My husband writes me amazing cards. He always has. Not just cards, he also writes amazing poetry. I try to save them, and should have been more careful about it, because I am convinced that one day “The Poetry and Letters of Ryan Green” will make a great book. I can expect Ryan to write me something if it is my birthday, our anniversary, mother’s day, Valentine’s Day, or occasionally if we’ve gotten into an argument and he feels bad. He has written me beautiful things about our life together, many of them in the past few years about Joel, and so I’ve always wanted to share them here, but I never have. This time I will. What Ryan wrote me for Mother’s Day was beautiful, and somewhat prophetic, speaking to the questions I’ve had and the pain we’ve felt. Since he wrote me this card, things have shifted somewhat, almost as if, when Ryan takes the time to thoughtfully consider me, seeking God on my behalf and faithfully communicating what comes to his spirit for me, it allows God to pour out new life into my spirit. I bring this up just because it has made me wonder what kind of potential spouses have to bless each other spiritually, if we were all more intentional about taking the time to stop and reflect with God about our spouse and our circumstances.
I’ll post a photo of the card here, and then type out the words, because Ryan always makes his “cards” on sketch book paper, a simple illustration surrounded by the words that break my heart wide open.
photo (58)
“So here we are. The air is emptier without his laugh. Yet our hearts are still full, though with a different drink. And the ride we’ve been on for so long is silent, and so also the Lord. And so we sit here in this new silence. And long for the music to start again. And the disc to spin again even if it means going round and round for many more years, for at least we would be moving and Joel would be laughing here on Earth and not only in Heaven. But in this space I sense His silence is only because He is drawing His breath. And now we know love and longing: empty and full all in one moment. I am grateful that we loved him well. And that we miss him well. And I hope that in the Lord’s next breath He will whisper His love song to you, His beloved, and that you will know Him differently and more deeply. But now we grieve in silence, yet not without His presence.”
Part of my specific grief over Joel’s death has been that I always thought I would have a ministry of sharing Joel’s testimony. I was ready to speak and teach and declare the goodness of God, by displaying His glory in Joel’s miraculous life. When Joel died I felt untethered. I had been leading the women’s ministry at our church. I stepped away from that when we went to San Francisco, and even though no one put any pressure on me, I kept wondering how I would proceed in this particular women’s ministry and in ministry in general. Suddenly I had nothing to say. The things I felt so sure of were not givens anymore. I had so many questions and so few answers.
Caleb and Isaac are both involved in a really incredible Christian Dance program. They take hip-hop dance lessons. Their big performance was in early May, and the entire dance concert was about joy, and so many of the songs, and almost all the scriptures displayed on the screens were about healing. I wept subtly through a lot of the performances, realzing for the first time the magnitude of my brokenness. Joy and healing were like daggers in my wounded heart. One of the dances was to the song Exodus by Bethany Dillon, the song the boys and Ryan and I had danced to over and over again in our living room. Dancing around with my boys to that song was always play with a purpose, as we sang and danced and stomped we really were declaring “our enemies are at the bottom of the sea,” but there I sat without my son, his enemy, cancer, had not been defeated, he had been ripped from our family by a terrible disease. I openly cried through the whole song. I hate to acknowledge the extent of my woundedness, but I am convinced that we don’t allow ourselves to receive God’s grace for the wounds we don’t acknowledge. Just like we come to God for salvation, empty-handed admitting our sin and our need for a Saviour, I must approach the throne of grace now, admitting the brokenness of my heart, the fullness of my disappointment and my inability to understand or do anything to heal myself apart from the grace of God. I went home after the dance concert and laying in bed with Ryan, I talked with him about all the healing scriptures during the concert, so many of them specific promises I had held on to throughout Joel’s illness. I cried and told him “I wish that had all been true for us.” That night, I told Ryan I went from wondering how or when I would be able to step back into ministry to realizing that I really couldn’t lead a ministry. I couldn’t stand before people and declare those promises, I couldn’t urge people to live in victory and authority, the way I always assumed I would. I had nothing to say, nothing to lead people toward.
Not long after that tear-filled night, Ryan gave me the Mother’s day card, and a few days after that I was talking to Ryan about how odd I think it is that the gospel is very clear that we are to sacrifice our lives for the kingdom of God, dying daily to ourselves, and yet we preach from our churches “life application” messages, designed to improve our lives and make things easier and better for ourselves. I went on a familiar rant about how we spend years ministering to people over their broken marriage or their rebellious kids or “fill in your brokenness here” trying so hard to help them fix their life, and that I think it would be more scriptually sound to urge them to sacrifice their life instead of fixing it. I told Ryan that I wondered if, when people saw their lives wrecked, they turned their whole life over to serving God instead of focusing on fixing themselves, if God would not repair the brokenness so much more efficiently. What if our pain motivated us to give up on this life of satisfying ourselves and living for our own leisure, because our lives no longer felt worth hanging on to. Ryan looked at me, and said, point blank, “Ok, then what would you say to yourself?” I laughed uncomfortably and said, “shut up, I hate you!” (This is how Ryan and I joke.)
As much as I brushed off Ryan’s words, they stuck with me, and in the weeks that followed I continued to think about what he had said. I do like to encourage people to live victorious abundant lives, but I have known for a while that we only receive that fullness of life, that assurance of victory by sacrificing our lives. I realized that the message I want to share, that all of us need to be laying our lives down, is a message I am now uniquely qualified to share. Who was I to tell someone in the midst of the greatest pain of their life to stop trying to make their life more, but instead try to make their life less? Suddenly, I have permission to say to someone, “I’m sorry your life has been so crummy, give it away.” It’s a harsh message. I know that. It is too harsh of a message to be freely shared by someone who has not felt loss. Suddenly I saw that I do have a pathway to ministry, it’s just different from the path I wanted to walk. It takes a passion of my heart and allows me to share it in a different way, a more authentic way, and hopefully in a way that does not neglect hurt and broken people but gives them the ultimate hope that we were never meant to glorify our personal happiness anyway.
I shared my heart at a women’s ministry meeting, and told them I still wasn’t sure “when” I would re-enter ministry in a significant way, but that I think I had a clue of “how” I would re-enter ministry and it was that I would re-enter ministry empowered to speak about learning how to use the tragedy in our lives as a powerful motivator to sacrifice our lives in service to God. I suspect I have a long season of living that out before I share much about it, but it’s nice to see that pathway, even if it is dim and far off.
As I drove home from that meeting I sang in the car, the way I do, making up songs to God, (it’s kind of our thing. I always feel most intimate with God when I’m making up songs to him like a three-year-old,) and as I drove home I sang, again and again “Holy is the Lord who loves me.” I cried again (so much crying lately) and as I kept singing it, letting the meaning of the words soak deep into my spirit, I realized that as broken as I am, I know that God loves me and I know that He is holy, He is perfect, He is righteous, so even though I can’t, in my limited understanding, always reconcile those two things with Joel’s death, I know them to be true anyway. With that deep knowledge that “Holy is the Lord who loves me” I felt like God was beginning to speak to my heart again. As Ryan said, God was drawing his breath. He is not finished; He is just beginning, which is good, because there is a lot of work to be done in me.


There are 3 comments for this post.

  1. Leah on May 29, 2014 8:21 pm


  2. Anne on June 2, 2014 3:32 pm

    I read this post and I remembered how it was, the early stage of grieving for someone you love. In some ways, I envy you, because what you’re feeling is so raw, so painful and so pure. And you’re holding on to it, because by grieving, Joel still lives, if only in your memories. I get it.
    Amy, the Lord does not want you to sacrifice your life, your joy, to just serve Him because you’re in such a painful place that your life doesn’t really matter right now. What He wants is even more incredible: He wants you to live fully, love deeply, even with the brokenness that now exists inside you. And you’re reading this and saying no, I can’t do that. To move forward in a world that no longer contains Joel is a betrayal of my love for him, and I must hold on tightly to my grief, because a world that has moved on without him is just too much to bear.
    What I’m saying is the absolute truth. You will never forget Joel. There will always be a part of you, and for everyone who loved him, that will be a broken place that will never be healed. That’s OK. But you will embrace your life again eventually, and the Lord will love you even more, because your brokenness will give you a special empathy and compassion to those who also suffer that you never had before.
    You are beautiful even with your broken heart and spirit, and you are being molded into someone even more amazing as a result of it.
    I wish you healing and eventual peace.

  3. Amorette on June 5, 2014 10:01 pm

    Dearest Amy…Your family is constantly in my thoughts and prayers! I pray that Papa will fill your heart with his joy and peace. Our family has been walking through a big trial the past almost 2 years, but I can say there is a light at the end of the tunnel and we are almost there! I know personally the healing and peace that can fill your heart when Papa God touches it! I think we experience trials so that we can use our experiences to help others and to bring glory to God! I pray you find where you fit when God’s time is right because I know you are going to bless so many with what you have been through. You have already been such a strong amazing woman through all of this, but I think there is so much more God has planned that you don’t even yet know! I pray for an infusion of peace and joy for you right now! Lots of love to you and your whole family today!

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