This is not the blog I wanted to write. I was halfway finished with an entry about God being present in the details of life, scripture supporting that and how our souls thrive on very particular details. I had already titled it Real Life which was the name of a newspaper column I used to write years ago. I had a funny part in there about how the newspaper editor hated my column title. He said it didn’t mean anything. I won that argument because to me God being present in Real Life is everything.
Instead of finishing that blog, I’ve come face to face with an anniversary. Eight years ago today many of us lost a friend, family member, pastor, Dr. Ken Diehm. We lost him unexpectedly when he was at the height of his career and personal happiness.
The events of eight years ago sent me on a path of grief and healing that is as Real Life as anything I ever imagined. This morning it dawned on me that I needed to show up to this page, in a real way, with what is really on my heart and mind today, not the charming more surface blog I had planned.
Some people think it is best to not talk about loss. “Let’s move on” they say. “Let’s be positive.” I’m all for that. For eight straight years I’ve been reminding myself and everyone who will listen to “Look up.” There absolutely is a wider view, a God’s eye view and the assurance of our faith.
And yet, it happened. Here’s my reality: I lost a friend and a colleague who was one of the rare “good guys”. I had to learn to trust him because I’d experienced a few not-so-good guys (yes, even in ministry). In this friend, I regained hope in pastors, in men and in the beauty of church again.
Over the last eight years, I’ve seen the ripples of his death weave their way through his family, friends, several churches and even a denomination. How I wish for his calm wisdom and inclusive perspective as a denomination teeters on the brink of implosion over an issue which in my opinion could be figured out if we just chose to love radically like Jesus did.
In my personal life, I have had the hardest and the absolutely best things happen in these eight years. With each wave of real life, I’ve had to cling to faith, trust in God and the gift of soul-tending routines to see me through because the bad things have been so hard and the good ones so inexplicably wonderful that it takes a spiritual perspective to even articulate, much less make sense of any of it.
Today, on this the eighth anniversary, I wrote in my journal of all the healing I’ve seen in my life and others.
I remembered how in the weeks before he died Ken told me he trusted completely that he was in God’s hands. It was a strange conversation to have but I remember it as vividly as if he just shared the words.
As I journaled and remembered, I opened a devotional book where these words leapt off the page:
Jesus says, “There’s only one sign I’m going to give you: the sign of the prophet Jonah.” (see Luke 11:29, Matthew 12:39, 16:4). Sooner or later, life is going to lead us (as it did Jesus) into the belly of the beast, into a situation that we can’t fix, can’t control and can’t explain or understand. That’s where transformation most quickly happens. That’s when we’re uniquely in the hands of God….Various forms and times of suffering and love gradually move us toward who we are in God and who God is in us….In such a divine economy, everything can be transmuted, everything can be used, and nothing is wasted. (Richard Rohr, Just This)
Here is the most real life thing I know, God is in the details…in the love and friendship we feel for others, in the tears that baptize our losses. God is in the gut punches and our most ecstatic moments of wonder. God is weaving, kneading, stitching together life, death and everything in between. In brokenness we are transformed. Sometimes I picture God weeping with us while weaving, kneading and stitching all together for good because it is just so tender, real and beautiful.
Eight years of healing. eight years of life, events, trials and grace and we are still right where we were then, in God’s hands.
Dr. Cindy Ryan is a pastor, wife, mother of three, Mimosa/Mocha to Keller and Pace and breast cancer survivor.