This past January, I studied Naomi from the book of Ruth. When the story begins, Naomi is a wife and mother of two sons (Ruth 1:1-2). Two verses later, her husband and sons are dead. In the span of a few verses, Naomi goes from wife and mother to widow and what? There isn’t even a name for parents whose children have died—at least not in the English language. It gives new meaning to the phrase, “There are no words.” There literally isn’t a word.
So, it is not surprising that by the end of the chapter Naomi experiences an identity crisis (v. 19-21). Naomi’s experience raises the question:
“What are you going to call or say about yourself when tragedy strikes changing your life and shattering your plans forever?”
Catastrophic events like Naomi’s give you a choice. The choice is how are you going to respond when a catastrophic event changes your life and not for the better. Are you going to allow your circumstances and/or pain to define you?
At this point in my life, I find myself recovering from a situation very similar to Naomi’s. As I shared in last week’s post, five years ago, I was a newlywed married to the love of my life, Reginald Anthony Sanders. Six months after our first anniversary, tragedy struck when I had our first miscarriage. Six months later, I had another miscarriage. Six weeks after that, my husband died suddenly of a heart attack. Like Naomi, I have outlived a husband and two children, and like Naomi, I felt empty.
Losing my whole family in less than a year changed me. I no longer felt like the person I used to be. That both angered and scared me. Part of what was scary for me was that I liked me and I liked my life. I didn’t always like my life, but right before this tragedy, I did.
Though I loved being married to my husband, and I loved being married to Reginald Anthony Sanders—and anyone seeing us together can testify to the fact that I loved me some Reggie, it wasn’t just that I wasn’t married anymore. Though I had always dreamed of being a mother, it wasn’t just the prospect of never having children.
As much as I grieved for my husband and children, I also grieved for the life and future I had. I couldn’t picture my life without them, and quite frankly, I didn’t want to. I just didn’t know what my life would be like and the unknown can be a very scary place. So, I tried to focus on what I knew rather than what I didn’t know. One of the things I knew was how my husband handled the loss of our children.
Though Reg was very hurt, and that is putting it mildly, that God would allow this to happen to us, his feelings didn’t keep him from praying with me every morning giving thanks to the Lord. By doing this, Reg showed me two very important things. He wasn’t going to let what happened destroy his relationship with God—or with me.
When we were courting, Reg used to introduce me to people by saying that I was the Gift that God had brought into his life. While I struggled with the inadequacy of my body to protect and safely bring our children into the world, Reg still treated me and called me his Gift from God. He didn’t let our circumstances destroy his definition of me.
So, when Reggie went to be with the Lord, I purposed to follow his example. I purposed to not allow what happened destroy my relationship with God or destroy my definition of myself.
It has been over four years and I am still rebuilding my life. I can’t say that my relationship with God and my definition of myself are the same, but I don’t think they are supposed to be. I am not the same. What I can say is that my relationship with God wasn’t destroyed. In some ways, I have come to know God better than I knew Him before. Also, my definition of myself changed, but it was not destroyed. Instead, my definition of myself grew rather than was reduced. A part of me will always be Reggie’s wife, but I am also so much more.
- What are you going to call or say about yourself when tragedy strikes changing your life and shattering your plans forever?
- Who in your life is a role model for you in this regard?
- How would following your role model’s example help you?