by JENNY SEYLAR
If you could describe yourself in just one word, what would you choose? Would you find a word that captures a physical characteristic? Or pick an activity that you enjoy as a way to represent who you are? Maybe the word you select is how you think others view you. This word with which you have labeled yourself, is it embedded in your mind and heart so that it seems to defineyou?
In the fall of 2017 a label was thrust on me, one that I did not expect to receive until I was much older, and it was the label of widow. You see, my husband of 28 years unexpectedly died, and my heart broke in two. I soon discovered that the designation of widow came with many more words that described me: broken, lost, devastated, shattered, alone and lonely, to name a few. These were all characterizations that I was certain had defined me. One moment I was living my life, going through my days, and enjoying the coupled life. In the next moment, I discovered that I had fallen to the basement of my grief, lying on the cold floor with nothing to cling to. In the deepest places of my soul, I was empty. All hope felt lost.
Fortunately, I did not reside there long. In that moment, a calm presence joined me on that damp floor and reached out to me. In my deepest despair, in the defining moment of my life, I felt Jesus scoop me up in His arms and cradle me like a shepherd cradles a bleating lamb who has strayed from its mother. It was like He was there, holding me tight in His loving arms. I understood in a new way the words of the Prophet Isaiah in chapter 40:11: “Like a shepherd, God will tend the flock; he will gather lambs in His arms and lift them onto His lap. He will gently guide the nursing ewes” (CEB). God, through Jesus Christ, saw my troubles, felt my pain, and brought me out of the cold, dark space. Jesus gave me comfort like nothing else could.
This peace came to me day after day after day through fervent prayer. These petitions were not eloquent, liturgical prayers like those uttered in worship services. These were simple prayers of lament and angst, consisting of very few words. Throughout my day I cried, “Lord, why?” and “God, help me!” Just as a child asks the same of a parent, I spoke them to my Lord, and God answered by holding me in my grief. I gathered strength through these prayers and trusted that my husband’s death would not be the moment that defined me.
Still today, almost a year and half later, I feel Jesus sustain me. My heart is still broken but it is mending, and it knows peace. I get up every day and face the challenges that will come my way. I do so because I know Christ has my back. I am His beloved child, cherished. I find scripture helps me in my moments of doubt and wavering. I hold to the words of Philippians 4:13: “I can endure all these things through the power of the One who gives me strength” (CEB). That verse guides my coming and going, and helps me remember that the power and love of Jesus brings me to a place of wholeness, moving me from despair to the hope of a life beyond a defining moment. A life shaped by Christ.
FOR FURTHER THOUGHT
What word did you use to describe yourself? Was it fat, skinny, mother, divorced, husband, cancer-patient, unworthy, athlete, musician, unemployed? Do you let it define you in an unhealthy way? Is it time to pick another word that better reflects who you are and whose you are in Jesus Christ? Remember, He defines you with words like beloved, blessed, worthy, forgiven, transformed. Choose to allow Christ’s love and grace to define you instead of the many things of the world that seek to distract you from what really matters in life–relationship with Him. Today, spend some time looking at Philippians 4:13 and Isaiah 40: 10-11, 28-31 and allow the Lord to build into your soul.
Almighty and Loving God, thank You for seeking me when I call, and for joining me in the dark places of my heart. I appreciate Your never-ending presence that guides me to a place of light and love. Continue to transform me so that the hard moments in my life do not overwhelm and define me. Guard my heart from the challenges of day to day life. Let the word I define myself by be Yours. In the Name of Your Son, Jesus Christ, Amen.