The summer after I turned 19 my high school teacher and director and friend died.
I still remember the way my mind tried to process the email letting me know he was gone. I remember reading the words over and over, convinced I must have miss read somehow; my head was unable to grasp what was happening.
I remember feeling a weird tearing in my gut. My head may not have computed the news, but my heart was falling apart.
Death is strange and unnatural.
I remember feeling like my soul was ripping in two. I remember being unable to breathe as my body tried to exorcise the deep grief in my heart through heaving sobs. My sisters and did everything they did to try to comfort me; eager to make me somehow feel better.
In love, they tried to invade my reality and make it better with soft soothing words.
My dad entered the room, and quietly but firmly sent them to get some sleep.
As I lay there curled up on the bed, trying to find my foundation in the middle of a new kind of pain and sorrow, he just quietly pulled up a chair by the bed.
He took my hand and wrapped it in his hands.
He didn’t say anything. He didn’t try to make it better. He just sat there, holding my hand, head bowed slightly.
He sat there for hours, maybe even all night.
My sobs slowed to gasping breaths and finally dissolved into the deep rhythm of sleep.
He didn’t try to fix the pain. He didn’t try to give wisdom to somehow make that moment more manageable. He just stayed.
I haven’t really ever experienced comfort like that.
It was comfort that was not threatened by grief and unshaken by pain. He wasn’t uncomfortable and he wasn’t afraid. He just sat there with me, silent and steady, offering comfort that had no expiration date or condition. He had no need to see success or fruit or evidence that his presence made anything better.
I keep thinking about that night.
Partly because I can’t quite get my head around the reality that my dad can’t do that for me now. Tonight, when I would really love him to sit by my bed while I cry, he is the one person who cannot be there.
I keep thinking about that night, because that memory helps me understand a love far greater and higher than my dad’s. That memory helps me understand a comfort far more tangible and real than any I’ve ever experienced. That memory is a memory of a shadow of a reality that I want to live in today.
Because I’m tempted to believe a bunch of lies right now.
I’m tempted to believe that God is impatient with my grief. I’m tempted to believe that He’s annoyed with sadness. I’m tempted to believe that if I’m not over this in a couple of weeks, or a couple of months then I am in unbelief. I’m tempted to believe that grief and faith cannot both exist in the same heart. I guess Jesus was probably tempted with those same lies.
Today, I’m thankful for this memory that fuels my ability to fight those lies.
Cause, if an unbelieving earthly dad knows how to comfort his teenage daughter, how much more does my real Father know how to be there for me?
God wrote that night into existence all those years ago so that tonight, as I lay curled up in a ball on my bed, I will know that my Father’s heart is not indifferent or far. He is near. He will sit with me in this pain however long it takes, without impatience and without irritation.
He will enter my heart in the dark and He will find the parts of me where no one else can go. He will find the parts of my heart that don’t want a friend, or a sister, or a mom, or a husband. He will find the parts of my heart that just want my dad, sitting beside me and holding my hand.
And He will meet that longing. He will sit in the loss and hold my heart.
God, even with all His glorious promises to make things better, will enter in to pain with me. God, even with the power to end this whole world with a single word, will sit silently with me today.