Monday, March 30, 2009

A Grace Disguised

Currently, I am in the middle of reading 4 different books. I have no idea why I can't just read one cover-to-cover and then pick up a new one. For some reason, this just seems to work better for me.

I recently started reading A Grace Disguised by Jerry Sittser. Sittser is a professor or religion and received his MDiv from Fuller Theological Seminary. He is also a bereaved parent. A man who lost his mother. A widower. He lost all three of these people, his youngest daughter, his mother, and his wife, in one tragic car accident in 1996.

I am only on page 75 of this book, but boy, does Sittser get it. He has lived it. He continues to live it, even 13 years later.

In his second chapter, entitled Whose Loss is Worse?, he talks about how all people suffer loss, but that really it's useless to compare losses. He does make a distinction, however, between natural and predictable losses and catastrophic, devastating, irreversible losses. The natural predictable losses include things like growing up... losing your youth, but gaining adulthood; or, watching your child get married... "losing" your child, but gaining a son or daughter in law.

Then there are the catastrophic, devastating, irreversible losses. About these, Sittser writes, "If normal, natural, reversible loss is like a broken limb, then catastrophic loss is like an amputation. The results are permanent, the impact incalculable, the consequences cumulative. Each new day forces one to face some new devastating dimension of the loss. It creates a whole new context for one's life."

He continues this sort of analogy in chapter 5. Sittser talks about a couple named Andy and Mary, whose daughter, Sarah, was born with cerebral palsy. Sarah's health and development are not good, and their marriage is suffering.

Sittser writes, "Andy and Mary will never 'recover' from their loss. Nor can they. Can anyone really expect to recover from such tragedy, considering the value of what was lost and the consequences of that loss? Recovery is a misleading and empty expectation. We recover from broken limbs, not amputations. Catastrophic loss, by definition precludes recovery. It will transform or destroy us, but it will never leave us the same. There is no going back to the past which is gone forever, only going ahead to the future, which has yet to be discovered. What ever the future is, it will, and must, include the pain of the past with it. sorrow never entirely leaves the soul of those who have suffered a severe loss. If anything, it may keep going deeper."

Sittser continues on to talk about how that sorrow is in fact a sign of strength and authenticity; and how in Matthew 5, Jesus tells us that, "Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted."

I suppose all of this just really resonated with me. It resonated with me that "recovering" isn't really an option because a deep, tragic loss forever changes you. It doesn't mean that you will be remain forever in the pit of sorrow and despair; because by God's grace, He meets us there and carries us through.

What hit me the most was when Sittser talked about how catastrophic loss has the power to transform or destroy us, but will never leave us the same. I am keenly aware that I will be forever changed. And as I spent time thinking about being transformed or destroyed, so many pieces of scripture came to mind...

But we have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us. We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed.
~ 2 Corinthians 4:7-9

He has made everything beautiful in its time. He has also set eternity in the hearts of men; yet they cannot fathom what God has done from beginning to end. ~ Ecclesiastes 3:11

I thought a lot about that Ecclesiastes verse... about how in His time, God will make beauty from ashes. He has already started to... by His grace, God has allowed me to see glimpses of how Isaac's life and legacy are being used for good. He has set eternity in our hearts... a yearning for heaven that I had never known before; a complete shift in how I even view time. And all the while, I still can't get my head around how this fits into God's great plan. I don't understand why Isaac couldn't have been healed. But part of the grace God has shown me has been in the fact that He is enabling me to start slowly becoming more okay with not getting an answer as to "why," but to simply trust Him.

I am excited to finish the rest of this book... to read more about Sittser's journey and all that God has shown him.

I know I am not finished this book yet, but I have to say, that of all the books I've read, I would rank it up there with When I Lay My Isaac Down. This book is great if you've experienced a loss, or if you're the friend or loved one of someone who has and you're seeking to understand their pain. Sittser's honesty and authenticity about his pain, but also about the hope he has in our God, has just really touched my heart.


Chelsea Pang said...

I love those verses in Chorinthians and Ecclesiastes, thank you for recommending this book!

ReadyAim said...

Stacy, I have been following your blog for quite some time as well as blogs of other parents with sick kids or angels in heaven (you know how the blog thing works...)

Anyway, I want to let you know that I think your posts are incredibly helpful. I cannot speak as a bereaved parent, but I have friends who have lost children and want to be a help, not a hurt and your ability to share makes that much more likely.

I have found that with my own losses it has been very helpful to hear the stories of others who have "been there". I believe you are helping other parents who are walking along the same path as you.

Yours is a true love story and your faith is growing the kingdom of heaven. You are in my prayers as you miss Isaac. Rest assured, he has touched many lives.


Willemien said...

thanks for this blog! Really inspiring.

a warm greeting


Devon said...

its my year later and i am still trying to finish it. there is just so much good stuff in that...i've definently taken my time.

its helped me immensely!

Mr. and Mrs. B said...

Stacy, I haven't heard of this book before now, but am hungry to hear more of what lies in this author's heart and his experiences. I'm so touched that you are so honest in sharing your journey. Your humility and honesty reaches people more than you'll ever know.
Thank You.

Anonymous said...

My heart truly aches for you in your loss. I can't say I know how you feel because nobody does. A friend lost her husband (a pastor)and one daughter in a car accident on Friday. Would you recommend these books for my friend? I wish there was something I could do for her.

Kris said...

Hi Stacy- I have been reading and lurking on your blog for a long time. All of your posts are so well written and always give me so much to think about.

Although I am not a bereaved parent, I have friends and cousins who've experieced this catastropic loss in their lives. I deeply mourn for you and for all parents who have lost their child.

My grandparents lost their daughter when she was 36. I was only 9 at the time, but I remember my grandpa saying that parents are not supposed to lose their children. This resonates with me today as I support friends and family who are bereaving the loss of their children.

Thank you so much for writing such helpful posts. I am so sorry for the loss of your beautiful baby boy and I think about you and Spencer often. Every time I open your blog I look at Isaac and it brings a smile to my face because of the joy he brought to your life.

Thinking of you,

etrhodes said...

Thanks for the book suggestion. Totally get how you feel about our hearts being set on eternity. One of the first things that gave me any comfort at all last year was when I felt like the Lord spoke to me and said that through our circumstances He was preparing my family for eternity. Praying along with you that it will come quickly!

Sonya said...

Thank you for sharing this book and I am so glad that it speaks to you. I know you have been searching for a way to put into words and make people understand that you will be forever changed by Isaac and I think this post says that wonderfully!

Kelly @ The Beauty of Sufficient Grace said...

Your words so resonate and point toward His truth. He does make beauty from ashes (and He already is!) He does make all things beautiful in His time. He does place eternity in the hearts of men. And He does carry us through with His grace. I love how the author wrote that walking this journey can either "transform or destroy" but we will never be the same. That is so true and so well-written. You have already have so much to give to those walking this path, Stacy and I'm so grateful for your willingness to share the wisdom you're gleaning. Thank you for your words, for sharing this book, and for these wonderful scriptures. Praying God's continued comfort and sufficient grace on your journey...

Misty Rice-Baniewicz said...

Im am the worst at finishing any book I start, so for that reason I dont' start many. BUT... I like reading your post on parts of the book, and I feel I get a win-win by it, so post again as you get further in the book if you will. I enjoyed it.

Hope you had a peaceful and joyful weekend friend.

Sammy said...

Thank you for sharing Stacy, those words just resonate in my heart. Thank you for helping me to understand xxx

Miche said...

My reading list grows longer and longer because of you lately :)I'm glad you are enjoying it.

Anonymous said...

I'm glad you're reading this book. I've read it twice--once after each loss-and it continues to speak to me.

And I must thank you for recommending "The One Year Book of Hope"--I am working my way through that and God is really using it in my life. Still praying for you...


Rebecca Louise. said...

Those verses are so beautiful! I love that this book speaks volumes to you x. :)

KK said...

Since I loved Carol Kent's book, I think now I'll surely have to find this one too. Thanks for your recommendation and this beautiful post. Praying without ceasing for your family,
Matthew 21:22

Misty Rice-Baniewicz said...

Just saying hello.

Erika said...

This is one of my most favoirte books of all time! I just sent it to a friend today, in fact, who had a massive brain stroke last year at age 25 and lives daily with its effects. Love, love, love this book- can't recommend it enough. Thinking of you, praying for you, and excited to hear about Isaac's Memorial Golf Weekend (in the top post)- such a blessing! ((((hugs)))

Anonymous said...

I just came across your blog. I was given "A Grace Disguised" to read after my husband and our 9 year old son and only child were killed in a private plane crash. It is an awesome book.