I think about death a lot. Don’t misunderstand me. I do not have a death wish. I just wish there was no death.
Three years ago, I lost my brother and now I’ve lost my grandmother, too. Jay was the highly-favored “baby” of the family and Grammy was our beloved matriarch. To me, they were the opposite ends of life’s delicately-balanced scales and now, I’m tipping.
Why didn’t I know the latter half of my life would be so painful?
-That there would be more goodbyes than hellos.
-That the depth and intensity of my love would become the depth and intensity of my grief.
Why didn’t somebody tell me?!
I’m lying on the kitchen floor in a puddle; pressing my hot mess against the cool tile. The wailing has subsided to a low moan. My limbs hang limp. Grief is the great paralyzer.
I am a leper slumped against the city gate.
“Now there were four men with leprosy at the entrance of the city gate. They said to each other, Why stay here until we die? If we say, ‘We’ll go into the city’—the famine is there, and we will die. And if we stay here, we will die.” 2 Kings 7:3-4a
The lepers knew that if they didn’t get up, death was certain. If their enemies didn’t find them first, leprosy would eventually chew through their skin. Their only alternative was to get up and go into the city. But death was certain with that option as well. They were hard-pressed either way, or so it seemed.
With Him there is always a third option as unnerving as that option may seem.
“…Let’s go over to the camp of the Arameans and surrender. If they spare us, we live; if they kill us, then we die.” 2 Kings 7:4b
God’s third option included an unthinkable risk: entering enemy territory. But what did these lepers have to lose? Nothing.
“At dusk they got up and went to the camp of the Arameans. When they reached the edge of the camp, no one was there, for the Lord had caused the Arameans to hear the sound of chariots and horses and a great army, so that they said to one another, ‘Look, the king of Israel has hired the Hittite and Egyptian kings to attack us!’ So they got up and fled in the dusk and abandoned their tents and their horses and donkeys. They left the camp as it was and ran for their lives.” 2 Kings 7:5-7
If I stay fetal on the floor, the grief will kill me and I know it. It. Is. Killing. Me. But if I get up, I’ll have to live without the ones I love. I cannot bear the thought. It is impossible to envision a day without them in it. I don’t want to. I can’t!
God, is there a third option for me?
I never wanted to touch death, it’s just that I’ve been touched by death…and it hurts. Sitting up I pour some cool water into the palm of my hand; sanity splashing me in the face.
Dragging myself to my feet and drawing in a deep breath, I walk over and toss my cry towel in the laundry basket. Kleenex just doesn’t cut it anymore. My steps and thoughts go around in circles before I finally make a decision.
I will enter the enemy’s camp–grief, my Philistine beast.
I will face my enemy head on. After all, what have I got to lose? I pick up my Bible and press it tightly against my chest. I’m not going in there alone.
God, help me.
And, He does!
Taking some 3×5 index cards, I open my Bible and copy down meaningful passages of scripture.
“O LORD, from the depths of despair, I cry for your help: Hear me! Answer me! Help me!” Psalm 130:1-2
“For he has not despised my cries of deep despair, he has not turned and walked away. When I cried to him, he heard and came.” Psalm 22:24
Verse upon verse, card upon card. There’s a pile of truth mounting at my feet and it sends a shaft of light across grief’s inky black.
The Word is the sound of God in the camp of my enemy.
The verses I copy down remind me to open my mouth and pray through my pain.
Prayer is the sound of God in the camp of my enemy.
Praying reminds me to praise Him with my tears.
Praise is sound of God in the camp of my enemy.
Convinced I could not make it through the next moment, I realize an hour has passed and I’m still breathing.
My breath is the sound of God in the camp of my enemy.
The story of the four lepers ends when they plunder the abandoned camp of their enemies and share the spoils with others.
I must not keep the plunder from this battle all to myself.
Several hours later, a grieving friend calls. I read her the verses that, hours earlier, plucked me out of death’s grasp. We read the Word of God together. We pray. We cry. We praise. We plunder.