One of the most profoundly helpful books of my life is by Jerry Sittser. A Grace Disguised belongs on the shelf of every follower of Jesus so it’s close in times of need.
Last fall I reread this book, cover to cover, and strongly encouraged Dennis to do the same. And he did. Chapter six … amputation of the familiar self … spoke to both of us for we were in a season of loss … and even good loss is life-altering. My dear friend Susan Yates says, “change is the norm, not stability” which we all imagine we will one day achieve.
We women live with a multitude of losses which we often feel to be more numerous and greater than our husbands’ who can both cause loss and bear it with us. Single women and single moms endure multitudes of loss I have never known.
“Loss forces us to see the dominant role our environment plays in determining our happiness. Loss strips us of the props we rely on for our well-being,” writes Sittser. In these seasons we ask as did Dietrich Bonhoeffer when he wrote from a Nazi prison the poem, “Who am I?” All had been stripped from him. He wondered who he was now. And so have I asked … “who am I, Lord?”… many times in my life.
When death or divorce come, always un-welcomed and unwanted. When your hope for the future is unrealized; no marriage happens, the dream of bearing children dies, your secure job dissolves, your health fails, your purity is robbed. Even good but still radical change, such as our ‘retirement’, changes identity forever.
The trajectory of my life has included more losses than I ever imagined when I was in my twenties and all of life seemed bright and hopeful and full of potential. But as Sittser writes, “the crisis of identity can lead to the formation of a new identity,” which I believe God deeply desires for each one of His children. In His unending grace and mercy, He allows these life-altering losses to guide us to Himself, the source of all meaning. In Him is the discovery of real identity. In Him is our only hope of becoming who we were meant to be.
To become like Jesus is God’s greatest desire for us; hence the book’s title, A Grace Disguised. Losses are gifts of grace to lead us to the Fount of Life. Choosing to believe against all odds as did Job, is when our souls grow and we become real like the Velveteen rabbit. We become real, rich, deeply alive.
Paul said, “Though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day. This light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory … for the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal,” (2 Cor. 4:16-18)
It is so counterintuitive in our comfort worshipping 21st century to see loss as evidence of God’s love for us and as His call to our hearts to put all our hope in Him alone. But this theme is one woven clearly through the pages of God’s word to us. For many years I skipped over those verses as if reading them was contagious. But now I have most of them marked. Now I read them slowly knowing hidden within those words are gems of beauty and grace.
He loves me and wants me to hear His whisper, know His presence and be satisfied with Him alone.
He loves you and wants you to know the joy He alone can offer.
If you’ve read this far I want you to know I agree that loss is scary. I still don’t like it … don’t look for it or want it. But I have learned it is an opportunity to trust our Father who always is working good for us. We just don’t usually see it the way He does at first.
I pray you will choose to trust Him with all your losses, great and even small ones, saying, “thank you, my Father, for this circumstance. I choose to trust You here. Show me Yourself and remind me of Your unending love and Presence.”