More From Karla Sue Lowe-Phelps

June 8, 2022 by Karla Sue Lowe-Phelps (Missouri, USA)

The grief I experienced after my mother died gnawed at my faith. I put on a good face for friends and family who regularly thanked me for showing them what it was to go through loss as a woman of faith. I felt boxed in by the words and phrases that affirmed my faith and how my mother was enjoying eternal peace.  In my roles as a lay minister and hospital chaplain, I continued to listen to and support others. I denied my wavering faith. After all, I was that “woman of faith” who people looked to emulate. Yet I struggled. I needed someone who would listen and support me.

During my hikes through the Ozark hills, I discovered that someone was listening. God heard my silent pleas, even when I felt unheard. As I stood among a spruce grove, God whispered comfort and confrontation to me. It was as if God were saying, “See all this beauty around you. Breathe in the fragrance I put into these branches. I, the Creator of all, love your mother and brought her into my eternal presence…a place far more beautiful and fragrant than this. You are holding on to her mortality, but she is now clothed in immortality. Yes, you may grieve, but not as one without faith. Go to the caring friends and family that I have placed around you. Admit your faith struggle. Drop the façade of competence . . . of pride.”

I hadn’t considered how pride was keeping me from asking for help. Yet when I examined my heart, I knew I couldn’t heal unless I relinquished it. My first admission to a fellow lay minister wasn’t easy, but it was freeing! In the following months, as I started answering “Not so good” to inquiries about how I was, I found God placing open hearts and ears ready to embrace and hear me. Friends prayed with me and held me up in their prayers. Family listened without advising me. Sometime during those months, I found the attached photo of my mother. At her 98th birthday celebration, she had sat down at her mother’s piano, opened the United Methodist Hymnal to her favorite hymn, “Great Is Thy Faithfulness,” and sang as she played. In my grief, I had forgotten that joy-filled afternoon. A reassurance enveloped me as I held the photo. It was the healing salve that softened grief’s scab. My mother was with the One in whom she had placed her faith. The One who was, is, and forevermore will be faithful, even when our faith wavers.

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I join many of those who will pray for you as you seek to discern what you are called to be at this moment. May God grant you the courage to fulfill that calling. May we all open our eyes and see the misery, open our ears and hear the cries of God’s people, and, like God through the Lord Jesus Christ, be incarnate amongst them.” 

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