Silence – by Natasha Sistrunk Robinson

Vulnerability can be dangerous in the same way water is dangerous. Like water, vulnerability can be the source of cleansing and renewal or it can be the source of drowning and death. But there is something else that is more dangerous than taking the risk of vulnerability, and that is silence.

 

As an African American woman who loves my African American sistas, I have learned that we are often silent about what hurts us the most. Dr. Chanequa Walker-Barnes refers to this epidemic as a “Deadly Silence.” She writes:

 

“Perhaps nowhere in society is the StrongBlackWoman more ubiquitous than in the Christian church. The church reinforces the mythology of the StrongBlackWoman by silencing, ignoring, and even romanticizing the suffering of Black women. Rather than offering a balm to heal the wounds of Black women who cry out about their pain, the church admonishes them with platitudes such as “God won’t give you any more than you can bear” and “If He brought you to it, He’ll bring you through it.”

 

Acclaimed Harlem Renaissance writer Zora Neale Hurston was also a black woman acquainted with suffering, and she understood that we, as African Americans, could not be silent about our pain because silence would be the death of us. By swallowing the poison of our pain, we die a slow death, and for black people in America it seems as if nobody notices. As another artist wrote, “The heart dies a slow death, shedding each hope like leaves until one day there are none. No hopes. Nothing remains.”

 

Knowing the pain, history, violence, and silence that have shaped the African American narrative infuses how I read the Scriptures. I come from a marginalized and oppressed people group that was enslaved for more than three hundred years, so I try to imagine the helplessness and hopelessness that the Hebrew people felt as an entire generation of their boys were thrown into the Nile River. What would be worse: knowing that the actual genocide took place, knowing that people in positions of power in the empire stood by and said nothing, or knowing that nothing would be done about this loss of innocent lives—that justice would not be served?

 

This is a painful narrative that is quite familiar to African Americans. Murder by the state.  Silence. Then nothing. The heart dies a slow death. The painful reality of this death emotionally cripples us, and black people have been conditioned to say, “Thank you,” and take our lethal doses with a smile.

 

But I am not without hope. We see from Moses’ story that God hears the cries of the oppressed. God enters our pain, through our suffering, even in the silence. If healing is to come, then this pain must be named and confronted. We cannot look away. With every truth-telling moment, we can better discern what these moments reveal about our history, our authentic selves, our leadership journey, and our hope for a better future. Only then can we challenge each other to join in God’s great work of justice, redemption, and reconciliation. If healing is to come, then this pain must be named and confronted.

 

*Taken from A Sojourner’s Truth by Natasha Sistrunk Robinson. Copyright (c) 2018 by Natasha Sistrunk Robinson. Published by InterVarsity Press, Downers Grove, IL. www.ivpress.com

The People of God       

–  by Lindy Thompson

 

If the earth is going to tremble,

if the trees are going to move,

if ancient boulders are going to tumble down –

give me my people.

 

If the waters are going to rise,

if the familiar is going to change,

if uprooting is unavoidable —

give me my people.

 

If I must drink from the cup,

if I must taste the tears,

if I must feel the wound —

give me my people,

give me my family,

give me the people of God.

 

#becauseofRHE

It Is Up To Us

 

Since yesterday I have been struggling to come up with any words about this…
 
When I introduced Rachel Held Evans as a keynote speaker at the Buechner/Princeton and Writing for Your Life spiritual writers’ conferences in 2015 and 2017, I described her as “THE leading spiritual voice of her generation” (as I also did when introducing Barbara Brown Taylor). IMHO she continued to fill that role until yesterday. Rachel was very gifted – a very smart person, with very strong writing and speaking skills, and the willingness to speak up – but she was also very kind and very inclusive.
 
Despite thousands of people earnestly praying for her, she passed away yesterday.
 
What does it all mean? Most importantly, what do we do about it?
 
For me, one thing it brings home again is that we cannot control everything. We can wish and pray for the best for our family and friends as hard as we want, but that is not in our control. What is in our control is what we do next.
 
It is up to us. We are God’s tools for good, those of us who are still here. It is up to us to try as much as we can, with all of our imperfections, but also with all of our gifts, just as Rachel did, to attempt to do what God would like us to do.
 
#BecauseofRHE

When “I AM” Calls

 

By Chanté Griffin

 

 

“Write a book about race and Christianity.”

God’s words hit me as strong and thick as the Ghanaian sun under which I sat.

Still, I still questioned their legitimacy, partly because I felt unqualified. At the time, the only bylines to my name were the ones I had amassed during college: a poem about Ebonics published in Stanford University’s Black Arts Quarterly, and a couple of news stories completed during my internship at the Claremont Courier, the closest city newspaper to the Claremont Colleges.

“If you’re really telling me to write a book, Lord,” I volleyed back, “then have someone else tell me, too.”

Looking back, I recognize that this “fleece” wasn’t only about not feeling qualified; it was about wanting to do everything perfectly, including hearing from God. But thankfully God works through our insecurities and our imperfections.

One week later, this time stateside, one of my students, Karla, looked me square in the face and said, “You should write a book about race and Christianity, you know— like Doug Schaupp’s Being White book, but the black version.” (Backstory: Karla was one of the students I worked with as a university chaplain with InterVarsity Christian Fellowship. Doug Schaupp was an InterVarsity colleague who had written a book about race.)

When I heard Karla’s words, my eyes bulged externally as my spirt leaped internally.

Okay God, I whispered internally, I hear you.

Always the “A” student, I started the book project almost immediately. One evening, after a long day of meetings, I sat down with my laptop, opened up Word, created a document, and…stopped.

I don’t know how to write a book, I thought. I have no idea where to begin.

I researched local writing programs and located a memoir writing class through UCLA Extension. It was a bit pricey, but seemed perfect. Right before I was set to register, my mom recommended I check out my local community college. “You can usually find the same classes, but way cheaper,” she advised me. She was right, as moms usually are. I enrolled in a Memoir writing class, led by Professor Joe Ryan, who also taught at the University of Southern California. Thank you Jesus for university level classes for community college prices!

That community college class introduced me to the fundamentals of good writing. I knew nothing about writing (outside of how to craft a basic news story and the lessons my high school English teacher had drilled into me). I made every mistake newbie writers make: I told the story in chronological order, I named every character, even if she wasn’t important to the story arc, and I started every sentence with “I.” In short, I didn’t understand that non-fiction writing is as much about shaping a story as it is about telling the truth. I discovered that although memoir is true, its truth is shaped.

Eagerly, I took the class a second time, only this time as an Independent Study course. My writing improved, and I rushed to finish the first quarter of the book. I was on a roll, excited to be doing the thing God had told me to do. I didn’t realize then that sometimes God puts us on a path, only to take us off it.

“Stop writing the book,” God told me.

Like a defiant teenager, I kept going, mainly because I’m not a quitter. I refuse to be one of those people who say they’re gonna write a book but never finish it, I told myself.

“Stop writing the book,” God told me again.

But again, I kept going because I had been accepted into VONA Voices, a prestigious summer writing workshop co-founded by Pulitzer Prize author Junot Díaz.

“Stop writing the book,” God told me a third time.

This time I listened. After the workshop, I set the manuscript on my bookshelf. Disappointed and sullen, I pleaded with God, Please let me know when to pick this up again.

 

*

 

On February 26, 2012, 17-year-old Trayvon Martin was shot and killed by a neighborhood watchman who insisted the young boy, carrying only an iced tea and a pack of Skittles, was up to no good.

August 9, 2014, 18-year-old Michael Brown Jr. was shot and killed.

November 23, 2014, 12-year-old Tamir Rice was killed.

April 12, 2015, 25-year-old Freddie Gray was murdered.

Alton Sterling was shot and killed July 5, 2016. The next day, July 6, 2016, Philando Castille was killed in front of his girlfriend and her baby.

The murders of these young black men and others like them ushered me into an extended period of mourning for Black people in the US who have been killed by the police and vigilante citizens in dubious circumstances.

So in 2017, when all the Black folks I knew were hurt and disillusioned, and political pundits were trying to figure out how a presidential candidate who espoused racist and sexist views could become President, I began to wonder if it was time to revisit the book., even though by then I had published numerous bylines as a part-time freelance writer, but I still felt under-qualified. I prayed, asking God, “Who am I to write this book? I can think of several other people more qualified, who are also better writers…”

God responded back, “I AM is sending you.”

That’s when I cried and realized—as cliché as it may sound—that it’s not about me.

I was used to being a star student, but this book would be different. God would have to work through my imperfections. Not only that, he would shine through them.

I’m not the best writer, but I am called. I’m not the most qualified person to write this book, but I’m called. Strangely, this sense of call compels me to study the craft of writing and to build my resumé; Four years into my freelance writing career, I hold bylines in almost 50 publications.

Still, my hope rests in the call and the God who calls. This, I’m learning, is the best way to operate—in book writing and in life.

About Community – by Natasha Sistrunk Robinson

When the people and values that shape my diverse communities are in conflict with each other, I must consider: Will I remain true to my God or true to the native land or continent in which my ancestors were born, or will I remain true to the native land or country in which I was born? My native land wants me to remain true to the American philosophy that I have been taught in my formative years. On the other hand, my people—the black community—have a history of being oppressed by the land in which many of us were born. Where should my loyalties lie, knowing all of that? The black community has also been stripped of our African culture, history, and traditions, and I want to learn what values have been lost from that culture and to understand what values are important to hold on to.

 

Discernment for the American Christian is determining what is actually of God and what is true only to our native land. Believe it or not, American Christianity looks quite different depending on where and how you worship on Sunday mornings, what stories you read, what voices you listen to, and who you call friend. Our various community shapers can be in conflict with each other, so remaining true to God requires that we analyze the sacred community—the shaping grounds, including what or who is missing from those spaces. Affirming our identity in Christ means that we must wrestle with our community shapers to accept, celebrate, cultivate, and then share what individually makes us unique.

 

Community is about the places that shape us. Orangeburg, South Carolina, is where I come from. Community is about the people who shape us. When I had the opportunity to deliver the student address at my graduation from Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary Charlotte, I told my family and friends, “I take you with me wherever I go.” Community is who you roll with on this journey called life.

 

Community is also the environments that we intentionally cultivate and the people we invite to form and shape them. Creating culture and cultivating community is a continuous act of discipline. If you desire to have lasting influence and to implement real change, this is an internal wrestling you must be willing to do, a risk you must be willing to take, and a skill you must learn. Your life may look very different from mine or that of Moses. You have your own stories, relationships, and experiences. The work of spiritual formation requires that you pay attention to how God wants to shape your community.

 

*Taken from A Sojourner’s Truth by Natasha Sistrunk Robinson. Copyright (c) 2018 by Natasha Sistrunk Robinson. Published by InterVarsity Press, Downers Grove, IL

 

Learn more from Natasha at our spiritual writers’ conference in May: https://writingforyourlife.com/writing-for-your-life-spiritual-writers-conference-holland-mi-may-2019/

On baseball, elections, & why fiction – Part One

Originally posted on November 3, 2016 by Sarah Arthur

The day after one of the biggest wins in sports history, with less than a week to go before a contentious presidential election (no hyperlink needed), seems an odd time to be writing fiction. I’m sleep-deprived, for one. And I have a lot of things to say besides inventing dialogue between pretend characters.

I believe this election matters. I have my own considered reasons why and what it could mean for my sons as they grow up. I have written roughly a dozen articles in my head on everything from–nope, I won’t go there (if you know me, even a little bit, you can probably guess). But despite the fact I’m getting ready to launch what could be perceived as my first-ever “political” book in January, I’m not weighing in on whatever happens next Tuesday. I’m writing fiction.

Copping out? Maybe. Maybe I’m just an ostrich shoving my head in the sand, as if inventing worlds can help me escape this one. Maybe I’m just exercising a particular brand of elitist privilege that allows me to blithely pursue a superfluous “hobby” while people out there are dying. Guilt, guilt, guilt.

This isn’t the first time I’ve felt this way. During the three years that my husband and I lived with the homeless in the inner city, I often felt like my job of writing about literature was basically the least helpful thing I could offer anyone. Can a hungry kid eat a book? Is this vocation putting a roof over anyone’s head? (I earn too little for that.) Should I be protesting something? Writing letters to Congress? I gave serious thought to abandoning the writing life altogether.

Yet I would return, again and again, to stories. Books by people like Dorothy Sayers and C. S. Lewis, J. R. R. Tolkien and Jane Austen. Authors who wrote during wartime–even some, like Tolkien, from the front lines. Many of them had plenty of things to say about current events, as evidenced by their collections of letters. The poet T. S. Eliot, for instance, was an outspoken conservative who published political essays in the literary journal he founded, while Dorothy Sayers went to bat for women on issues of gender equality. I, for one, love her treatise Are Women Human? but rarely run into anyone else who’s heard of it. And I had no idea Eliot wrote political essays till a lecturer at a conference mentioned it–which perhaps betrays my limited knowledge of Eliot, or perhaps betrays something deeper, something about the nature of his real legacy.

My point? These authors gave the world something. But it wasn’t their opinions on the critical political decisions of their time. It wasn’t their pithy 140-character soundbites that shamed their enemies and changed no one’s minds. Their generation, too, had journalists and politicians and activists who triumphed and failed, some of whom we remember, many of whom we don’t. But what lasted were these authors’ stories.

~

Back to those three years with the homeless. Toward the middle of our stay, before my husband’s job took us to the suburbs of Lansing, MI, one of our guests had to have leg surgery. She was a recovering narcotics abuser from the streets, as different from me in race and class and life experiences as any friendship I could imagine; and her long recovery stretched the limits of our household’s energy and compassion. She, a bored and demanding sufferer; the rest of us running at top speed just to make sure everyone got fed and deadlines were met and paychecks deposited…God help us.

At one point she had run out of movies to watch, so I brought her my limited collection: the boxed trilogy of The Lord of the Rings, extended editions. My caveats were plentiful: “It’s fantasy by a dead white guy. Lots of white guys running around. Almost no females, and they’re all white except the giant spider. I’m not offended if you hate it.” But she said, “Sure,” so I loaded movie number one into the DVD player and left.

Hours–maybe even days–later, as I stepped away from my laptop to grab some snacks from the kitchen, wafting down the hall came the soundtrack of The Return of the King. It swelled recognizably to the last, most certainly doomed battle before the gates of Mordor; I could practically taste my own remembered tears running down my cheeks. “For Frodo,” came the voice of Viggo Mortensen–then mayhem, Howard Shore’s unforgettable strings, the apparent triumph of evil at the end of all things. But somewhere in the midst of it rose that lone soprano–you know the one I mean–and all of sudden I heard my housemate yelling.

“The eagles!” she whooped, “the eagles are comin’!”

The house rocked with her roars of jubilation. “Thank you, Jesus, the eagles are comin’!”

~

I once heard Newbery winner Katherine Paterson say to a packed auditorium at the Festival of Faith & Writing, “I want to be a spy for hope.” And now I get it. After that moment in the hallway, my housemate’s joy ringing down the walls, I get it. This week, while following all the manic online activity and joyous enthusiasm around the kickoff to National Novel Writing Month, I get it. After turning to my Facebook community for encouragement–and receiving a flood of moving, hopeful responses–I get it.

Right now, what the world needs is for me to be writing fiction. What my sons need is for me to write stories they will read for themselves someday, long after the next president is gone. Stories for my homeless friends, stories that outlast today’s headlines, stories for my great-grandchildren or whenever the Cubs next win the World Series.

This is why fiction.

This is what I have to say.

Writing is a Spiritual Discipline – by Natasha Sistrunk Robinson

 
I’ve come to understand that for me writing is a spiritual discipline, a therapy of sorts. It is one of the ways that I communicate with God. Over the past few years I’ve committed to writing my way to freedom, casting a new vision, planning and strategizing a way of living and being as a disciple of Christ in a fallen world—a disciple who is fully black, fully women, fully known, fully loved, and fully empowered by the Holy Spirit. Every day, I choose to live free!
 
I don’t just write for myself. I use my pen, or mostly the keys of my laptop, as a weapon of war—to resist, to affirm our common humanity, and to defend it. I write for communities who are downtrodden and in desperate need of the liberation that only God can provide. I write for people whose conscience tells them that something is not right but in humility can confess that they don’t know what to do about all the brokenness. I write for people who long to embrace the love of Jesus but are perplexed by the hypocrisy of his church. I write for the people who are committed to figuring it out together.
 
What if we all learned a new way, and what if we were not afraid? What if we truly lived redeemed?
 
*Taken from A Sojourner’s Truth by Natasha Sistrunk Robinson. Copyright (c) 2018 by Natasha Sistrunk Robinson. Published by InterVarsity Press, Downers Grove, IL
 
Learn more from Natasha at our spiritual writers’ conference in May: https://writingforyourlife.com/writing-for-your-life-spiritual-writers-conference-holland-mi-may-2019/

Top 10 Reliable Signs:  When Writing Is Your Gift

by Cherie Trahan

 

Do you remember how you first discovered your passion for writing? Better yet, when did you realize writing is your God-given gift? Was it revealed to you all at once or was it more like piece by piece? Since the latter is usually the case, moments of reflection can often help you with retracing—and then connecting—the dots.

Perhaps, as far back as childhood, you can remember subtle signs or even some obvious hints. Maybe English was always your favorite subject in school. Maybe you always loved being around books. Maybe expanding your vocabulary provided you with sheer excitement. Nevertheless, if you can relate to any number of these next reliable signs or have experienced similar real-life moments, this top 10 countdown is sure to generate an affirmative head nod, an appreciative smile, or maybe even both!

 

Number 10:  While growing up, math and science classes were always a struggle—or were extremely boring to you; however, your entire existence from the inside out lit up during your English classes, and you aced every grammar test you ever took.

 

Number 9:  It was never a sibling, a friend, a coworker, or another human being; instead your journal has always been your “BFF” for sharing everything, including good and bad news, sentimental life moments, and your innermost thoughts and feelings.

 

Number 8:  Your church and community organization families have interestingly created brand-new positions that center solely around you; as a new Editor-in-Chief and as a part of the new Editorial Ministry, all written materials must first be cleared by you to remedy negative comments previously received, regarding typos and misspelled words.

 

Number 7:  During your annual performance reviews, the feedback from your supervisor often includes how they are impressed by your write-ups, because they flow “poetically” and provide a colorful visual of your accomplishments for the year.

 

Number 6:  Your office colleagues regularly give you high-fives and kudos to express how well you eloquently recounted events and took office managers on a journey when simply presenting your drafted bullet points and status updates for team projects.

 

Number 5:  Amongst family and friends, you are the go-to person for random written tasks, including book reports, resumes, college papers, notifications for excused absences, thank-you letters, and even love notes for significant others.

 

Number 4:  As you read through daily e-mails, you meticulously identify and note all capitalization and grammatical errors with a keen eye; however, this includes and pertains to the e-mails that were sent to you as the recipient.

 

Number 3:  Opportunities to use a dictionary and a thesaurus to confirm correct spellings, check definitions, and research alternative or big-sounding words provide you with secret thrills.

 

Number 2:  You wholeheartedly care about the correct placement of every comma, semicolon, and period in each of your social media thoughts and cell phone text messages, and you will not hit “post” or “send” until everything is correct.

 

Number 1:  Remarkably, life is constantly presenting you with situations and circumstances that often lead to some form of a written document being needed, as you have written numerous letters, e-mails, facsimiles, certified notices, brief descriptions, detailed summaries, written proposals, legal affidavits, and official complaints in just about every season of your adult life.

 

As you think back and further reflect, do any of these light-hearted yet indicative signs or possible real-life occurrences sound familiar to you? Collectively, do they help to jog some additional memories of your own—and along these same lines? Overall, it is simply amazing how the early signs and everyday hints tended to be deeply embedded within your journey since the beginning. They pointed you directly towards your gift of writing and seamlessly worked together to heavily influence what you strongly gravitated towards as a child, what became some of your favorite things to do as a teenager, and well-placed writing opportunities that always seemed to find and follow you right into adulthood.

Further, James 1:17 biblically tells us every good and perfect gift is from above; and Ephesians 2:10 tells of how we are God’s masterpiece, created anew in Christ Jesus to do the good works God prepared in advance for us to do. These foundational biblical scriptures make it even more fascinating when you can identify and spiritually recognize just how much the foretelling hints and signs were naturally woven into your everyday experiences.

In hindsight, it should not be viewed as a coincidence or come as any surprise—just how reliable the indicative signs turned out to be, as they existed and were evidenced during the different ages and stages throughout your life. This in itself is also a strong indication of how God, as the sovereign Gift-Giver, is always at work, lovingly and purposefully perfecting your gift with every step you take while on your path, as a writer. In the process, whether you’ve discovered your remarkable ability to tell colorful stories, navigate adventurous journeys, or provide educational experiences, God has been graciously molding, shaping, and fine-tuning what He has gifted and entrusted you with—your natural ability to choose and combine words to creatively influence, inspire, and empower while also creating a legacy, as the passionate and gifted writer you are today and were destined to become.

 

Cherie D. Trahan is a Christian author, poet, and inspirational speaker. It is simply her lifelong goal to use her powerful testimony and gift of writing to positively influence, engage, and inspire audiences with diverse backgrounds worldwide to help stimulate and build strong spiritual lives. Cherie has served as a featured guest for ministry events and Christian media outlets. Her literary works are deeply inspired by her strong spirituality and extraordinary real-life story of seven accumulated miracle blessings that speak to the power of faith.

True Faith…. Do You Have It!

– by Alfreda Branch Jones

 

Faith, one of the most talked about words all over the world!  Most people can quote the famous Hebrew 11: 1.  Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen, like their address or birth date, yet when ask how do you know that you have “True Faith”, they began to tell you things like, well I love God, or I can’t see Jesus, but I trust Him!  However, neither of the two mentioned statements truly determines if one has “True Faith”!

 

So how do you really know for certain if you have “True Faith”?  Are there any sure-fire signs that can be witness by others or by one’s self?  Well, I am glad these questions have been asked, because the answer is yes!  First, I must say this, that “True Faith” is an ever-growing power and should be continuously prayed for on a regular basis, if not daily!  Try saying this “Lord please increase my Faith”, and sincerely mean it!

 

So here are a few tell-tell signs that you and others can be absolutely certain that one definitely has “True Faith”!  Our world appears to be totally out of control, and yet, you wake up happy, and looking forward to all seeing the beauty of the day unfold!  So, many are being killed, and you are not afraid to move about and enjoy life freely, because you have faith the God will shield and protect you!  Matter-of-fact, you have come to say things like, “I don’t have to worry about anything, because I had a talk with God and He promise to work everything out for the good of those who love Him, I am going to sleep!  2.  You began to quote statements like, I don’t care how things look right now, God can do anything, and nothing will make you change your mind!  3. You have become a witness for God, in the name of Jesus, that there is no failure in God, and everything is already alright!  4.  Even though death has knocked on your love one’s door, you can truly say, I know that God will see me through!  5.  You stop believing and come to know that according to God’s Will all shall manifest.  6.  Every single day you have joy and a smile on your face because you know what God can do!  7.  You have tried your faith and found out that it works, and nothing can make you doubt it!  8. True Faith has taught you how to consult God on all things!  9.  You at Peace regardless of what is going on!

 

Sure, I could go on and on, because “True Faith” is never ending!   I do hope that  what I have written, has also helped you determine if you have “True Faith”, or if the faith that you do have needs to be fine-tuned by seeking the word of God and developing you’re relationship with Him!

The Great Love: How tragedy begot a beautiful, new worldview 

By Carla Garrett www.carlagarrett.ca

As I lay there beside my son’s dying body, my hand pressing gently on his warm bare chest, I feel a flutter of the heartbeat he still has left. I hold my breath as I listen for his next faint shallow breath – until there isn’t one.

It was in those last painfully precious moments with my seven-year-old son that I connected with something greater than the physical. It was through his death that I got to know the Great Love.

I am not talking about that butterflies-in-your-stomach kind of love when you kiss your crush or say your vows, or that instantaneous love when you give birth or even how you love chocolate. No, I am talking about the love that binds us, the love that is us.

The Great Love is an elusive love, not given nor earned, sleeping within all of us yet rarely awakened by human consciousness. Originating from our Creator, this love evades physical death and forever binds heaven and earth. These invisible ties of love form our universe. Unlike other vulnerable forms of love dependent upon external factors, this love can never be severed. It comes as a strangely comforting feeling, a fleeting moment of joyous intensity or a peace that surpasses all understanding. Our brain does not have the capacity to describe the unforgettable, ethereal experience that is the Great Love.

Jesus taught me about love. He showed me the greatest example of self-sacrificial love. He loved us so much he sacrificed his own life to save us. I was raised to: “Follow God’s example, therefore, as dearly loved children, and walk in the way of love, just as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.” — Ephesians 5:1-2
I can’t think of any other moment where I have even come close to “being like Christ” than on the day I watched my son die. It was the ultimate self-sacrifice, a dramatic example of the proverb, “if you love someone, you will let them go.” To not have him, would be torture, but I did anyways. I let Xavier go.

When the time came to say goodbye, I had imagined myself screaming don’t go! Instead, I lovingly whispered in his ear, be free my beautiful boy. In my absolute brokenness, I gave my son the permission he was seeking to die. And that profound act of love awakened the Great Love sleeping deep within my soul.

When my son left this earth he took a piece of my broken heart with him, forever tying me to the celestial love he now is. I was not tied to his flesh and blood. Our connection was anchored somewhere beyond this plane.
These ties of love have transformed how I see the world now, evoking a sensation deep within me whenever I think of my son, see the brilliant pink hues of a summer sunrise or watch how the wind swims between each blade of grass. When you experience the Great Love, you are transported to a kinder, gentler world – perhaps what is heaven on earth – which ultimately changes your life perspective.

However, we often abandoned this love — the love Jesus intended — for the easier to feel superficial and materialistic love. It is easier to feel “love” when you are being held in your husband’s arms in a thankful embrace for the new car he just bought you, or kissing your sweet child goodnight after they happily obeyed your bedtime orders.

But what happens when you have nothing physical to love? What happens when your loved one dies? You are forced, like me, to seek this deeper love. I can no longer look into my son’s beautiful blue eyes so full of life and instantly feel that loving bond between mother and son. Now, I must find the source of all love to connect with my little boy in Heaven. The Great Love is the only way now to truly feel his presence. It’s not impossible, it’s just harder than the physical love we are all so familiar with. It’s a different kind of relationship, one I wish I never had to learn, but I am privileged to have. Had it not been for his death, I likely never would have experienced this depth of surreal love.

Although my first kiss with the Great Love paralleled that of my last kiss to my son, the love had been there all along. My faith was shaken, my heart was broken but it was ties of love that held me – our family – together through the nightmare of childhood cancer. Love was the only consistent thing when our lives were in pieces. It was there when we pleaded with God for more time, and it was there when the doctors said there was nothing more they could do, and it was there when we huddled together on the bed around my son’s lifeless body to sing his favourite song, Somewhere Over the Rainbow. It was always there even if a silent partner to our other, uglier emotions. If we were angry, it was because we were afraid to lose something we love.

Love is what makes us, love is what heals us, love is what motivates us. Love is what binds us together and love is what never dies. Love is with us at birth, it carries us through life, and it endures in death. The well of love knows no depth. A love so deep it floats. I believe in stories of the afterlife where you are pure, unbiased, non-judgemental, unadulterated love. A place where the word love is easily interchangeable with light.

How do you “get” the Great Love?

There are several popular books with great advice related to this topic, and depending on what resonates best with you, this inner essence of the universe can be called consciousness, soul, presence, energy or frequency. All of these descriptions, I believe, are ways to the Great Love. Although pain and brokenness are often associated with a rejuvenated sense of self and purpose, I don’t believe they are necessary to experience the Great Love. It was the crux of my story, but doesn’t have to be yours. Ties of love to a new, more beautiful worldview await you…

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