One Day at a Time…

Grief should be the instructor of the wise.  Sorrow is the knowledge.  Lord Byron

Your vision will become clear only when you can look into your own heart, Who looks outside, dreams, who looks inside, awakes.    Carl Jung

I call to God; God will help me. At dusk, dawn, and noon I sigh deep sighs–he hears, he rescues.    Psalm 55:16-17

I am still in the midst of focusing on and processing my past traumas, particularly grieving past losses and acknowledging some recent experiences. After the Sheila’s deathin 1980, I experienced a period of disillusionment followed by lament.  Yet, as I now realize, I shortcut my lament and repressed the trauma in several ways and repeated the cycle with Joshua’s death in 2001 and with more recent grief.

Tomorrow, May 21, is the seventh anniversary of Joshua’s death. At times I have tried to face it–and thought I did, even by writing some past posts–but I realize now that I was more intent on avoiding the pain or numbing it. Escape was my primary coping mechanism and I usually escaped into my work as I consumed myself with speaking, teaching and writing. I used my workaholism as a way to avoid the pain while thinking I was coping well with the grief.

I was wrong.

I have learned, my friends, that Jesus is right. It is rather annoying to finally learn something you should have appropriated long ago. My “head” seemed to always escape into the future–planning what I will say, what I will do, what I will write, and how I will play the “hero.” The day was not sufficient to itself–I had to live in the future to avoid the present pain. I avoided the pain by investing my energies in the future rather than living through the evil (pain) of the day. Jesus’ caution is now more real to me than it has been in the past:  “Each day has enough trouble of its own” (Matthew 6:34b).

“One day at a time” is a new mantra for me. Oh, I’ve known it, spoken it, advised it, but rarely lived it. And I don’t think I have ever known exactly what it meant in practical terms, at least in my own life. I’m only beginning to understand and live it now. 

The call of Jesus is to live in the present–to experience the present without worry about the future. The present is all I really have and if I want to look life in the eye, I must live life today. To live one day at a time is to pray for and receive our “daily” bread without living in our tomorrows with anxiety. To avoid grief is to circumvent God’s healing process by escaping it, numbing it or attempting to transcend it by some kind of heroism rather than living through the pain.

With some recent grief recovery and dedicated attention to my emotional literacy, I am better prepared to live through tomorrow’s anniversary with some intentional focus just as I am living this day–hopefully–one day at a time. Most anniversaries I would spend my throwing myself into work and avoiding all memories which would trigger emotional hurt. But tomorrow, with the help and support of friends, I have a different plan.

Tomorrow my morning will begin with some self-care by playing golf (for the first time in 20 months) with my good friend Johnny Melton–to enjoy a morning with a friend in God’s green (literally) creation. To live in God’s presence surrounded by life.  I will spend the afternoon with my wife talking, praying and visiting Joshua’s grave which I have not done in several years.  The evening I will spend with the saints in community.

Tomorrow I will also begin a 48-hour fast from the blog-o-sphere, writing and email to rest, meditate and live with my reality; to be instructed by my grief.  I thank everyone in advance for their concern, prayers and kindnesses. 

Today–and for the next several days–my repeated prayer, taken from the Februray Divine Hours (but adjusted to the singular rather than plural), will be:

Most loving Father, whose will it is for me to give thanks for all things, to fear nothing but the loss of you, and to cast all my care on you who cares for me:  Preserve me from faithless fears and worldly anxieties, that no clouds of this mortal life may hide from me the light of that love which is immortal, and which you have manifested to me in your Son Jesus Christ my Lord; who lives and reigns with you, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever.  Amen


9 Responses to “One Day at a Time…”

  1.   Jack Hicks Says:

    My heart is with you my brother, I love you John.

  2.   K. Rex Butts Says:

    God’s grace be upon you, for I know tomorrow date is never an easy to live.


  3.   J D Says:

    John, you have been a blessing to so many … and your stark revelation here is nothing more than a recognition of the truth that many live each day … avoiding, blocking out, unable to face the bitter truths of today … coping mechanisms we have all used until the time came that we COULD look at it. I would believe that your message here is resonating with so many readers. Thanks for the light. And from such darkness. I love you and and hope that these next few days will be a time of renewal and healing for your heart.

  4.   CarisseB Says:

    Peace be with you. “For all the saints, who from their labors rest, Who Thee by faith before the world confessed, Thy Name, O Jesus, be forever blessed. Alleluia, alleluia.”

  5.   RICH CONSTANT Says:

    Seriously John Mark
    take it slow and everything is relative,
    John Mark if you want to enjoy the moment. If you can’t enjoy the moment and the moments slip away.
    Set your wristwatch or your phone to buzz every hour.
    That way you’ll get a do over every hour.

    Maybe by the end of the day by the end of the week by the end of the month.
    You might be able to fit a lot more moments in that hour than you ever thought that you possibly could.
    All of us have our squirrel cage.

    Blessings my friend
    Rich in California

  6.   Keith Brenton Says:

    May the Lord bless and keep you, and make His face to shine upon you.

    And if His face shines with tears, they are the tears of the One who weeps with those who weep; the One who looks forward to the day when He can wipe them away.

    And if His face shines with the smile of inexpressible love, it is the smile of the One who longs to make His joy your strength.

  7.   Kevin Owen Says:

    Your words this morning were very helpful to me. I have the same tendancy to push through the pain by escaping into the future and yet you are right in saying, “we must live through the evil (pain) today.” I need to learn how to do this. May 13 will forever be one of my difficult days as it was the day of Cindy’s surgery and diagnosis.

    I will be praying for you today. Thank you for your insight.

    Kevin Owen

  8.   Gardner Hall Says:

    I know God will give you strength. I contrast your openness with the tight lipped approach towards grief that was considered preferable 50 years ago. I think your approach is closer to that of David, the prophets and others.

  9.   Jim Holway Says:

    John Mark, I have been/am praying for you. It still surprises me how many crutches we/I use to mask our pain and grief. The really dangerous ones are not the typical vices (sex, drugs, and rock and roll), but the ones that are encouraged and embraced by church and society: workaholism, consumerism, and endless activity. May this time of peace allow you to drink deeply from God’s spring of eternal water..

    Jack, it was good to “see” you again. It’s been a long time since our Freed-Hardeman days…

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