My husband was also my pastor! Let that sink in for a moment. For any of you that love going to church and eagerly look forward to the sermon your pastor is going to deliver, imagine coming to church the next Sunday and he’s gone. For our little congregation and community he faithfully ministered to, this was their reality as well. Now, imagine that you got the chance to be married to a pastor, explore his mind, glean from his wisdom, mentally spar with each other as you both dissect the Word to go as deep as you are able to in your current place spiritually. I like to say that Clint had a beautiful mind!! Oh, how I miss his mind!! Sometimes I am afraid I will forget his words. I worry I will “lose” my way. How grateful I am that he did not have that beautiful mind by any of his own doing!! Any wisdom, direction, beauty, knowing, came from the God of the Universe that holds it all and can and will dispense it to me as often as I need it…this I KNOW!!
I’ve been wrestling with guilt a lot lately!! Clint encouraged my wrestling with God! I have never been that person to believe anything just because someone tells me to or says it works for them. The last thing I want is a crutch, even if it feels good, because truth is far more important to me than my comfort! So, I’ve been wrestling. Clint encouraged it, because he said when I was done, I’d own it and no one could EVER take it away from me!
I could just be in a phase of grief. I’m too close to the tragedy to have perspective. But, one thing I DO KNOW, is that whether this place of courage, strength, hope, and love for my Savior lasts, one thing will remain, no matter my emotions, HOPE & LOVE! Even as I wrote that, I thought of I Corinthians 13:13 “And now abide faith, hope, love, these three; but the greatest of these is love.” Why is love greatest? Because it’s a build-up! Faith in the unseen causes us to SEE! WHEN we SEE, we are able to move to HOPE! And when we hope, we build endurance because we are not disappointed (if our hope is in Christ)! Finally, when we have exercised faith and hope, we find ourselves falling in LOVE with our Savior!! And, Oh, what a Savior He is!! This is where my HOPE is found!! This is where my strength is found!!
I feel like a walking oxymoron!! How in the world can I hurt like this and be stronger than I’ve ever been in my entire life!?!?!?! To some degree, I feel like a walking wii character. I’m the character on the screen, but someone else is moving me. His name is Jesus! So, why the guilt? I don’t feel “normal”. Clint informed me often that I wasn’t “normal” 😉 LOL!! He would add that he wasn’t either…in fact, none of us are 😉 Sorry to break it to you!
No one likes feeling abnormal though! In many ways, I already feel in a very lonely place in this big world as a young widow. Apparently, according to statistics, I’m now in 1% of the nation’s population — this doesn’t make me feel special 😉 ! I’ve been in this lonely place before, when I got married at 17…but that’s a story for another day 😉 I don’t want to feel more “weird” by not fitting in with others who are in this same place. But, here’s the thing…I KNOW WHO has me! I was blessed with an amazing husband who encouraged me to find myself! God used him to set me free, so to speak!!
Before any of this happened, I was preparing to give my testimony in our church. As I was preparing, I was trying to decide what verse best fit my life and asking God to help me identify it. I had many I liked, but just never felt I had one that was “mine”. I grabbed a t-shirt to wear for that day when I’d stand to tell my story. I tell you, when I had purchased it, I NEVER read what it said! I just thought it was cute 😉 Little did I know, until I looked at the shirt in the mirror, that the shirt I was wearing held the very verse that has become and continues to be my life verse!!!! I don’t believe in coincidences!!! That was God!! I immediately ran to my Bible to read what the whole passage said and here were my favorite parts!
Psalm 118:6, 13, 14, 17, & 21 —
vs. 6- “The Lord is on my side; I will not fear. What can man do to me??”
vs. 13-14 – (Here’s my absolute favorite) “You pushed me violently, that I might fall, But the Lord helped me!!!!!!! (all the exclamation points are mine 😉 ) The Lord is my strength and song. And He has become my salvation!” — The “You” in that verse always felt like people in my life growing up that made me feel controlled and trapped in my circumstances. I know now that people have never been my enemy. Now, even more than ever, I know who my enemy is. He has been trying to push me “violently” my whole life! But…
vs. 17 – (Okay, maybe I lied…this may be my most favorite!) “I SHALL NOT DIE, BUT LIVE, AND DECLARE THE WORKS OF THE LORD!!!!!!!” — I WILL NOT DIE!! THIS IS NOT THE END!!
vs 21 – “I WILL praise You!! For You HAVE answered me, and have BECOME my salvation!” — I KNOW where I’m going!! And, this life is short (sometimes it doesn’t feel short enough, but in all reality, it is short!) and Jesus and Clint’s guiding words WILL get me through this!!
Okay, I may or may not be dancing right now!!
As I stood giving my testimony that day in our little church, Clint stood with me…right beside me. He gave me such strength! He demonstrated a faith to me that left me feeling like he was other worldly! Not long after he went to Heaven, I laid on my bed sobbing! I know I can’t get more of God than I already have. The moment we accept Christ as our Savior, we have all of the Holy Spirit we can get! But, I laid on my bed and begged God, that if it were possible, give me the strength of faith Clint had…like in the account of Elijah leaving Elisha in 2 Kings 2:9 “When they had crossed over, Elijah said to Elisha, “Ask what I shall do for you before I am taken from you.” And Elisha said, “Please, let a double portion of your spirit be upon me.”
I don’t believe God gave me Clint’s faith. But here’s what I do believe: I’m tired of guilt!! I KNOW God is not in the guilt business! As a wonderful mentor told me yesterday, “You honor God and Clint in this place of strength!” It doesn’t mean I’ll always feel strong or courageous or like “doing” this life. But, one thing I know for sure — LOVE NEVER FAILS!! In the “good” days or the horrible days, I need to take the advice of MANY godly people in my life that are encouraging me to be thankful! I am learning like Paul to be content in whatever situation I am — the good the bad and the ugly!
You know, here’s the thing — all of us have “stuff”! But NO ONE does anything TO me!! I GET to choose!! And, I refuse to back down or let up! There is a fire in me! There always has been! But, it’s burning now! It’s a deep knowing!
As usual, here are a couple songs that resonate with me lately! One is Christian and one is not, but the non Christian one is really helping me to let go of my guilt!
Here are some of the lyrics in this song and WHY I like them:
“I am not a stranger to the dark. Hide away, they say, ’cause we don’t want your broken parts (abuse leaves you feeling that way). I’ve learned to be ashamed of all my scars. Run away, they say, (the enemy of our souls tells us this all the time! I’m so sick of his lies!) No one will love you as you are (God used my sweet man to love me no matter what and he put a “face” on Jesus). But, I won’t let them (for me, this is the enemy!) break me down to dust, I KNOW that there’s a place for us, for we are glorious (I am a child of the KING!). When the sharpest words wanna cut me down, I’m gonna send a flood, gonna drown them out. I AM BRAVE! I AM PROOF I am who I’m meant to be, THIS IS ME!!! Look out, ’cause here I come! And, I’m marching on the beat I drum (JESUS IS my drummer!)! I’m not scared to be seen (I refuse to live in the guilt anymore!) I make NO apologies, THIS IS ME!! Another round of bullets hits my skin. Well, fire away, ’cause TODAY, I WON’T let the shame (or guilt or fear or lies) sink in! We are bursting through the barricades & reach above the sun (I AM a Warrior — God has made me so! And, what He wills, NO ONE can stop!). There’s nothing I’m not worthy of! (Seriously!! I am a child of the KING!! I’m soooo done with the enemy! I can choose to not let him steal one single thing more from me!! NOT TODAY!! I GET TO CHOOSE!)
I GET TO CHOOSE!
I GET TO CHOOSE!
Here’s one last song…if you’re still reading…after 1,641 words, I’ve probably lost everyone 😉 The last song is self explanatory!
One last thing…please don’t mistake my strength for lack of pain! I think that’s why I’m afraid to speak up about where I’m at. It’s so scary to me to show what God is doing in me for fear that people will think I’m not sad or I’m “moving on” or I must not have really loved Clint. THIS COULD NOT BE FURTHER FROM THE TRUTH!!!! I LIVE in pain! I cry nearly EVERY DAY…most days, multiple times. I live for the moment I get to see Jesus and my Love again!! I will NEVER get over Clint! God used him to rescue me, he put a face on Jesus, he loved me in a way that I was able to activate my faith and find the real me, he gave me the 4 most beautiful children on the planet (sorry, but I’m a bit biased)! Jesus used Clint to be the key player on this planet to make my story not turn out into a missing person’s file. My strength is not lack of pain — it is VICTORY! I know Whose I am! I live loved! I KNOW my purpose! Do you know yours?