be again.
So I noticed I was grieving, and I “went and told Jesus” about it (Matthew 14:12), and Jesus didn’t seem to have much to say, except that yes, I was grieving, and that was OK. My personal reading of Scripture had me in Matthew 24 this morning, End Times stuff, and the entry in my Faith Calendar simply said, “Keep Watch!” Not much help there. So I went on with my day.
One of the things I happen to be grieving, today of all days, is how poorly I have treated my body for about a decade. I had to go in to get some blood work done because my blood pressure is high and we’re concerned about cholesterol and I have to change my diet and get some exercise, like I’ve known for years but haven’t done, and I hate it because I am getting old and I am carrying too much weight and change is hard and I don’t know how to and I don’t want to.
On top of all that, I have an impingement in my left shoulder socket (which I think I can attribute to a Wii injury back in November–how pathetic is that?) and so I had to get an ultra sound done on all things rotator this afternoon as well. I asked if my shoulder was having a boy or a girl. The technician didn’t laugh, but maybe she didn’t hear me…
Actually, she was quite nice. We had a very friendly conversation from the moment she asked me to take off my shirt. She told me I was younger than she was, but only by a couple of months, so I shouldn’t brag. And she walked me through what she was doing and what she was seeing as we both watched different views of my shoulder joint go in and out of focus.
Right at the very end, I noticed the tattoo on her left forearm said, “tetelestai.” Now, I know what tetelestai means, but I simply said, “Tell me about tetelestai.” She corrected my pronunciation, and told me simply that it was for Jesus. Interesting. I asked her to say more. “It means, It is finished. It’s what Jesus said on the cross.” And now I was engaged, and she had more tattoos, and it just went from there.
She had one that said Yeshua (which means Jesus) and one in Hebrew that said, “Belonging to the LORD.” (It was rather stylized Hebrew, but from what I could make out, it actually did say that.) And she had a big lion and a lamb on her shoulder. (She mentioned one on her back, too, but I suggested we stop there, just in case…)
This ultra sound technician–her name was Candi–Candi went on to tell me that, sadly, Jesus was the only one who has ever completely loved her, and how she likes going to church, but can’t always, but feels she has a real connection to Jesus, even if she isn’t authorized to do so, and how important her faith is to her, especially when things are tough.
“Sometimes I ask Jesus to send me somebody, anybody to help encourage me!” she said.
And then it hit me.
Jesus knew what I needed. Jesus gave me hope and encouragement when I was having a down day. Jesus came, even though I hadn’t been keeping watch (even though He had actually invited me to). Jesus sent me somebody, anybody, just when I needed her.
Her name was Candi. She doesn’t feel authorized by the Church to have a personal relationship with Jesus. But she does. And she shares that relationship with strangers when they ask about her tattoos.
Thank you, Candi.
And thank you, Jesus, for sending your authorized messenger just when I needed her most.
Being almost fifty, overweight, with high blood pressure, and wrestling writer’s block still isn’t easy. And my grief didn’t just disappear. But I have some promises to hold onto, promises hand delivered to me by a special messenger of Yahweh.
I, too, am marked with the sign, “Belonging to the LORD.” My grief is not mine alone; I belong to Someone who has borne my grief and carries my sorrow.
“It is finished” is the final word over my day, and over my day-to-day struggles; over my success and failure; over my ups and downs. Whatever happens next, the End of the Story is certain.
So for today, I am fine again. And better than fine. I am loved and held and known–real comfort in the midst of ordinary, everyday grief. And I think I will hold onto the prayer Candi taught me, and the next time I am struggling and the Bible feels closed and my prayers are lackluster, I’ll ask Jesus to “send somebody, anybody” to help encourage me.
Maybe next time I’ll even remember to keep watch for the answer…
PS “Noticing what I’m feeling and inviting Jesus into that experience, whatever it is–even if I don’t know what it is” pretty much describes the basic approach in The Emotional Devotional: Following Jesus in Every Emotion, written and illustrated by teenage girls, for teenage girls.
My girls created that book with their cousin and a couple of their best friends, and, even though I am not a teenage girl, it taught me a lot about paying attention to my emotions and inviting Jesus to be present in the experience. If that thought of noticing, being curious about, and sharing your emotions with Jesus is new to you, you might want to check it out. Or buy it for a teenage girl in your life and skim it when they aren’t looking…
Ahhh. Thank you, Justin.
I am so glad I took the time to read your story. Ponder how it might be my story, too. And be reassured of God’s relentless love.
Thank you for sharing this piece of yourself… a beautiful message to all of us. Writer’s block, a bit of a temporary life block. Hope is what it’s all about!