Since the death of my mother a few weeks ago I’ve recognized that at least a part of gradually readjusting to my own life is trying to figure out what normal looks like and feels like again. Caregiving is exhausting. Usually it’s only after the death of one we love that we realize how depleted and drained we are. What I’ve found is that it takes more than a little time to recover our physical stamina, mental energy, and our own sense of self when one we love dies.
As I’ve begun to do the business of estate settlement yet one more time in my life, I’ve called again on my old friends wisdom and insight in a very intentional, prayerful way. I remember sitting at my desk a few days after my husband died trying to gather my thoughts and focus on what needed to be done. We discussed our business on several occasions, but he’d always been the leader. After he died I felt disadvantaged because I had to rely on my theoretical understanding of the business of our life rather than the hands-on experience of its daily management.
At some time or another most of us feel closed in by a mental fog, which is perhaps one of the ways nature protects us from being overwhelmed by our sorrow. I was new to the physical manifestations of grief and I kept wondering what was wrong with my mind. My sheer will could not power through the veil that shrouded my brain with the shock of a great loss. I just couldn’t seem to shake the feeling of being a remote observer of my own life. And because this “condition” was persistent, I was forced to slow down. I literally crawled through the business at hand with a heart-wrenching stab of pain each time I put my hand on a medical bill or statement.
As I struggled to contain my feeling of near-panic, I knew I needed help much larger than any panacea, pill, or professional. I needed the guidance that only God could provide. I began to pray about my sense of inadequacy and momentary weakness - specifically, I asked God for wisdom and insight. Every day my prayer was the same. I didn’t want to make stupid or costly mistakes. I didn’t want to be hasty or precipitant and set myself up for regret later on. I was committed to getting the business of our life right – for my sake and for Leighton’s. I heard his voice in my head saying “stay calm, it will all work out” and this gave me comfort, even as God faithfully answered my persistent, sometimes desperate prayers.
God directs our mind and actions in many ways when we pray for wisdom and insight. “Turn your ear toward wisdom, and stretch your mind toward understanding. Call out for insight, and cry aloud for understanding” (Proverbs 2:2-3 CEB). Sometimes God’s wisdom comes to us as the courage to ask for help, or leniency, or even the forgiveness of a debt. God gives us insight by clearing our mind of fear and distraction so we’re better able to think reasonably and rationally and make good decisions.
The better part of wisdom is sometimes about a thoughtful pause or deferring an action, a signature, or something final until we’re beyond the initial shock of our grief and we’re thinking with more than our broken heart. And one day when we’ve got a better perspective on where we’ve been and how far we’ve come we have a “WOW!” moment. We celebrate what we’ve been able to accomplish through God’s steadfast love and guidance, “…live, and walk in the way of insight” (Proverbs 9:6 NRSV).
When one we love dies, for some of us it’s the first time in life we’ve had to manage, cope, and deal with the practicalities of daily life. God answers the prayers of our heart that come from a place of deep personal, everyday need, especially when we grieve, “With all wisdom and insight he has made known to us the mystery of his will” (Ephesians 1:8-9 NRSV). God is faithful.
The Lord gives wisdom; from his mouth come knowledge and understanding.
Proverbs 2:6 CEB
Keep me this day, O God, in the wisdom of your insight. Amen.