“He restores my soul. He leads me in paths of righteousness for his name’s sake.” Psalm 23:3
Kim and I started the youth group at our church, Movement Church, in Richmond, Virginia. She loved the youth and they responded well to all that she planned for them. Kim was genuine, and I am convinced the youth knew of her love for them.
We had been at the church for about five years when she died. Movement Church, therefore, was where we had her funeral.
Early in grief, you flash back to the funeral as you process what has happened. Where you sat during the funeral. Some of the content of the funeral. But not all of it. It’s a blur. The casket. The music. The sanctuary.
Eventually, you return to church. You flash back. Over time the flashbacks lessen. You don’t forget, but you stay in the flashback less in time and intensity. However, you create new rhythms and new normals. You stand alone and sing during worship in the sanctuary. You don’t hold a hand during a prayer. You don’t share knowing glances during a sermon when something resonates with both of you at the same time. New rhythms are created by yourself. Alone.
I finally reengaged with our youth group. Of course, a year after Kim’s death a worldwide pandemic interrupted everything including our youth gatherings. As an aside, online meetings are no replacement for in person interaction, and a youth group is a prime example and illustration.
Eventually, we were back at church on Sunday evenings for youth gatherings. One evening, I walked by the sanctuary when no one else was around. It had been about two years since Kim’s funeral at the time. I looked into the darkness of the sanctuary, and I thought back to that painful day when I gathered with hundreds of loving supporters to mourn Kim’s passing and to worship her Lord. I stood there for a moment looking in at the sanctuary as I recalled what had happened in that room on February 25, 2019. I thought about the months of healing. I thought about the pain. I thought about supporters. I thought about new rhythms in my life. I thought about the power of the gospel.
And then, I walked into the sanctuary alone. I walked around the sanctuary and prayed. I worshipped. I turned to God. I complained some, respectfully. I asked God again to bring his Kingdom and his will to bear in whatever was left in my life. I told him I only wanted his ways to be accomplished in my life. But I begged him to continue to pour his steadfast love upon me. I told him I trusted him.
I prayed these things again. As I have done so many times before in my own home.
That day turned out to be a rite of passage. I marked the journey. A funeral in February of 2019. Water under the bridge. The passage of time. They say, “Time heals all wounds.” It’s not that simple, but time does play a part, no doubt. Now, I prayed alone in the same sanctuary over two years later. Again, a rite of passage. A moment marked. Moving forward in health. Another important step is taken—alone.
I was healing to a point where I was ready for a new relationship. I was ready to invest in my life again and in someone else’s life. I didn’t know who or when, for sure, but I was recovering. I was taking careful steps. Slow. But sure. I knew like Paul that God was not finished with me yet, and I should invest in life.
“For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain. If I am to live in the flesh, that means fruitful labor for me. Yet which I shall choose I cannot tell. I am hard pressed between the two. My desire is to depart and be with Christ, for that is far better. But to remain in the flesh is more necessary on your account.” Philippians 1:21-24
Note: I am convinced this experience prepared me to take a very important step a year or so later when I married Amanda.