Move Forward {A Visit to the Cemetery}

I rounded the sharp curve on the rural road.

That’s it.  We’re here.

And with those words I pulled into the gravel on the side of the road.

Five years.

I had not seen or sat in this place for five years – intentionally.

I kept my sunglasses on, a shield against the bright sun and a veil for my emotion.  No turning back now.

A friend had volunteered to go with me.  She breaks the silence by offering to stay in the car.  “Do you need to go alone? I can stay here and wait.  Whatever you’d like.”

I consider her offer. I don’t really want to do this alone.

We open the doors. It’s a beautiful day. The wind’s blowing, the sun’s shining, and somehow I know this is God saying welcome.

I realize my idle chatter about wearing flip flops and the mushy ground is just that – idle.  Pointless.  I don’t want to be overcome with emotion and the only way to keep it in check is to chatter.  So I do.

Slowly, we walk among the headstones, reading name after name of those who have passed from this life.  We stop periodically, reading tributes and noting dates.

Beloved Husband.

Infant Girl.

Loving Wife.

1815, 1923, 1942, 1981, 2005.

Some stones are new and shiny. Others are broken, mossy, and unreadable.

I pause occasionally and explain my relationship to the one listed on the headstone.  Great aunts and uncles seem to surround me.  So much loss.  Connected to every stone is a family missing a loved one.

We keep walking; before I know it, I am there.  My grandpa’s grave marker directly in front of me, and I know….my dad’s is on the backside.

I last stood in this spot on January 10, 2008.  I listened as my childhood friend, Chad, honored my dad.  I watched as a family friend stood in the background beside the machine that would move dirt, covering my dad’s casket.

Misting rain, cool winds, and gloomy skies. How appropriate for this day that none of us had seen coming.  The rain matched my tears, the winds my shifting emotions, and the gloomy sky my heavy heart.

But, on this day, the weather symbolized the passing of those tears, emotions, and heaviness.

The clear sky reminds me God is clearing my heart of bitterness and anger.  No daddy’s girl ever understands such an untimely death. The blowing winds remind me God is ushering in a new day, a new outlook, and healing.   The bright blue skies remind me God is my Creator.  He is in control.  He is sovereign, and his timing is always prefect.

I stare at my dad’s headstone, talking  to him in my heart.  I miss you.  I love you.  You’d love the kiddos that Hannah and Owen have become.  You’d love the friend standing behind me.  I am sorry I didn’t bring flowers. You wouldn’t have wanted me to waste the money anyway.  It’s a beautiful day, Dad.  You’d be camping or on the front porch watching cars pass.  I work at a homeless shelter now. You’d love hanging out there and talking to the people since you love story as much as me.  Owen does too. I live in Ohio now, but I still love the Mountaineers.  Steve is good.  He’s still loving me despite me as you always did.  Life is good, Dad.  You did good in so many ways.

And, finally…

I am so sorry I’ve not been here before now.  I couldn’t come.  I am an avoider, Dad. You know that.  I got it from you. But, I am here today.  To say I love you and move forward.

Move forward.

How in the world do we do that?  After we lose a loved one. After the divorce.  After the cancer.  After the harsh words.  After the unfair decision. After the job loss.  After the affair.  After the sin.  After feeling forgotten, forsaken, and unloved.

How do we move forward? 

How can we even want to heal when pain is predictable and forward is foreign? 

In Ruth 3:3, Naomi tells Ruth to put on her best clothes.  Ruth will no longer live with Naomi; it’s time for her to move forward, seeking a husband.

My Bible study followed this verse with…

We have known a time when God asked us to take off our clothes of mourning, clinging, grasping, wishing, hoping, striving, even praying for something…and move forward…The Lord asked me how long I was going to mourn for the old because, indeed, he had something new for me ahead.  It was time for me to move forward – without my mourning clothes.  Here’s the deal:  When we’re wrapped in garments of mourning, we’re unavailable for whatever else God has for us. In a sense, we take ourselves out of the game…My simple hope is when God has held us, healed us, and lifted our heads, that we’d be ready to move forward with Him; and though our hearts may always ache, we won’t stay in mourning clothes forever.

And then the author asked…

Do you sense that God is asking you to throw off some weighty garments? 

Unforgiveness, bitterness, anger, discontentment, jealousy, mourning, or anything else that might be keeping you in a stagnant place?

My heart whispered yes.

Unforgiveness turning to bitterness?  Check.  Over a year’s passed since the event, but I know there’s some unforgiveness in my heart lurking on any given day.

Jealousy feeding discontentment?  Check.  Doesn’t it seem everyone else has a perfect life?  They smile back at you via Facebook photos, enjoying a night out with the girls while you burn yet another meal.

It’s time to change our clothes.  No more mourning clothes.  No more unforgiving and jealous clothes….

21 Since you have heard about Jesus and have learned the truth that comes from him, 22 throw off your old sinful nature and your former way of life, which is corrupted by lust and deception. 23 Instead, let the Spirit renew your thoughts and attitudes. 24 Put on your new nature, created to be like God—truly righteous and holy. Ephesians 4:1-24

10 Put on your new nature, and be renewed as you learn to know your Creator and become like him. Colossians 3:10

18 Forget the former things; do not dwell on the past. 19 See, I am doing a new thing! Now it springs up; do you not perceive it? Isaiah 43:18-19

Do you need to move forward?  Putting on a new self and refusing to dwell in the past?

If so, begin by letting the Spirit renew your thoughts and attitudes.  Memorize and dwell on and in His Word.  Pursue holiness. Be thankful.

Trust in Him, leaning not on your own understanding.  (Proverbs 3:5-6)

Surrender to Him.  (Matthew 10:39)

Find rest in Him. (Matthew 11:28-30)

Transform through the renewing of your mind. (Romans 1:1-2)

Live thankful. (1 Thessalonians 5:18 and Psalm 30: 11-12)

Abandon self to Him and for Him. Meditate on His Word. Commit to prayer. Listen for His voice.  Wait on Him always. 

Can I pray for you as you “change your clothes”?  I’d love to intercede for you.

Comments

  1. Mary Ann Cline says:

    Sarah,
    I read most of what you write on here. Read it, think on it, study it and enjoy it. Im not well written so I usually don’t leave a comment. Your words are comforting, encouraging, and truthful. Today I leave a simple but tearful “Thank you”.
    Mary Ann

    • Awwww….thanks, Mary Ann. I know this hits home for you too, as you lost your daddy way too young. I pray that somehow something in this post encourages you to look up and not back always. Much love!

  2. I could really use a good woman of God to pray for me. I have been living in the past for so long. Time to change my clothes. Thanks for your posts. I don’t think you realize the impact you are having.

    • Thanks for those words of encouragement, Jess. I pray that whoever needs to read each post somehow finds it:) I will add you to my PILE OF PRAYERS…it’s my stack of notecards I pray through daily. Praying that you can not dwell in the past but look forward in Christ, putting on new clothes. God bless!

  3. Thanks for your post. Missing my mom. It’s only been a couple weeks. Trusting God will continue to help us through this. You are a blessing and I enjoy your posts.

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