It’s tough work raising a child. Thankfully, you don’t have to make through this journey alone! Welcome to our community of parents who are striving to raise godly children. In this series of articles, parents like you will reflect on the trials, joys, and sorrows of parenthood.
After losing her 10 year old son, Noah Dean, last July 4, Jessica Mills Winstead turned to blogging as one of the ways to work through her grief and allow it to become part of the healing process. She is a recent graduate with an ED.S. in Education from ETSU and is in full time ministry at First Baptist Church Morristown where she has served the past 13 years. In addition to carrying on her son’s memory and being an advocate to raise awareness for Electric Shock Drowning which is what claimed Noah’s life, Jessica is mom to 12 year old Haleigh Raye who gives her reason to live every day and make the most of each day until the three of them are reunited and together again for eternity.
No need to carry around feelings on earth you can’t take to heaven….
Feelings can take such an emotional toll on us. They can be a roller coaster ride. One minute we can find ourselves on a high or sailing through, a breeze in our face and we get a good view of the landscape around us. The next minute it can be a plunge that we were not expecting and takes us into the depth of a place we were not prepared to go and places we don’t want to see. The picturesque outlook we had just moments ago is now whizzing by us so fast we don’t even feel as if we have time to catch our breath much less time to open our eyes – and that may be quite an accurate way to feel and an even more accurate description. This ride can become a cycle leaving us feeling, at times, as if we have no control and the only thing we can do is to hang on and cling tightly to the bar holding us down.
The past 8 months and even the past 2 years I have personally experienced an up and down of so many thoughts, feelings and emotions it would be enough to make even the fastest of roller coasters be in envy. Just like with the turn of a kaleidoscope and everything changes my life has closely resembled that. My own feelings or emotions and even the feelings and emotions of other people can become a more complicated matter and therein lies, part of the roller coaster ride.
I’ve slowly internalized that I can’t control other people’s behavior, pictures they draw, gossip they partake in and truth they misconstruct. I can, however, control my response and the feelings I carry around with me. C.S. Lewis (yes, I admit, I’m a little smitten with the man) quotes in his book, Mere Christianity,
“Do not waste time bothering whether you ‘love’ your neighbor, act as if you did…When you are behaving as if you loved someone you will presently come to love him.”
It can be a challenge within itself to choose to do that. Especially when situations keep recurring over and over and people hurt us time and time again. We look for justification in our minds for the way we are treating them, for the hurt we could be causing and for the division we are intensifying. By this time the feelings have multiplied, other people have become involved and we have found a host of other reasons to reaffirm our thoughts and actions. Lewis likens these types of feelings to the Germans and their clear disdain for the Jews.
“The German, perhaps, at first ill-treated the Jews because they hated them; afterwards they hated them much more because they had ill treated them.”
I’m not trying to say we aren’t supposed to feel some of the natural feelings that arise in us after we have been treated a certain way whether it be good or bad. I know all too well my own sentiments toward people and situations are not always the most God honoring. God made us in His image and is fully aware of the feelings and emotions that go along with our human behavior. This doesn’t take God by surprise. We didn’t catch Him off guard. God doesn’t expect us to be perfect creatures. If we were perfect creatures there would not be the free will that He has allowed us to have.
But we can’t carry around those negative feelings. They become like old, worn out luggage that gets heavier with time and weighs our journey down and they aren’t feelings that we will be taking to heaven with us. So if they aren’t worthy of heaven why would we let them fester, control our lives on earth and make them much more than they ever were to begin with.
My grief and pain I feel over losing Noah is tremendous. Sometimes I catch myself in full disbelief that he isn’t here. I find the truth of what happened to him like a slap in the face that brings me back to reality quickly. Other times the anger, the hurt over letting this happen to him and the negligence of things not being in place is enough to absolutely overwhelm me at times and it takes so much mental discipline to be able to focus, carry on and not let it control my life or my outlook. I’m not saying I’ve perfected it. I’m not even saying I’m good at it. And, honestly, I hope I never start to think or feel I am. I pray that I am always keenly aware of my feelings and emotions and how they are either weighing me down or lightening my load. I also want to be aware of how my feelings can encourage and influence others and when it is a good time to be vocally vocal and when it is a good time to be silently silent. I don’t want to just take a seat and hold on to that manmade bar that I see is keeping me strapped to my seat on the roller coaster nor do I want to hold on to any feelings that I “can’t take to heaven” for too long. But, yet, I want to keep holding on to my faith in the Word and clinging to the One that can keep me strapped in, secured and safe on this road I am on until I get the most joyous feeling of all. A joy that will last and a joy I CAN hold onto. The joy of the reality of my faith, the joy of heaven, the joy…of Noah Dean.
More articles by Jessica can be found on her blog at: http://bendintheroadblog.blogspot.com