I peer at the clouds looming above me, absorbing their bleakness. The sky, the dead tree next to our house, the leafless lilac bush bordering our lawn – all grey, but especially, me.
Two months have passed since my husband died and I am beginning to dread waking up almost as much as going to sleep. Clutching my coffee cup, I turn away from the window, but as I do, my eye catches sight of something unexpected and extraordinary.
There on the ledge between my porch and roof is a neatly tucked nest sheltering two baby birds and their mother. I lean in to look closer pressing my cheek against the cold glass just to be sure.
“My God,” I whisper, “Mourning Doves?”
Shaking my head, I start to cry. I think back on all the years Tyvin and I have lived in our house, and I swallow hard. Not once did these particular birds build their dwelling place on ours, yet there they are staring back at me as if to say, “We know, and we are here. We were sent to be with you, to stay for a while…”
“Stay then,” I sob, “Please, stay.”
Like the gentle coo of a Mourning Dove, I feel the Holy Spirit breathe softly on my wounded soul, nestling me into His loving arms. “Jesus, will you please stay too?” I pray sheepishly. “Even when everyone else goes away?” As the words spill from my heart, I remember the story of the night Christ was betrayed. A night when He too, asked His friends to stay awhile and pray with Him.
“My soul is overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death,” he said to them. “Stay here and keep watch.”
I wipe the tears from my eyes with a hanky and peek out the window to be sure the nest is still there. Inside, there were 3 doves, a precious tangible witness of God’s compassion and love for me. Not wanting to forget the significance of the moment, I grab my phone and snap a picture. Little do I realize how much I will need to remind myself of the staying power of God’s love in the weeks and months to come.
The birds have flown away, though I have not. It has been almost 16 months and I still live in the house of mourning – a difficult place to be, I know – not only for me, but for those who care about me. But let me explain. It’s not that I am stuck in grief, as some might suppose. Nor is it that I am unwilling to heal. It is much deeper than that. It is much deeper than being stuck or unwilling. You see, I have been invited to stay.
Space between Hours.
There is a space between hours of light and darkness when I am most vulnerable. When I cannot escape the ache of my soul from bubbling forth in passionate desperation. When unanswered questions stab at my heart and seize control of my mind plunging me close to despair. When the pause between breaths intensifies my silent scream to the level of borderline insanity. When sobs of hysteria and sorrow reach the mercy seat of Christ until finally, I plead no more. I have broken through.
“Precious daughter, do you remember what your name means?”
“Yes, Lord,” I answer. “It means, pure.”
“Precisely,” He responds. “And do you know how I am purifying you, child?”
My eyes pour forth liquid rivers bathing me in warm salt water. I realize the answer because I had watched Abba Father lovingly transform my husband during his 7 month battle with cancer. I witnessed Him purifying Tyvin through suffering, stripping him of self-reliance and distraction, deepening his desire to love God with a fervency I never knew existed. I saw him made whole, even while his body deteriorated. I watched the godliest man I have ever known reach a state of completeness, perfection, readiness for heaven. He was unwavering in faith even while drawing his last breath.
“Yes, Lord,” I cry, “Yes. Take every ounce of pain I feel and turn it into love for you. I’ll drink from this cup of suffering as long as you promise to change me too.”
Immediately prompted by the Holy Spirit, I speak the words I had long ago hidden in my heart from the sermon on the mount.
“Blessed are the poor in spirit,
for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
Blessed are those who mourn,
for they will be comforted.
Blessed are the meek,
for they will inherit the earth.
Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness,
for they will be filled.
Blessed are the merciful,
for they will be shown mercy.
Blessed are the pure in heart,
for they will see God.”
Now overcome by an enormous joy, my mind connects the dots, racing to keep up with the illumination filling my soul.
Every morning I hear the lulling coo of Mourning Doves from outside my bedroom window and am lovingly reminded to accept His holy invitation.
“I invite you to stay with me a while…
Stay in my presence where you will gain revelation of my love for you.
Stay in my word so that you can obtain knowledge of my ways.
Stay broken, needy, dependent so that you can receive mercy,
grace, favor – yes, stay in the house of mourning
where you will grow in understanding and spiritual insight
– daily reminding yourself that life is but a vapor!”
Some days He invites me to simply stay faithful, even when my heart is breaking all over again. Other days He invites me to stay free from the love of money, selfish ambition, and vain conceit so that my treasures will be eternal and not fleeting. Tomorrow He may encourage me to stay fearless, hopeful, and brave. But most days the invitation simply says, stay.
Tyvin Jay Whittaker. Age 53. Born into eternity where he will live forever in the home God has prepared for him.
Where will you or I stay when no more earthly hours remain?