To see better in the dark valley that we walk…
by Howie Soucek, February 2022
This writing is to describe my progressive, transformative journey in the dark valley in which we all walk in the world—
Here's the backstory:
At minimum, marriage represents a cultural ceremony to initiate a life-partnership. But to me, marriage also represents the formal recognition and blessing of a life-partnership as a truly sacred relationship—which exists at once in the temporal world while also being eternal, as a manifestation of God’s Love.
Linda and I were joined in such a marriage by Chaplain Smart, who had been not only a classmate of my Dad’s at the USNA but also had been my Sacred Studies instructor at Christchurch School. He copiously poured God’s Love all over Linda and me on this Holy occasion!
After 45 years of such a relationship, Linda died at Christmastime in 2013 as a result of brain cancer. And thus began my journey of grief through what has been for me the darkest part of my valley trek. However, this journey started off with a huge bang(!), being that, upon the exhalation of her last, long breath,
I began to weep—and deeply so—for a minute or two, as I held my hand gently on the side of her face and kissed her one last time. Then, suddenly, I felt as if I were a stand of trees suddenly filled with a rush of wind that was fresh and bracing—and as though I could hear it and feel it filling me and moving me. I stood up, …and never—never have I felt the Presence of God more closely—embracing me, comforting me, empowering me—than at this moment. It was overwhelming …and powerful beyond description.
Matt instantly retrieved Allen, and the three of us laid hands upon each other around Lin, with Zhanna joining us, as we experienced this moment, saying what Lin deserved and thanking God for the blessing of Lin in our lives and for His tender and timely act. Indeed, I praised the Lord aloud for blessing me beyond measure with the Relationship He gave to me and Lin to en-Joy for so many years, …and I KNEW that our Relationship was going to continue …always.
This was an awe-some and wondrous moment, with Love glowing like the sun …and with warm appreciation for a life exceptionally well-lived. Praise God!
[“Even in the midst of the grief, we praised God.” —p. 9, Heart Scribe Vibes, by Micah Dillon]
So, after this revelatory “Big Bang,” my grief-journey began, with my falling occasionally into my pit of despair along the way—each time to be drawn up and out in God’s comforting hand, only because I look for it and climb in (I always find His hand, simply because it is ever-present).
This is to say that suffering my loss of Linda was the catalyst—and brought the in-spiration—for the transformative changes that continue in my progressive development in its wake. And what I am sharing with you here are the most important elements of this development:
I see that my suffering is very real in the world. Indeed, it will accompany me to my last day on this earth, continuing with the same magnitude as ever. And depending on which valley path we choose, our suffering results in either a) our denial or covering-over of it, increasing the distance one from another of us toward a self-ish isolation (and so also from God); …or, as I choose, b) an acceptance of my suffering (meaning that it is subordinated, having been seen for what it truly is); this leaves me free, through empathy and compassion, for an increasing closeness with one another in God’s Love (and therefore with God). This path also nudges me to help others, whether in large or small ways, spontaneously and incidentally—ironically resulting also in a sublime self-healing! I am ever-more clearly seeing the weakness of my human, suffering, egoic self—and the overriding strength of my Spirit in God.
I have a yearning for Innocent Relationship. While I have written extensively about this, I will summarize it as including a) complete trust, along with its inherent vulnerability—This, whether it is trust in another person or trust in the Lord; b) a vital need to understand each other; c) a yearning to share ourselves with one another—for life-partners, this is to share so much as if to live in the world as a single entity; d) a selflessness and empathy that replace selfishness and sympathy; and e) love, neither given nor received but shared in together. While there is a continuum from a pure death in isolation to Life in Innocent Relationship, I observe that while even to approach Innocent Relationship in the world is rare, it is yet something to earnestly strive for in a disciplined way, and this continues to be an important component of my grief-journey—and one of the things for which…
I offer my thankfulness. I am increasingly aware and appreciative of my uncountable blessings each day, connecting us and bringing us into the presence of God and therefore blessing us—everything from every blade of grass—to my capacity for and actual performance of something good. I spontaneously express this thankfulness to my Lord many times each day …and always at the beginning of each day—For me, this is the best form of “prayer”: incidental, spontaneous, personal, spoken aloud, deliberate (carefully thoughtful), frequent, conversational, earnest, honest (trusting), and selfless. Indeed, in my continuing, occasional periods of despair,…
I lift up my eyes to the hills (Psalm 121). Before Linda died, I explained to my sons how I was managing to walk through my valley, stumbling in the darkness along the way into pits of despair/grief/self-pity. I told them that after suffering a few moments of tears, I look up at my glowing, beautiful blue horizon of uncountable, God-given blessings all around the rim of my pit. Quickly, I am lifted out—effortlessly—and no longer affected by the destructive forces of the darkness. [“God’s presence enables us to overcome pressures that arise in our lives.” p. 8, Heart Scribe Vibes, by Micah Dillon]
I am realizing my developing repentance, with “repentance” being a paradigm shift in how one thinks; It’s what happens when we open our True eyes—or have the ears to hear—the Truth (a truth that many do not see or hear, limiting themselves to what seems real only in the world. In the initial years after Linda died, I at least twice fell to my knees, weeping, asking God why Linda had to die; saying that I did not understand—that in fact I understood nothing—then crying out loudly, “NOTHING!” Then I realized that it was only things in the world that I did not understand (and that I could not trust)—that there were only a precious few things that I knew to be the Truth. For me, this developing process of repentance has been accelerating since Linda died and has caused me to real-ize the Truth that:
God IS; this was the logical deduction of my human brain during my time at Christchurch School, but then gradually in my adult years (and exponentially so since Linda died), this has blossomed into spiritual knowledge with such a sublime certainty as to obviate worldly, explainable knowledge; if you cannot identify with this, you likely do not appreciate the intent of Romans 1:20;
God yearns for Loving Relationship (with God directly, but also among ourselves, because God is in us (we, being ofGod), offering each us this sublime, universal connection with each other and with every single bit of our Creation-gift, all within the matrix of God’s Love; and it is only by our fear-some gift of free will that we can choose to accept and share in God’s Love as a result of this process of repentance [“Yahweh is waiting to spend time with you. Will you let Him in?” —p. 12, Heart Scribe Vibes, by Micah Dillon]; true Life is found in Loving Relationship, whereas absolute death is the result of isolation; truly, we are made and meant to SHARE ourselves with each other in Innocent Relationship, and to yearn for this is natural since it is God-given—but it is defeated to the extent that we allow ourselves to be distracted and deceived into our defensiveness because of our suffering in the world;
The Truth is that God’s Love with its manifestations in the world is what is REAL (even while beyond the comprehension of my human brain), and I KNOW this Truth with more surety than what my brain thinks I ate for breakfast today. Even Einstein recognized that the human perception of reality is a delusion; God’s Love is eternal as a human mystery, but it is what really, really matters in our space-time world;
Without God in me (Life), I am dead; I am NOTHING; I am impossible— without God;
This repentance further yields a wondrous patience in the company of compassion, with an increasingly sensitive empathy; and such a Trust in God as to KNOW that “all will be well,” no matter what appears to be the case in the world in our time; the understanding that even forgiveness is obviated by Love; that my own sin, such as judging others, is its own, isolating punishment, distancing me from my Lord; that repentance requires a leap from worldly knowledge to spiritual knowledge, without letting go of my valuable worldly knowledge; that my personal struggle between my self-destruction in the world and my eternal Life in God’s Love will continue as long as I walk the earth, but that my knowledge and use of my power of free will to choose God’s Love advances the closeness of my Relationship with God each time I choose it, leaving the evil of self-destruction fading behind me and away into its own darkness in the world, …for I am personally responsible to choose and accept the True Life that God freely offers me and yearns for me to have.
YES! This developing repentance has accelerated as a result of my grief-journey of suffering the loss of my precious Linda—as well as the loss of many others. As we choose, suffering yields Love which brings Life in resonant Relationship. Diligent striving for repentant thinking brings us closer to the Truth. And the Truth is simple—and easy—and heartening—and Joyful—and FREEING (!) from the bondages of the world.
I will close with a bit of free verse—Notes to Self, #498
How is it that in the same instant, and for a time,
I can so suffer in despair, and yet also be filled
with such a sublime Peace and Joy—
and in such great abundance as to completely defeat my suffering,
even though suffering remains in my company?
Truly, this must be what it is to walk in the valley
and to Live, fully, in the shadow of death, …only by the Grace of God.
Thanks be to God.
My suffering has helped me to see better in the dark valley that we walk…
I hope you have enjoy this month's Widow Warrior reflections. I sure have enjoyed reading every one of them. It brings a smile to my face and heart to read about our humanity and how hearts are still being healed, encouraged and awakened even in the midst of their current sufferings.
So, be of good cheer. No matter your current suffering, His overwhelming loving-kindness is always available to a surrendered heart. ❤️
Until next time,
Connect the Mender
Be a Sender