Friday, February 6, 2009

Christian Widows

Not too long ago someone suggested to me that I might want to consider starting a blog for Christian widows. I'm not really sure what we were talking about when that came up, but I remember being immediately turned off to the idea. Yet, here I am months later still thinking about it.

It was precisely because I was immediately turned off to the idea, that I sort of stopped myself and asked "but why are you so against the idea?" and have been considering it ever since. Not considering starting a whole blog about it (there are great Christian sites that address this, so I honestly can't see the sense in adding one more site saying the same thing), but considering what it is that Christian widows deal with or experience that maybe the general church population doesn't understand, and really should. I'm a firm believer in the idea that the better we understand the needs of those we're ministering to, the better we can minister to them. There are precious few groups among the household of faith that need ministering to more than widows. Truth be told, the real reason I was so against the idea of actually starting a blog about it simply because it's a painful, exhausting subject to write about. On the one hand there are times when you want to talk about it, but at the same time you don't really want to talk about it because it still hurts. Indeed it is a difficult subject and even though I have written some things about that part of my life before here on this blog, I'm going to go ahead and write a bit more today, for the purposes of this post.

My own personal experience as a widow may not be all that common. First, I was a young widow (29) with four small kids, and I was also very new to the faith, having been a Christian for only 2 years. When I look back at that first two years of being in the faith, I realize that it was not at all what I wish it would have been. That two years was filled with my late husband's immediate medical needs and constant trips to Seattle for his treatments and surgeries. When he was back at home my time was consumed with looking after him and taking care of the kids and the house (and our business). I had almost no time at all for growing in the faith or studying the word. We did go to church almost every Sunday, and Wednesday (when we were home) but that was pretty much the extent of my Christian life. It was only after I became a widow that I began to really search the Scriptures for the first time and that was for anything it had to say about being a widow. I needed straight answers and I needed comfort and I knew that the Bible was the one place I'd find both.

Looking back now after so many years removed from that whole experience, there are some things that stand out to me. I would like to address them in no particular order, and I hope they are of some benefit to someone reading.

IMMEDIATE NEEDS

While the church I was in at the time was not the best church in the world as far as doctrinally sound churches go, there were some people there that truly had servant hearts. They would call and offer themselves in whatever way I needed. Did I need the van tuned up or winterized? Did I need any groceries? Did I need anyone to mow the lawn or fix anything in the house? Most of those things I could do or take care of myself, but it was sure good to hear someone calling and asking, and I did take them up on the offers at times. If there wasn't anything I really needed at the time, they'd spend time with me on the phone asking how I was doing, asking about the kids and praying with me. Sometimes they'd even just stop over unannounced, for the same reason. I specifically remember there were several people in that church that went out of their way to minister to my family and they hold a very special place in my heart to this day.

I remember at the time thinking that these were the very people that the Scriptures speak of where it says "Pure and undefiled religion in the sight of our God and Father is this: to visit orphans and widows in their distress" (James 1:27). These were people living a pure Christian religion, before the Father. They came to me and ministered to me and my kids in whatever way we needed. They laughed with me, they cried with me, they held me while I broke down and they prayed with me. It brings tears to my eyes just remembering how gracious and loving these people were. They weren't out to impress anyone but they left an impression on my heart all the same, and they set an example for me that will last a lifetime.

ADAPTING/ADJUSTING

I have heard that grief counselors will say that you should never (ever!) make life changing decisions within the first year of your grieving process. These kinds of decisions would be things such as selling your house, moving to a new city, taking a new job, going back to school, and even starting a relationship and/or remarrying. The reasoning behind this advice is fairly obvious. You're already going through a very traumatic, life changing ordeal. You're emotional, at times you may be irrational, and you're often not thinking nearly as clear as you would be otherwise. In a very real way you're operating at a diminished capacity and therefore making another life changing decision is just not a good idea.

I didn't hear this advice until after I made numerous horrible decisions myself, in the first two years after becoming a widow, and by then it was too late to undo the choices I'd made.

I can't honestly say that I can look back and wish there were more people in my life at the time that would have had a backbone and said "NO Carla, this is a stupid mistake and I will not support you in this" because for all I know, there were people that said that. My problem is, is that there is much about those first two years that I just cannot remember. I'm not sure why I can't remember it unless it's just a built-in protection mode God places in some people so that we don't re-live overly painful things, but the simple truth is I just can't remember actually making those stupid decisions, or how people responded to them.

What I will say, is that new widows do need these kinds of people with backbone in their lives. They need folks that know how to operate in grace and truth, and will say what needs to be said in as gentle or as firm a way as possible. New widows need protection even if it's from their own crazy ideas or plans. Of course you can't always stop someone from doing something irrational, but you sure can give it your best shot, and then be there for them even if they didn't listen to you the first time around.

In addition, I cannot stress grief counselling enough. It was offered to me free of charge but transportation was an issue and I never went. I truly wish I would have. Many Christian churches have resources for this readily available or can refer you to a solid Christian counselor in your area. When you're going through something like this its a GOOD thing to have someone to talk to that can tell you what you're feeling is completely normal, completely expected and truly part of the grieving process. You may think you've snapped, you may think you're having horrible thoughts that you have no business having, and if you don't have anyone who knows what they're talking about to talk it out with, you may come to some very wrong conclusions.

Grieving - Our Path Back to Peace by James R. White In addition to counselling, I have yet to read this book but everyone that I know who has, says it's priceless when it comes to the subject of grieving. I plan to purchase one for myself and for my church library, very soon. Whether it's becoming a widow or a widower, losing a child, parent or friend, every single one of us is going to go through this difficult process of grieving, and most likely we will go through it several times in our lives. Having solid resources to help us handle the grief is a blessing and a comfort that cannot be underestimated.

LITTLE HELPS/LASTING BLESSINGS

I was both a baby Christian, and a new widow at the same time. As I wrote earlier, I didn't really have much time to devote to persuing Christian study, until after I became a widow. Even then it was fairly narrowed to one topic at first, but there is one thing that still stands out to me today that made a world of difference. Music.

I listened to the local Seattle Christian radio station, and while most of the music that was on at the time was pretty shallow stuff, there were some pretty solid lyrics in many of those songs that declare the sovereign power of God, that still stand out to me today. Some of that music was such a blessing to me that I've ripped some of those songs onto every computer I've ever owned since then. I still pull them up and listen to them from time to time.

One lyric I recall quite clearly from those early days of grieving is "sometimes He calms the storms, and other times He calms His child". Another is "I know the Master of the wind". Still another is "when the night is too dark, it's You that turns the shadows into light". Yet another is "I am weak, You are strong, and I'll be standing on my knees, for only You can carry me".

No question about it, music is one of the most powerful mediums known to man. It can pick you up, take you down memory lane, make you cry, make you laugh or soothe your aching heart. There are numerous really good Christian cds available, so if you know a new widow, bless her heart with the gift of music and give her a great cd filled with songs of hope that will indeed lift her heart and remind her where her comfort comes from.

I hope this has been a help to someone today.



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