My Grief Experienced

It’s been six months since Will and I left our school and home behind to move into a new life and a new home. Marriage has been wonderful and life has been hard. Both of us bear the scars of rejection. Both of us wonder when it will happen next.

In January, I suffered a collapse due to stress and a damaged, over-worked brain. Will and I spent the next month surviving and consulting concussion experts. Recovery has been slow but steady. I’ve crossed a bucket-list item off and discovered a talent for pottery. A ladies’ Bible study occupies some of my time. Will is in a new job and gearing up for a new master’s degree. It seems as though we’re drifting in a calm harbor.

Meanwhile, I have been inundated with God’s mercy and gentle tugging towards healing—emotional and spiritual. This week he is inviting me to grieve my losses. It makes me laugh, albeit sardonically. I’ve lost so much, where should I start? And if I do, will I ever stop?

Nevertheless, loss after loss has come to mind. And somehow, God is holding back my walls as I truly feel what I no longer have. Today was a difficult loss. Possibly the worst I’ve faced. I lost my health, which is difficult enough, but it cost me something precious. Several years ago, I discovered a love for martial arts. I practiced constantly, nearly lived at the dojo, and dedicated myself to it.

I excelled. I flourished. There is nothing else that I have ever experienced that gives me such a sense of life and purpose. It was as though I was made to kick, strike, throw, parry, and grapple. I felt the presence of God as I moved through forms of strikes, blocks, and throws. Stepping onto the mat was a haven—from the world, my struggles, and spiritual estrangement. I was home. I was in His presence. And I was the person He created me to be.

Now it’s all gone. With so many concussions and injuries, I don’t know if I will ever be able to find a safe dojo where I can train consistently. I will never be able to compete. And I will never be able to teach. I have to be extremely careful of how I train and with whom. One misplaced strike, one wrong fall and I will have another concussion. My brain can’t sustain another one.

The most heart-breaking question I have is why God would let me discover such life if He was just going to take it away? Is He punishing me?

Most will think I’m overdramatic or that I should be focusing on the miracle that my brain still functions at all. To focus on the short time I got to experience such life and freedom. To recognize the gift of being able to stand and walk, much less kick. Eventually perspective will win. I will see God’s hand or I’ll just trust it’s for and not against me. But right now, I’m grieving my loss—no more and no less, not my sister’s or a stranger’s, but mine. No one has to understand. No one has to care. Because God does.

Limits to Love

I was stringently warned not to marry Will in light of his disorder. Disaster was all that would come of moving the wedding up nine months. They worried that Will would be in the hospital the following day; or he’d turn into an abusive monster; or I’d be forever stuck picking up his pieces.

All of them insisted that they loved Will dearly, but they wouldn’t wish his disorder on anyone—particularly me. That is how this whole situation has been—“We love Will, but….” I thought love was supposed to be unconditional? Maybe unconditional love is reserved for that certain brand of perceived perfection—you know the ones: talented, charismatic, flawlessly groomed, dynamic, inspirational….

Newsflash: that was—and still is—Will.

I’ve always feared inescapable abusive relationships. When Will was manic this summer, saying and doing things that were so contrary to his character, I was afraid. Would the man I loved become abusive? Was that the horror that awaited me if I stayed with him? I hoped not.

Despite the uncertainty, I was reminded that God went out of his way to bring us together, despite our bullheadedness, and that I loved him. He was—and is—my choice.

I have entrusted my life, safety, and well-being into Will’s hands in many ways in our two-year friendship. Saying “yes” and marrying him was the most forceful, tangible way to show Will and everyone else that I trust God and, by extension, Will.

I didn’t want to be like everyone who said, “I love Will, but….” The people who have forgotten that Will has been the most compassionate, influential person in his communities. That he has defended the weak and small, challenged the strong, encouraged the frustrated, and inspired the young.

That is the man I married. Not the bipolar guy. Did I marry him because he needs me? No. Because I’m a saint? Hardly.

I am one of the weak, hurt, frustrated people he has loved. Yes, I am strong, determined, stubborn, and intelligent. But I am chronically injured and have CTE (Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy).

Since we wed, Will has taken care of me. He has half-carried me up and down mountains, held my hand during doctors’ appointments, comforted me as I cried, made me breakfast, and done the dishes. Yes, he still has bi-polar. Yes, one day our roles will reverse and I will take him to the doctor. But that’s what marriage—what love—is: being present, selfless, and unconditional.

Sometimes, when I read books like Harry Potter, Chronicles of Narnia, Twilight, Wizard’s First Rule and I am nauseated by the over-used idea that love conquers all. Gag me. I haven’t suddenly become a hopeless romantic. In fact, I just quit reading two of those books yesterday because I couldn’t handle the lovey-doveyness. But I have seen the power of true love:

  • Will and I met a guy for coffee yesterday. We told him our story and his response was, “Wow. That must have been really hard for you. I’m sorry.” A man we barely know loves us enough to accept us unconditionally. He didn’t shy away. Will and I couldn’t wipe our ridiculous grins off our faces. We were euphoric! We were known and loved and accepted!
  • My chronic pain ruined three climbing dates in a row—Will is an avid and occasionally obsessive climber—while I was disgusted with myself and feeling worthless, Will smiled at me, kissed my tears away, and helped make me more comfortable.
  • I refused to reject Will, even when he—and everyone else—was hoping and adamant that I go. His wonder and confidence grew, gradually replacing the shame and regret that had clouded his mien.
  • Jesus, Son of God, became a weak human to live a sucky, hot, sweaty, uncomfortable life that ended in an undeserved, torturous death and defeated death—humanity’s implacable foe—by coming back to life. Why? Because he loved us, even when he knew our every flaw and disgrace.

I don’t always enjoy the conclusion that love conquers all. And I am sure that marriage will be tough. Will and I are only human. But I have seen the confidence, worth, purpose, and life-changing outlook love inspires in my life. I love Will, and I believe he is just as deserving of that love today as he was yesterday, this summer, the five years prior, every day before then, and is every day after this one. And I know he would say the same about me.

Let’s not love someone, but…. Let’s love someone, and….

Our world could change.