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  • Writer's picturemattlillicrap


Another guest post. This time by my wife, Anika reflecting on grief, how it can grab at us even in the most mundane ways, and how it is overcome in Christ as we journey onwards to glory...

“I’m sorry. The dog got your shoe.”

With these words my husband broke the news that my favourite pair of shoes, ones that we’d bought just a few months ago on an anniversary weekend-away, were never to be worn again.

I had just come downstairs to get lunch and suddenly I wasn’t hungry anymore. Grief can do that—override appetite. And now maybe you’re thinking ‘It was just a shoe—get a grip!’ and in some ways you’re right. But if I’m being honest, the way I felt was grief-in-miniature.

Something that mattered to me,

something that showed I mattered to Matt,

something that told a funny part of our story,*

something that brought me joy,

was gone forever.

Cycling across the city later, thinking about my little loss, I noticed the different characters my mind and heart were tempted to play.

First there was the magician. My initial inclination to say ‘Oh it’s not really damaged—I can mend it’ was an attempt to make my loss simply disappear.

Then there was the gladiator. The temptation to fight, to protect myself from sorrow by overlaying it with empowering anger instead.

Anger at the dog—she did it!

Anger at Matt—he was in charge of her.

Anger at myself—I left my shoes where she could get them.

Anger at God—he let this happen.

I noticed an inner-stoic, rationalising and problem-solving: ‘It’s just a shoe, I can always buy another pair’ conversing with my inner-optimist: ‘At least I enjoyed them for a few months.’ Together they re-packaged my sadness neatly in a box and tied it with a ribbon.

And jostling amongst them all was a fantasy-writer inventing alternative scripts that began with ‘what if’ or ‘if only’ and, like the magician, finding a way to undo the loss.

Matt’s response revealed yet another character. He cried (we are not at our most resilient right now!) and his inner-pessimist catastrophised ‘This is awful. Just typical. Everything is going wrong.’

What difference does Jesus make to this slice of life? Can the gospel be brought to bear on a broken shoe? How does Christ-in-me change things?

Christ-IN-me: peddling past cows by the Cam, I was comforted that Christ-IN-me means Christ is here, in this moment with me. I can talk to him right now and by his Spirit he can shape my thoughts and feelings. The God who ordained my days and is familiar with my ways (Psalm 139:3,16) still invites me to pour out my heart to him (Psalm 62:8). ‘Lord I’m sad about my shoes. So many things feel hard at the moment and this seems like an extra unnecessary hard thing. I really loved wearing them and they reminded me of a happy time’

CHRIST-in-me: Broken things are death-reminders. My shoe is part of that which will perish, spoil and fade (1 Pet 1:4), part of that suffering-and-sin reality that started in Genesis 3. My sin is my personal contribution to the world’s brokenness. But Jesus entered that brokenness, becoming a man of sorrows familiar with grief (Isaiah 53:3), allowing himself to be broken, in order to redeem it. ‘You Lord know what sorrow really is. How much more sorrow you have felt than my small sorrow at my shoe. You took up our infirmities and carried our sorrows. Teach me to sorrow well. To be one of the blessed who mourn and who will be comforted (Matt 5:4). Lord, have I loved the things you have given me more than I have loved you? Forgive me. I groan along with creation, longing for all things to be made new. And they WILL be made new - because you rose.’

Christ-in-ME: Because he rose, and he is in me, I can daydream about my new-creation clothing! One day, as a member of Christ’s bride, beautifully dressed for her husband, my heavenly footwear will befit the redeemed and sanctified me. And I won’t be thinking of these old shoes then, nor of my sin, but only of Christ. ‘Lord, I can’t wait to be standing with that multitude in white, around your throne. Let the certainty of that day-to-come shape my experience of this day. Let thoughts of my perished shoes lead to thoughts of my living Hope, that inheritance kept in heaven for me which will never perish, spoil or fade, and fill me with your inexpressible and glorious joy (1 Peter 1:8) even as I go to collect the children from school.

So, Christ-in-me made this sole-destroying event a soul-restoring one!

Because of the gospel, I could grieve-with-hope-in-miniature. I need not be a magician, gladiator, stoic, optimist or pessimist but can allow myself to feel my sorrow with Jesus, who knows and has felt it. He holds both me and my tears (Psalm 56:8) until the time when they will all be wiped away, and I (and my feet!) will be clothed in glorious white around his throne.

*The funny part of the story being that at 8pm on the evening before officiating at a wedding during this weekend-away, Matt realised he had forgotten his suit. After some panic and prayer we managed to find a suit shop that stayed open late just to help us. And because he got a new outfit, as a bonus I did too! The shoes were the finishing touch.

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