by Heather Spring
There are good anniversaries and ones that feel… ummm… well, not so good.
Holly and I wanted to write a little something for those that might be in the same boat as we—the “man-that-day-really-stinks boat.” We said goodbye to James and Scott on August 1, 2000. And ever since, that day hasn’t been the same. We’ve traveled to many a place, sharing our story, and we’ve met many others that have their own day—those no-good-rotten days that linger on the calendar, staring us in the face, begging us to crumble under the pain they symbolize.
We’re sharing this post on our “day” in hopes that we can speak a bit about what we’ve learned over the past 13 years regarding difficult anniversaries. Wow, I need to pause for a moment…
Has it really been 13 years?
God is good.
Four years ago, on this particular day, I was nine months prego, and had this amazing moment with God. My no-good-rotten day had actually snuck up on me. That was a first for me! On top of that, some of my good friends were throwing me a baby shower to celebrate Zachariah’s soon arrival. I had agreed to this?! What was I thinking? (a.k.a. baby brain) This all occurred to me on my fifth trip to the bathroom that night. (a.k.a. baby kicking bladder) So all of a sudden I sat there, wide-eyed, in shock that I had not been dreading the day. In fact, I was planning to celebrate on this day! Woah! Talk about God’s redemption at work. As my head pressed against my pillow, in the wee hours of an August 1st morning, I started running through my usual pattern of “anniversary” thought. I recalled what I had done that morning in 2000. I cringed again about the argument James and I had before he left the house. I remembered watching the clock for his return so that I could apologize. I thought about how I went to bed that night not knowing that he was already holding the hand of Jesus… his faith had been made sight. I recalled the waiting, the watching, the bargaining with God, and the “whys.” I remembered the moment when our worst fears were made reality as over 24 hours later we received the news that there had been an accident.
Sigh. Deep breath.
All these memories were running through my mind on that morning four years ago as I curled up underneath my covers. All this remembering created a very odd feeling in me, to be honest. I sat there going through the fatal turn of events, just like I always seemed to do on that day, yet at the same time, my heart’s voice whispered, “Lord, is it okay that I’m remembering?” As quickly as I had uttered those words, another memory transported me to my past. I was on a hillside. I could almost feel the stillness of that dark night as I stood questioning God. Etched into my being, alone before the King of Kings, I came to understand comfort that is not of this world. A broken and desperate widow experienced God’s nearness that proved He indeed loved this seemingly insignificant human being. He spoke over my life in my darkest hours. Grace upon grace.
“God, I’m remembering… is that okay?” You see, I was conflicted. I almost felt guilty about reminiscing. A few inches to my right was my husband Dallas. I could hear him inhaling and exhaling. I couldn’t be more thankful for the gift God had given me in his companionship. And then to my left was a monitor that hummed with sounds from my son Noah’s room.
“Lord, You have never left my side. Your plans are completely beyond my wildest imaginations!” I said, as I ran my hand back and forth on my round abdomen that cradled Zachariah. “Lord, Is it okay that I’m remembering?” Sometimes you can’t help but sound like a broken record.
In God-fashion, at the perfect moment, He answered my question with a question. (Another one of His specialties.) “What does the name Zachariah mean?”
I was silenced and awed as I recalled my many Google searches, desperate to choose the perfect name for our little boy. I responded, “Zachariah means God remembers.”
God spoke into my August 1sts and wanted me to know that not only should I remember; but I need to understand that He remembers. He remembers those moments even clearer than I do. As I close my eyes and mentally walk the roads of my past, I dare not miss the moments He carried me… us. His otherness still leaves me speechless. And as I linger on each moment in time, He desperately wants me to understand that His love for me has never failed, that He is enough for ANYTHING that I would and will ever walk through, and that He is a God that doesn’t forget. And as I remember, I can rest in the truth that He remembers me… the gal that gets it wrong more than she gets it right. This heart wanders, only to be reminded that His cross is more than enough.
You know I had thought Dallas and I chose Zachariah’s name… but we didn’t. He did. God picked it out and blessed me with the revelation that the sweet little smile I would come to know is actually a daily reminder that God remembers.
It might sound odd, but I can’t stop thinking about Easter today.
Easter is really the only thing that I can think of to compare to tough anniversaries.
Good Friday: complex emotions over the death of one you love.
Saturday: grieving, processing, holding out hope for the promises spoken about Sunday! We wait and hope—believing that LIFE will come from death!
SUNDAY: Our hearts leap as the day breaks on Easter morning and we celebrate the empty grave! Christ completed what He was asked to do on the cross. ONLY GOD could tell death to “shove it!”
August 1 is not the end to our story… or James’ or Scott’s. It’s part of the story, but the story is SO much bigger than that! There are places in me, and maybe you, that beg us to get stuck in our Fridays. We mourn. We don’t move on. We can’t look forward. We get stuck in the pain, trapped in the sorrow of Friday. But we can’t miss out on Saturday! I know Sunday’s the BIG day, but a lot can happen in us on Saturday. It’s a testing of faith—of living out what we believe—of hoping that indeed Sunday will come! We cling to the promise that He will come for us! There will be an end to our suffering, the injustice, the tears, and the horrific news stories! Sunday will be AH-MAZ-ING! But we can’t miss living anchored to hope while we endure Saturday.
With all that said, we share with you 3 things to think about on your no-good-rotten day(s):
1. Remember your Friday. Don’t fight the desire to remember or “busy” yourself in an effort to ignore this natural response to loss and disappointment. If we strive to disengage our heart, we miss moments of growth. So go ahead: remember, talk about it, re-live moments. BUT… don’t get stuck in your “Friday.” At some point, you stop looking back, and you set your eyes forward.
2. Make Saturday your Thanksgiving. You might think it would be a hard thing to do on a day that your heart is so heavy, but I promise thanksgiving is key. Whether it’s mental or you choose to sit down and put pen to paper, once you begin a list of thanksgiving, you may be surprised at how quickly you’ll see the presence of God even in the midst of your darkest day. Gratitude is good for the soul and it is healing to recognize, verbalize, and credit the hand of God. When we focus on our pain, we can get jaded and angry. Thanksgiving opens up our eyes to see life from an entirely new perspective. While you dwell in your Saturday, awaiting the promise of Sunday, build your faith by recognizing the blessings all around you.
3. Set your heart on Sunday. I’ve spent some anniversaries lingering on #1 waaaay too long. I’ve wallowed, licked my wounds, and drug others down with me. If you are a believer, then get this IN you: THIS IS ALL TEMPORARY! This is not our forever home! Eternity is set in our hearts (Ecc. 3:11). Do you feel it? Let the promise of Sunday usher in peace as you are reminded that the suffering we endure here on earth will be incomparable to the hope and glory that will be revealed on Sunday! (Romans 8:18)
Lastly, we wanted to highlight 3 anniversary surprises:
1. Sometimes I cry, sometimes I don’t. Don’t feel bad either way. Most of the time I don’t and it surprises me, it might be because I’ve cried off and on the week that leads up to this day. My emotions are on !HIGH Alert! the entire month of July and then when I expect total meltdown, I have a peace that passes all MY understanding! He’s good like that.
2. Irritability. That’s just a nice way of saying that I can be a bit grouchy and easily angered leading up to my day. (Holly more so than me—just kidding!) Little things that shouldn’t be a big deal suddenly become a BIG DEAL! I call it “subconscious grieving.” I’m thankful for a God that understands our weaknesses and brings healing and freedom from even a July-hot-head. It’s been good for me to understand this “anniversary surprise” so I can fight against it. My sweet hubby and children have shown me much grace and love as they live with this sporadic “side-effect”.
3. You don’t have to hide. You might be surprised by this, but it’s okay to let others know that a painful anniversary is coming up. I’m not saying you need to post weird, mysterious, FB statuses, but I am saying call on a friend. Be vulnerable. I know you might say, “different strokes for different folks,” but the fact is God calls us to community. We need one another! Don’t wait for someone to magically “remember” your hard day. Invite someone in. Maybe it’s someone you know really well, or maybe it’s someone who “knows” what you’re going through because they’ve experienced something similar.
I know this is a longer post than usual, but I hope that it encourages you on some level today… or on your no-good-rotten day! He can REDEEM your Friday!