ALL THAT’S LEFT: A story of God’s presence in the midst of great absence.

There are rare moments that can alter our lives so acutely that we can no longer go on as before – moments that define our brokenness and His Presence all in one. There’s a juxtaposition in the frame of our human lives, which are so fragile that they can be deconstructed in an instant, contrasted by the beautiful and undeserved faithfulness of a constant and everlasting God who shows up when we least expect it or deserve it. It is striking that His Presence shines through the cracks of what remains at the end of the breaking, but my experience has shown me that this is the truth.

My husband and I have two children, 3 and 5 years old. When our second child was born, a little girl, I was ecstatic. I had always wanted a sister growing up, and now my two beautiful, sweet girls had each other. I was grateful, but I was really struggling. Hormones are real, right? I was struggling to work full time and raise two little girls. Nobody was getting enough sleep. Our marriage was really difficult. And my family was close, but my relationship with my mom was hard during this season—hard like it never had been before. There was tension everywhere.

I felt like I was failing in every category; It was as if I’d been suddenly knocked down by a huge wave—and I couldn’t breathe. It felt like no one saw me, it felt like no one understood. I didn’t even understand. All I knew was that I was drowning.

And then, in the middle of my gasping for air, my clawing to find the way up, my mom died. She just died. She wasn’t even sick. My mom, who had always been my best friend, even when our relationship was in this hard season, was suddenly gone.

I remember lying face down in the field in front of my parents’ house and wailing like I never had before. I remember praying. For my mom. For some sort of miracle. And I remember feeling completely and utterly alone. I needed help, but the one person who could always help me, my best friend, was no longer on the planet. The world I knew was instantly and entirely shattered into a million pieces.

And there, broken beyond repair, broken beyond words, I realized that I only thought I was drowning before, but now I actually was.
I was drowning in a deep darkness.
And as I lay there, face down in the field wailing for my mom, I found that all I could speak was one word. Over and over, wailing in the darkness, in between my gasps for air, barely audible through my hoarse voice, I said ‘Jesus’. Over and over. Jesus.

And He met me there.

He did it in such a loving way, meeting me exactly where I was. His presence was SO tangible in the middle of the loss, the mystery, everything I couldn’t understand. He reached out and took my hands and lovingly wrapped me in His arms. And I know it was Jesus, because that’s how He meets people. He met me there the night my Mom went to heaven. And when my two grandmothers passed away in the year to follow. And when our marriage nearly ended shortly after. And when I wrestled through crippling anxiety.

Jesus met me there each time, in too many moments to mention. And He’s here, right now, too; meeting you right where you are, in whatever state you are in. In your brokenness, in your mess, in your struggle, in your loss. Jesus is here, too.

This year, as the Anniversary of my Mom’s death arrived, I was reminded of that even more so. I don’t mark the day on the calendar, but each of the last two years around the same time, with Mars in its proper autumnal trajectory, I become acutely aware (whether I want to be or not)… with the leaves lit up on display as they swirl in whimsical movements to the ground in the crisp, sweet air that smells of fires just starting to burn… in this season that reminds me that letting go serves a purpose and prepares for the season to come… I am reminded, subconsciously and then consciously, that this is the season I had to let go of my Mom from this earth.

I am reminded that my life will never feel the same on earth again, in the absence of a love I can still feel, though no longer see or touch. We don’t mourn as those who have no hope, and I have great peace in knowing that my mother is in her favorite place with her favorite Person, guaranteed to be worshipping non-stop like she did here, with the entirety of how she lived her life. My Mom was an exceptional person… you would have never known her struggles, that she never viewed as hardships or burdens, like taking care of my severely disabled brother every. single. day. She actually lived out loving God and loving others. And though I know she is thrilled to be in Heaven, and I surely rejoice at seeing her again one day, I miss her like heck here on earth. I long to hear her remind me again that “He never leaves us or forsakes us.” I long to hear her laugh. I even long to have her accidentally punch me in reflex when I startled her, apparently by walking into the room too quietly or waking her up (which looking back, I guess I did frequently). This is something I didn’t quite appreciate while she was on earth, but I sure do miss now….

After a year like 2020, though, I am also poignantly reminded that God is closer than we sometimes think. That He is indeed our Comforter. That He can and will work all things together for our good. EVEN the hard things. I can look back even now and see this evidence. I am reminded that God IS faithful. I am reminded of His presence, even in the mystery and the struggle, even in the wrestling, He IS with us even in this.

So whatever you are grieving… a loss, a tough season, isolation or loneliness, or even an expectation of a life that went nothing like you thought, He can be your Comforter, too… the Bible tells us that He is near to the brokenhearted; and it is true… And also, let me give you a big verbal hug, because it’s okay to grieve, too. Grief isn’t linear, it’s a weird and random ebb and flow. It gets easier over time to function in, but still surfaces when you least expect it. This is why you may see me driving down the highway crying at random times… it can be a song, a word, a smell, a place…
My husband always looks alarmed when he sees the tears start and then I see this look of relief sweep across his face when he realizes it’s actually nothing he did…
But seriously, the grief WILL ebb and flow. It’s a process. Give yourself some grace as you go through it.

And remember, even in THIS, you are not alone. I’ve discovered that God can handle our lamenting, our grieving… I think that’s possibly why he left passages like that in the Bible, so that we would know that we could and should come to him in our grieving… and He IS with you, even through this pain, even now.

My hope for you is that you will experience what I did. May you feel the comfort of God, the loving arms of Jesus around you, exactly where you are. In the mystery, in the things we’ll never fully understand this side of heaven, He is here. He is always near, always working.
The Bible promises He will never leave you or forsake you. Cling to that promise like life itself. Even in your brokenness, especially in your brokenness, He is faithful. I’ve found His Presence to always be more than enough.

NEXT STEPS:

The Garden: God’s Heart for Relationship With Youby Propel Women

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
Heather Ailor is a friend of our KNOWN team, and a passionate follower of Jesus. She is a committed wife, mom to two amazing little girls, an outdoors gal, and foodie. She’s a sometimes writer, always learner, and goes from deep thinker to major goober in a jif.

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