Today the thought hit me like a ton of bricks… it was as if Jesus Himself was talking directly to me: “are you going to let go of the pain and focus on Me?” As the thought came to my mind I typed it out so I wouldn’t forget it. Once I typed it out, I found it hard to say it out loud.
Just over 3 years ago on March 11th of 2017 a moment in my life happened that has impacted all future moments up to this point. On that day as my family and I rode in the car on our way to a spring break filled with wonderful family time, my world came crashing down. What started as an exciting family vacation ended up in a massive car wreck that killed my four year old daughter Brynleigh and ultimately claimed the life of my late wife Cassie 16 days later.
Even three years later I can clearly remember waking up in the smoking car with blood flowing in my mouth, glass and steel laid shattered around me. The wreck came so quickly and violently that I never saw the RV coming from behind us. As we sat at a complete stop on the highway because of a wreck ahead of us, the wreck that would try to destroy me unfolded.
So back to Jesus’ question to me today… that pain that He is asking me to let go of, every part of my heart and spirit fight to hold onto it. It isn’t the pain that I want to keep, it’s the memories of the love that was stolen from me in that moment. In a deep connection I’ve only began to understand today, letting go of that pain feels like letting go of them. Jesus is asking me to release what I’ve convinced myself is the last part of them I have, and I’m scared.
Slowly over the past three years a series of peeks and valleys has left me exhausted from a spiritual roller-coaster I still don’t fully understand. Over and over I’ve tried to convince myself that this pain gives me power. A power to connect with hurting people. But the thought occurs to me… this thing I thought gave me power is leading to paralysis. I sit paralyzed by the desperate hope that I can hold onto my precious daughter and my late wife. Somehow feeling an overwhelming sense I’ll betray them if I lay this pain down, so I cry.
As I wrestle to hold on to the pain that Jesus wants to take away, a deeper struggle lays beneath the surface. I punish myself over and over with thoughts and feelings of regret. I am ashamed of how I failed Cassie as her husband. How I failed to love her or honor her the way she deserved. As tears fill my eyes I ask her for forgiveness over and over again. I’ll never get a chance to tell her how sorry I am that I didn’t love her the way she deserved.
I fight the feeling that if I punish myself that my pain and suffering may gain me penance for my sin. So I refuse to push deeper into the forgiveness and grace that Jesus extends me. I belong here. I deserve this pain. I don’t deserve to be happy. I don’t deserve to be filled with His joy or peace. I deserve to suffer.
As the fog of grief and despair clear from my mind, as the tears dry and my mind thinks clearly of God’s truths, I see the merry-go-round I’ve been riding, fully unaware of the battle I’ve lost daily. Today, I make the choice to lay down this pain, in Jesus name and by the power of God knowing that the joy and peace God wants to shower on me is on the horizon.
Though the joy I seek still seems far away, I can feel it slowly rising. I can be happy. Jesus came to give me life, abundant life. I have been forgiven for the failures and sins of every yesterday. My identity is not in this pain but in the person of Jesus Christ. Because of Jesus, I hold onto the promises of God. Today I choose to leave this pain at the feet of Jesus. I will still hold onto every wonderful memory of you both as I long for the day we are reunited. Until we meet again, I love you both.