“I lost myself,” stated a former student of mine. That is easy to do following a life-altering event. We focus so much on the doing that the being gets lost. At least, that is what happened to me.
The night Reggie died, not wanting me to be alone, my sister asked me to spend the night at her home. I appreciated the gesture, but declined. I needed a minute to myself. I had not been by myself since arriving at the hospital early that afternoon. The outpouring of love from family and friends was comforting, but also a little overwhelming.
I told my sister, “I need to have a conversation with God in the morning” and this wouldn’t be a brief, “pretty” prayer, like the one I had at the hospital with the chaplains, where I was calm and composed. No, I expected this to be one of those “ugly” prayers, where I cried my heart out to God. It also wasn’t going to be quick. I needed some answers and didn’t plan to do anything else until I got them. So, my plan was to get some rest. Then, talk to God.
Surprisingly, the prayer I prayed the next morning was very brief. All I prayed was, “What now, Lord? What do I do now?” I had no idea what to do now that Reggie was gone. The day before I knew what I was doing. I didn’t have my whole life planned out, but I knew what my next steps were. Now, I had no clue because all of my previous plans included Reggie.
In becoming one with my husband (Genesis 2:24), we had woven one another into the fabric of each other’s lives. There was very little in my life that Reggie wasn’t a part of and the same was true of Reggie’s life. That was by design. That was the way we (Reggie and I) liked it. However, Reggie was unexpectedly torn from my life leaving me in taters and not knowing what to do about it. So, my prayer was “What now?”
What I have come to understand as I rebuild my life is that the reason I didn’t know what to do is because I didn’t know who I was anymore. Doing is a natural byproduct of being. For instance, when I went to seminary, I became a student again. I went to class, took notes, studied, read textbooks, took exams, wrote papers, and interacted with my classmates, faculty and administration. I did what students do because I was a student.
When I became Reggie’s wife, I knew what to do because we discussed and negotiated what our marriage would look like before we got married. As a result, I knew where to begin. Now, I was Reggie’s widow. I had never been a widow and had no clue where to begin—probably because it wasn’t what I wanted.
However, I did know what to do when I don’t know what to do—pray. When I prayed, “What now?” I immediately sensed God’s answer, “Do what you have been doing. You honored your husband in life. Honor him in death.” I immediately felt at peace. I could do that and that is what I did. I honored Reggie and the life we shared.
This allowed me to stay connected to him a little longer, which I needed because Reggie’s death from a massive heart attack was so sudden and unexpected. I just wasn’t ready to let go, and honoring Reggie and our life together gave me an opportunity to mourn.
Looking back, it was in line with my new identity. What do widows do? Widows often start by honoring and mourning their husbands. Therefore, I did this until I received another answer. As I healed, I became less tied to my old identity as Reggie’s wife, but I didn’t know yet who I was to become. Consequently, the question “Who am I now?” replaced “What do I do now?” and began the shift from doing to being.
So, who am I now? As I stated in an earlier post, I can be whoever I want to be. I have been given a clean slate. I want my new identity to line up with who God wants me to be and what He has for me. So, I prayed, but with a different question on my heart: Who am I now? My most recent answer is a writer; hence, this blog.
With this new sense of who I am—a writer, I am doing what writers do. I am writing and studying my craft (i.e. learning new words, studying sentence structures, reading others work, etc.). Most importantly, I am sharing my heart for words with you, my readers. Writers want their words to be read. Thank you for fulfilling that desire.
So, knowing what to do all comes down to your identity. Thus, if you are struggling with what to do, maybe it’s time to change the question. Start asking, “Who am I” or “Who do I want to be” instead. Once you have the answer to these questions, I believe knowing what to do won’t be far behind.
Until next time,
Questions: Has a life-altering event left you feeling lost? What are you doing to get through it? Have you shifted from doing to being? How so? How has shifting to being helped answer both questions for you? Please respond by clicking on the Comment, Facebook, Twitter, and/or Pinterest buttons below.