Chuck Noland was stranded on a desert island - stripped down, leaned out by isolation, cut off from the life he knew and its daily rhythms. That's what widowhood after 33 years of wedlock feels like at first. Once you lived in a marriage, suddenly you were a adrift and washed up on an unknown shore. It feels like you may never get off that island. You have moments where you almost resign yourself to the idea that you will forever mourn the loss of your old life and scratch out a barren, joyless existence. Chuck Noland, face with the formidable barrier of the reef and the lack of materials to devise a sail felt trapped as well. He couldn't reasonably imagine rescuing himself with the materials he had available.Without intervention, he could see no way off.
Noland was trapped four years. Four long years. I've met people trapped in grief for that long and longer. They fail to get find or accept the resources to get off the island. They remain preoccupied with the loss, crippled by longing for the loved one who is no longer there, unable to find purpose or meaning. I believe that the loss of a spouse if very different from the loss of a parent or a child -- and that each of these losses have their own nuances. None is worse than the other. I've experience all and I can say that the loss of a spouse, to me, is more like the loss of my life and my identity than any thing else. Parents raise us up to set us free; we raise up children, not expecting to keep them forever. We experience little deaths when we move away from our parents, when our nest is emptied. In no way is the physical death of either "less" than the death of a spouse, but it is different. A spouse is someone we commit share life with "until death do us part." We become one. And as C.S. Lewis wrote, losing a spouse is much like an amputation. In order to not remain trapped on the island of grief-stricken widowhood, you must hold out hope that there IS LIFE out there, just beyond that barrier reef. You need to dream; you need to patiently (gulp, I said the word) believe that escape is possible with the right tools.
"And one day my logic was proven all wrong because the tide came in, and gave me a sail. And now, here I am. I'm back." The island changed him, but at the core Chuck was still Chuck. Parts of who "he" was came back to serve him rather than to control him. Once he was a slave to the clock and to the calendar, now he used his knowledge of these things to purposefully plan his escape. Where the old Chuck was constantly trying to race against minutes, he was now working with the slow, steady reliability and timeliness of the forces of nature. As you find your way off the island of your grief, you will find that you learned a lot being married and you learned a lot as you were thrust into life on your own. Putting the best of the old with the new resiliency and it is a matter of waiting upon Providence to send in the key to escape with the tide. He knows what we need better than we do and Philippians 4:19 tells us "... my God will meet all your needs according to the riches of his glory in Christ Jesus."
Watching Chuck launch his rickety raft off the island and row headlong into those terrifying waves makes me tense up every time. I'm still impressed by how that rickety thing that didn't look safe and didn't look pretty made it over such an overwhelming obstacle. It took faith to depart from that island. Four years before he was flying above the clouds, his life on course, finding himself in a horrifying struggle against the power of the ocean which spit him out on that rocky shore. Now we see him bravely turning his back on that island and venturing forth with faith into the same ocean. That's faith. Belief in action that there *is* something better out there, that sitting on that island and rotting is not "life." For me, the knowledge that Pat loved the Lord and that his death wasn't some grim finality made a huge difference in my attitude and my unwillingness to set up camp on the island for the long haul. I also completely believe that God has plans for me, good plans, plans that are not mean to harm me but to see me prosper (Jeremiah 29:11). I have faith that all things work together for the good of those who love God and are called according to His purpose. Just because there is a season where I'm blinded by tears or facing rocky uphill climbs, I have known all along that I can't lose heart because one day I'll see what He was doing and I know it's going to be for good greater than I can imagine.
This is where I have to mention about the whale - this is getting too long for one sharing opportunity - but that whale represents to me God's presence. (I've got much more to write about this that I probably will at a later time). When Chuck gets past that barrier, past his long,dark night of the soul (four years worth), in the dead of night he encounters the peaceful presence of that huge whale. The whale, with all its majesty,bellows, exhales, submerges and reappears on the other side of that rickety raft, casting its peaceful, benevolent eye on Chuck. One flip of a fin or turn of the tail and that whale could crush Chuck, instead it is on one side, then the other, a protective guardian. It vanishes below the surface and yet you know it is there. There is a wonderful song by Mark Heard, a man who also died young of a heart attack and is with the Lord today. The song talks about how we so often do not realize the "strong Hand of love hidden in the shadows."
I'm on that rickety raft like Chuck.I'm out on the sea on the way to living this new life as whoever He has planned for me to be.
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