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Brown-Eyed Susans

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They say time heals all. But early in my journey, I couldn’t believe that anything would ever heal the depth of my pain. Too much had happened in too little time. Tragedy sometimes multiplies like rabbits; and in my case, shock over what was, what should have been, and what would be, left me crippled with fear, anxiety and shame.
A caring friend suggested a walk. Walking was just one more reminder of my loss. Previously, my problems had been hashed out walking northward along Red Oak Road. The routine gave security: down the driveway, past the big red barn, past the horses which sometimes joined me from their side of the pasture fence, past the scent of pines and the growth of farm fields.
There I met God.
But now my dusty gravel roads and country smells were gone, vanished with almost everything else I held dear. One day we were a fine Christian family to be modelled and respected. The next, with the disclosure of a double life, we were broken beyond recognition. Even now, my heart refuses to release everything that happened. The man I had committed to sharing more than 24 years of life with was gone, and with him went my trust in everything and everyone. Isolation seemed the best way to protect my pain. The fetal position felt safe.
Yet, not wanting to disappoint my friend, I pulled on some shoes and wandered out the door. Just a few minutes from my new place, a field of gold spread before me. Drawn to its beauty, I was surprised to find an ethereal white-haired woman standing with me. “They’re Brown-Eyed Susans!” she beamed. “Mmhmm” I nodded absently. A rolling meadow bursting with golden blossoms gently blanketed the slope before us. “My husband and I bought and planted this field to be a place of beauty.” she continued. “This will be the best year for the Susans before other flowers and grasses develop to take their places among the golds.”
“You can walk here,” she eagerly offered. “There are trails mown through the flowers to the tree line and riverbed. Pick as many bouquets as you like. Save the seeds. Share them. We planted this for people to enjoy!”
Hesitatingly thanking her, I turned toward the morning sunshine and entered the meadow. Wandering through the simple paths, admiring the beauty and abundance, thoughts drifted out of numbness and back to loss. Pain pierced my heart. Not simply broken, I was shattered…like shards after a boulder hits a tempered-glass window. “You’re done. This is it. Your life is over. Nothing matters…” echoed in my mind like a never-ending ping-pong tournament, bruising, imprinting, creating reality. This type of pain was new to me. It scared me, overwhelmed me, took me to places I didn’t want to go. I tried to stave it off, but the pain was always pulsing below the surface, waiting for release.
Maybe, during periods of immense devastation, our hearts can only process the small losses. I had moved from the farm. The memories there were too strong and too painful, memories of healing that could never be. In the hurry to move, I’d forgotten to dig a start of the Brown-Eyed Susans which cheerily bordered the farmhouse driveway. It was a small thing, but the sunny faces were symbolic of a previous life. Now surrounded by millions of swaying blossoms, my heart liberated a tiny bit of its’ sorrow. The release created space. Space to observe that while I had self-pityingly given up a mound of flowers, God had lovingly prepared a whole meadow for my enjoyment, my communion, my healing.
As the walks continued, I found God there. At first, angry stampings overflowed with blubbering accusations…”God, do you have any earthly idea how broken I am? Do you understand how unbelievably, earth-shatteringly, life-altering this is for my children? Was this really your will? Really? Because, I just don’t even know what kind of a God would…”
Over time, as the Susan’s faded and prepared for winter, my pace slowed. Peace began to crowd out anger. The gentle roamings now held conversation…”God, these blossoms are intricate and perfectly designed. The soil is ugly and bare, yet holds every nutrient needed for beautiful growth. Even the dark grasses provide a background for the colorful blossoms. My soul feels like a barren field, but here I learn of You…Faithful and True. Your compassion lifts my shamed-bowed head. Your radiant love warms me, changes me, heals me, gives me peace.”
Loss is always going to be part of our broken world. We suffer the non-tangible loss of relationships we were committed to making work, innocence that should have remained pure, mobility that others seem to take for granted, familiarity just when we needed it most, community that anchored our lives, dreams that can never come true, identity that seems without purpose, familial or social status lost in a day. There are no receiving lines, casseroles or sympathy cards for these losses. We can choose to shelter the incessant whispering of shame or turn to the warm confidence of God’s healing grace. I am choosing grace because just like the earliest spring flowers, hope emerges from the darkness, strong and eager.
Someday, God, like the lady at the meadow, will step out to meet us at the entrance to eternity, unable to contain His excitement to show us His lovingly prepared splendor. Perhaps the presence of Jesus will be so far above what we can comprehend, that our deepest pain will be unworthy of further thought. Maybe we tentatively give up a mound of prairie flowers, the life and loss it signifies, for a beauty, forged in relationship, we can’t presently or adequately imagine.
Just as those Susans must wither and endure a harsh winter before the first sun-drenched days of spring, my soul feels the warmth of the sun and I’m hopeful that I, too, will bloom again.

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