Saturday, February 25, 2012

What God Has Promised

I am up early, as is usual for me, and reading here, contemplating life. I really expected to go to sleep last night and then to awaken less melancholy, less contemplative. That didn't happen and begins to concern me a little bit. It isn't like me to stay in a "down" state for very long, but this one has been lingering for about five days now. I have been sipping my coffee, reading, listening to music, attempting to puzzle it out.

Sometimes it helps me to go back and read what I have blogged. This has been my healing place, my therapy -the publically private place where I spill my thoughts and internal struggles in a world that leaves little room for extended grief, and it has been a healthy endeavor for me. This morning I was reading back over December's entries. This one in particular:

The music still brings the tears to me, fresh and raw, and I still love what I wrote there. There are times when I write that I feel almost as if I have gone into a trance, and when I read it later I am filled with satisfaction for having gotten the emotions and thoughts down "just right". This is one of those entries. In it, I speak of a common theme in my thought process - the idea of life being a pathway. There are a lot of forests in my mental pathways, and as I think of Joseph's illness, often I think of a forest that has been devastated, burned to the ground, ashen, smoldering, uncomfortable. It smells bad. It reeks of loss. As I have imagined this pathway through my schooling, the path through the forest has gradually stopped smoking. Dust has settled. For a long way it was like that, just a burnt landscape. And in time, new growth began to appear. New trees. Birds. Ferns. Shelter. And in getting to graduation, I imagined a clearing, large boulders and a steep curve in the bend that I could not see around. I am still coming around that bend.

And what is remarkable to me about all of this is the clarity reading back over that blog post is bringing me. I have been wondering why I am so tearful. So mournful. So tense. And I realize...I am afraid. My familiar forest is behind me now. I am headed into new territory. I don't even know if it will be a forest anymore. It could be very different now. I am terrified. Because as horrifying and difficult as some of that forest was, it was familiar. And successfully negotiated. It was mine. I had found a peacefulness and deep knowledge of that forest and I felt that forest knew, understood and frequently rewarded me for my ability to navigate it without disruption.

Not so anymore - all is new. All is potential. What I have to realize, internalize and apparently force myself in frequent measures to contemplate is that this is a sacred pathway. I am supposed to be on it. I have been prepared all the way along it for what is coming up next even when it didn't feel like it, even when it was hard. I have to trust, perhaps for the first time ever, that I can handle what is coming, even if in the moment I feel inadequate. Being able to cope does not imply proficiency - it just implies capable. And capable doesn't mean no pain, no fear, no struggle. It just means having the capacity to learn and move onward to the next thing. Internalizing these thoughts calms me, gives me something to think about. The knot is still in my stomach, but it is like having survived my first dark night on this new path. I consciously seek out evidence of a new day and see silvery light on the horizon. (My metaphor is carrying me away here; I apologize!) I am right where I am supposed to be. If I don't trust myself, I need to trust Joseph and trust God. I am being called to rest in my faith, shaky though it may be. Faith in what I have been through and what I have learned. Faith in myself. Faith in other humans, who will be teaching me and helping me along. Faith in God and the purpose I am being called to. I do believe this is predestined. I do believe I have found what I am supposed to be doing. I do believe I will have moments of fear, but that I cannot be swallowed by it in this way. Allowing such feelings unchecked is to live within a lie. And I will not live in lies.

As I sit here and think these chaotic thoughts and attempt to capture them here, I have had a poem that I memorized in high school come back to me. I have not thought of it in years. I loved it then and it got me through some pretty awful times. Thank you to young Sheri for packing the words away so completely and accurately. They continue to soften me now. I have no idea if there is more to this little poem somewhere, but this is what I memorized and called up from time to time to think upon.

What God Has Promised

God has not promised
Skies always blue,
Flower-strewn pathways
All our lives through.
God has not promised
Sun without rain,
Joy without sorrow,
Peace without pain.
But God has promised
Strength for the day,
Rest for the labor,
Light for the way,
Grace for the trials,
Help from above,
Unfailing sympathy
Undying love.

-Annie Flint

Strength for the day. I have that.
Rest for the labor. It is promised.
Light for the way. It is foretold.
Grace for the trials. I believe in this and seek to embody it as much as recieve it.
Help from above. I am learning to accept this help. I am learning humility.
Unfailing sympathy. My heart buckles under the depth of this thought.
Undying love. Manifested all through my life, starting with my loyal, gentle husband, my mother, my children, my family, my friends. I am provided tangible proof.

I will soften my thoughts today. I will practice being in a place of trust and hope. I will not fear my joy. I will not cave to anxiety. I will not conjecture what is coming next or could be. I already have been shown - I cannot know. I can only live.


karen gerstenberger said...

Sheri, you are living proof to me of what you write, even if you yourself are still growing into faith in those words.
If you haven't bought my book, would you like me to send you a copy as a graduation gift? I don't mean to presume, but to offer it as a reminder of all that nurses did for us, and all that you are now doing for others.

Sheri said...

Karen, I would LOVE a copy of your book. I have not gotten around to ordering it, but believe me, it has been on the list. I can think of nothing more meaningful to my heart. Books are so important to me; having one that is the story of you and sweet Katie makes my soul happy.