By Ann Mann
Here we are, one year later. I have learned that grief is not something you “get over.” Grief is better described as something you “live through.” Or at least something you hope to “live through.” I can see now that I will spend the rest of my life learning how to live without my beloved husband.
Even now, a year later, I stop myself from thinking too deeply about Kim or his sudden and unexpected death. For now, the best I can do is skim the surface of my feelings. Because when I think too deeply, I feel myself sinking.
To keep from sinking, I keep my eyes on Jesus, just like Peter in Matthew 14:22-33. When Jesus invited Peter to come to him, to get out of the boat and walk on the water, Peter could do it when he was focused on Christ. But when Peter took his eyes off Jesus, when Peter was distracted by the wind and the waves, he sank.
That’s what happens to me. When I take my eyes off Jesus, when I allow the waves of grief to overwhelm me, I sink. And like Peter, I call out to Jesus to save me. Jesus is always faithful. That is who Jesus is. He is always there, ready to save us when we cry out.
And another thing I love about Jesus. He never leaves us as he finds us. If we are willing, Jesus will lead us to a deeper and richer relationship. That is perhaps one of the greatest blessings from this past year. My faith in Christ has grown even stronger.
I remember when I first came into a saving relationship with Jesus, the Bible was used as a weapon. I was at a revival, and the preacher said we better get right with Jesus or we were going to hell.
Even so, I felt the movement of the Holy Spirit in my heart. And when the final hymn was played, and the pastor called us to the altar, I went.
I professed my faith in Christ. I was baptized. And I believed.
But I realize now that what really happened that night so long ago was that I wanted to be saved from going to hell. And the faith steps I took were more about avoiding hell than embracing new life in Christ, about having a relationship with Jesus.
I was believing and behaving instead of beholding and becoming more like Christ. I also remember the moment when it began to change.
I was in college, in what I like to call my wilderness years. I was living apart from Christ, doing all the things I knew I should not be doing if I was really a follower of Christ, a disciple of Christ. (A disciple is a student of Christ, someone who is learning and growing.)
A friend and I came home for a long holiday weekend but we were bored. So, we lied to my parents, saying we were going back to school early to study. When we were really going to a party in the city.
We never made it to the party. We got lost and drove all night. And the sleepless night triggered a killer toothache. So, there I was, not where I was supposed to be, and I had to call my parents. They drove to the big city to rescue me. To take me home. But here’s the part of the story I want you to remember.
When they picked me up, they didn’t scold me. They didn’t humiliate me or make me feel ashamed for my lie. They loved me, with the love of Christ. And that unconditional love changed my life.
I began the journey back to Jesus. I started going to church again. I started reading my Bible again. And this time, as I read it, I was getting to know Jesus. The one who loved me no matter what I had done.
I realized salvation isn’t about being saved from hell, although we are. It is not simply about what Christ does FOR us. Salvation is about surrendering our hearts and my lives to the master’s hands. Allowing ourselves to be re-shaped, and re-made, and re-stored into the image of Christ.
I had accepted what Christ does FOR me when I was a child. But as an adult, I accepted what Christ wants to do IN me. That lesson has served me well. I have continued to learn and grow in my relationship with Christ. And it is the goodness of God that keeps me going, one year later.
(Ann Mann is an Emmy Award winning journalist, now serving as pastor to Barnesville First United Methodist Church. Her email is firstname.lastname@example.org.)